Titles,Writing Magazine, Publication News, and Part 3 of Launches in Lockdown (and Lady news update!)

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A huge thank you to Val Penny and Jen Wilson for their author pics and book cover images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

This post title should indicate what kind of week I’ve had – good but busy! Am just hoping the drink in the Pixabay picture below is a nice hot chocolate… I’m not a coffee fan. (I know, I know, writers are supposed to be but there you go).

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The advice and tips given in this series so far has been top-notch, not to be missed etc., (and the good news is there is more to come!). A huge thank you to #JenWilson and #ValPenny for their contributions this week.

Jen, Val, and I are huge fans of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is where we met and we are all hoping to meet up again there this year after last year’s event sadly had to be cancelled due to You Know What. We are also part of a team there called the Prosecco Queens (anyone fancy a guess at why we went for that name? Anybody? Anybody at all?!).

Last week’s post was from writers from the Association of Christian Writers. Now I mentioned earlier this week one of the joys of reading Writing Magazine is spotting how many of your writing pals you spot in between the covers, so to speak. I have to say it is usually a fairly even split between people I know from Swanwick and people I know from ACW. Keep going, folks!

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Hope Thursday has worked out okay for you. Glad to report Lady is now running again (and is very happy to be doing so, I can tell you). Mind you, it does look like she’s had a mud bath by the time I get her home. Thank goodness for my late mum’s old towels… perfect for dog cleaning duty! Also thanks goodness for an excellent washing machine!

Writing wise, I am looking forward to sharing part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up for that tomorrow.

This week I feature two fabulous guests and writing friends I’ve come to know thanks to the marvellous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (So not only have I learned from the wonderful courses there, I’ve made fantastic friends and they are the best support any writer can have. Who else but another writer knows the elation when things are going well and you have work out there? Equally who better to sympathise with when rejections are all that seem to appear in your inbox?).

Further news. I had a fab time appearing on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show last week. I’ll be writing a CFT piece about that and resharing the link once the Launches series has finished so that is my CFT diary full for February!

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One of joys of subscribing to Writing Magazine is opening it up and spotting your writer friends in there. This month it’s my turn! My February edition has just come in and I’m on the Subscribers’ News page, talking about my happy writing accident in discovering the joys of flash fiction writing. Naturally my website and Tripping the Flash Fantastic get a mention! (And It was fab my publishers Chapeltown Books had a good write-up last time).

Also delighted to see another 5 star rating come in for From Light to Dark and Back Again. A good day then!

Lady had her first proper but limited run today and loved it. Her paw is fine. The only thing we could have wished for was better weather but it is supposed to improve as the week goes on.

Looking forward to my first blog appearing on Authors Electric on the 18th. Meanwhile do check the excellent posts out there at https://authorselectric.blogspot.com/

Towards the end of this month is going to be a bit busy as I’ve lined an interview up amongst other things and I’m looking forward to all of that (and to being able to say more about the other things too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve discussed titles before here but it is an important topic and they carry more weight in flash fiction stories than in other types of fiction. Why?

Firstly, the right title will set the mood and tone of the story in and of itself and that will save you on the word count for the tale itself.

Secondly, some websites and competitions do include the title as part of the word count (so always watch for that) so you want the title to do some of the “heavy lifting” for you.

Some other thoughts:-

  • Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.
  • Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).
  • Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am fond of the latter as it gives so much flexibility but there are times I want to set the mood so I choose an appropriate title accordingly.
  • Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!
  • Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with isn’t working for you. I find I need a title to work “to” when drafting but have changed it when a better idea comes up.

I’ve had the privilege of judging a flash fiction competition, which was interesting to do, but I was surprised to find some stories didn’t have titles with them. The really important thing to remember about a title is it is your story’s first “advert” to hook the reader in with and you want to make the most of that.

Remember only the Ten Commandments were set in stone so my advice would be to go with a working title and then change it later if you think of better (and that often does happen as you write the story. A better idea will “just come to you”. Note it and then examine it later in the cold light of day to see if it is as good as you thought and/or better than your initial idea. If it is, go for it!).

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I’ve often discussed, especially on my author FB page, the joy of outlining. I find it helpful to outline my characters. Now can you do all of that for a 50 or 100 word piece of flash fiction? Of course you can!

Like the story itself, the outline won’t be a long one, that is all. Less than a short paragraph like this usually does the job nicely – and I then get straight into writing the tale. Prep helps a lot! I’ve found it saves me a lot of time later as the outline has stopped me from going off at a tangent etc. Tangents are fun but are often not relevant to the character or plot so they shouldn’t go in. Everything has to be relevant!

So for a flash fiction outline (and especially for those tales which will be under 500 words), I ask myself a couple of questions.

  • Why do I want to write about this character? (In many ways it is for this character, it is their story I’m telling).
  • What mood is the story going to be? (This does affect the type of character I’m going to produce for the tale. If I want a funny tale, you don’t necessarily need a funny character to service it. What you do want are characters full of their own importance who need taking down a peg or several. That’s where the humour is, not necessarily directly in the character. Often a character who thinks they are funny are not and can often be tragic.).

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Publication News

Many thanks for the great response yesterday to my plug for CafeLit now the list of those appearing in The Best of CafeLit 10 is now known. (And yes this is another crafty way of getting another mention in for CafeLit and the book!). Yes, it does include me – see next post down. Sometimes a date order blog round up goes against you!!

For me the success of any story, regardless of its length, depends on the character(s). If they grip me, I’m reading the rest of the story, book or what you. If they don’t…. Well, life is just too short to perservere with something that just isn’t engaging me.

And that is the continuing challenge for me as a writer. Just how can I make my characters appeal to a reader (and especially one who may well not have come across my work before. There is a certain truth in the saying you only have the one chance to make a first impression and with my stories, I want my characters to hook readers in right from the start. You have got to have that “must find out what happens next” moment and to keep that going until you do reach the end).

One way I try to achieve this is to come up with characters readers can understand. They don’t have to like them but they do have to get where the character is from (and ideally ask themselves if I was this character, would I be doing this? If not, what would I be doing instead? If a reader is asking questions like that from a character, you know what character has intrigued them to keep on reading).

This is where outlining the character helps. And the great thing is you can pick the kind of outline that suits you. I don’t particularly need to know what my character looks like (that can come later) but I do need to know what their major traits are and what their flaws are. Think about what you would want to know from your character if you could interview them “for real” and use that as a basis for a useful outline template you can use over and over again.


Fairytales With Bite – When the Wand Isn’t Enough….

Okay, we’re in a magical world in our stories. How can a wand ever not be enough?

Well, firstly, if a wave of the old wand solves every problem, you haven’t got any stories to write. Where is the conflict in that? Problem A arises. Problem A gets resolved with said wave of magic wand. There’s no character development. And just reading problems being resolved like that will become boring so quickly! Readers want to find out what the characters do and how they react and it takes more than a wave of the magic wand to really show readers what the characters are truly made of. Are they sterling stuff or treacherous rats etc?

Also when everyone has a reasonable amount of magical power, there has to be a way of distinguishing between them (and it helps your readers to tell them apart too).

It is also a reasonable assumption to work on that some species will have more powers than others either by learning or by inheritance or both so what do the weaker species do to ensure they can survive? They’ve got to find ways of beating “their betters” without the use of magic (and that’s when stories can become really interesting. Characters are having to think on their feet here though of course you as the writer have planned this all out!).

So just as writers we shouldn’t rely on magic or coincidences getting our characters out of trouble, the characters themselves need more than the old magic wand waving too.

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This World and Others – What do Characters think of their Environment?

The answer to this question will also tell readers a fair bit about what your characters are like.

Do they care about the environment or are they oblivious to it?

If your created world has different climates and regions, are the characters you’re writing about aware of all of this or is there a certain amount of Here Be Dragons about their attitudes?

Here Be Dragons was something written on old maps where a map maker had literally got to the limits of where they were prepared to go to make their maps so anything unknown had this slogan added to it! They could get away with it because it was highly unlikely anyone was going to challenge them (and I’m sure they worked on the theory, well there could be dragons!). (Never get away with it now due to Google etc!).

How characters treat the world around them is likely to flag up to readers how they are likely to treat other characters. One of my own favourite characters in Losing Myself from Tripping The Flash Fantastic appears to be one who cares much more about the environment and natural world than any other of her own kind. That was an interesting story to write because it made me think deeply about what would make a character be or become that way.

And then there will the opposite – those who do not see or care about the environment around them. How did they get to be that way? And is there a point where they have to change their attitude?

So my lead question here can be a great way into some interesting story ideas.

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Twitter Corner



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CafeLit Publication News and News of a Poorly Paw!

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And the great thing with books and stories? They can take you anywhere in space and time. You just need to enjoy the journey!

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Publication News

Delighted to receive the list of all who will be in The Best of Cafelit 10 later this year. It is a big list too! Always lovely to spot my name in said list!

Congratulations everyone and many thanks to all who voted for my two stories, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of the Day Job, to be included. It will be lovely to be “between the CafeLit covers” with friends, old and new. And don’t forget you can always check out the previous CafeLit anthologies. They are a wonderful mixture of styles and moods with something to suit most.

And if you want to know more, I can do no better than take you to my Amazon Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

I’ve had the joy of being published in several of these (the most recent being CafeLit 8 and 9). And they make perfect books for dipping into if you are between “big”reads and don’t know which will be your next one.

Give the short form collections a try!

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock up

Am not sorry to see the back of January. Goes on for far too long but in positive news, Lady is going from strength to strength (see poorly paw story further down!), and my snowdrops are in bloom in the garden. That’s a positive for any time but especially for a Monday I think.

Many thanks for the wonderful responses to the Launches in Lockdown series so far on Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll be sharing invaluable insights from two fab writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this Friday. What my guests and I all hope is that this series will be encouraging and helpful to those writers who are having their launches this year, when none of us can be certain about what will happen and when in terms of lockdown restrictions easing etc.

One thing I have learned as a writer of many years standing (and of course sitting!) is a little encouragement and good tips do go a very long way. I hope they do for you too.


Many thanks for your best wishes over Lady’s poorly paw. Am glad to report she is feeling much better and has cheered up considerably. The claw will grow back so the next time she might experience a little discomfort will be when that comes through again probably in a couple of weeks or so. (A bit like us with teeth really!).

Having said that, Lady is a young, highly active dog, and this is the kind of accident that does happen to dogs like her though Lady would be glad (as would I) if it didn’t happen again! The other good thing though is young active dogs do recover quickly which is a mercy.

Writing wise, I’m setting up interviews at the moment where I’m on the other side of the interview desk. Am looking forward to sharing more details as and when I can.

I’m also working on something else which will end up on my website right here (!) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and again I look forward to sharing more details when I can. It’s been something I’ve been toying with doing for a while and something has cropped up that has told me, yes go for it, so I am!

The writing life is often like this. You make some developments, then you need to build on that so you end up doing more! But this is a good thing. The writing life is not meant to be static. What is lovely is looking back every so often and seeing where you’ve come from while looking ahead to further developments and seeing where they take you. And, as ever, the best thing is to enjoy the journey.

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Hope your Saturday has gone well. Now in dog news, I have to report Lady is recovering from a poorly paw.

Apologies in advance if you’re eating but she managed to rip a claw. Vet removed claw and sealed the wound. Claw will grow back. Not a great day yesterday, Lady understandably feeling sorry for herself, but much better today and is coming on leaps and bounds.

I just need to stop her doing literal leaps and bounds for a couple of days to make sure all is as well as it should be. Huge thanks to Lady’s bestie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her human mum for the fuss and cuddles you gave Lady yesterday. It was the only bright spot in her day yesterday!

Okay that’s the kind of drama no dog owner ever wants to have (but inevitably gets every so often. It’s why you insure your pets!). How about the kind of drama writers want?

I must admit I don’t like melodrama. Never have. It’s always struck me as being over the top but what I do want to see is actions and reactions that arise naturally from the characters and the situation they’re in. (So no aliens landing at Mansfield Park for me. I don’t really get the mash-ups. I understand either genre – sci-fi and classic here – but not the pair together).

I want to be able to feel that yes, this character could do this because they have shown they can be silly so to be silly again is not unexpected and, as a result, the situation they find themselves in has the potential to become very silly indeed. But that all ties up and I guess that is the point.

Character = situation = one develops from the other. For me, the character always comes first. Get them set up correctly and the situations will arise naturally. Even in fantasy with magical elements, this applies. You’ve established your character is in a magical world and what abilities they have or lack so the situation will arise from that.

And the situation will always involve conflict. If a character wants more powers than they’ve got, what will they do to achieve more? Do it the proper way and learn their skills or try to cheat their way to the top? But get your character set up and you can take them where you want to and more importantly take your readers with you.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to say two of my flash tales, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of The Day Job, will be in The Best of CafeLit 10 later this year. Nice start to February! Don’t forget to check out the Cafelit site for a wide range of stories, short and long, at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/

You can find my page at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/Allison%20Symes

And of course it is CafeLit I have to thank for introducing me to the wonders of flash fiction so I am definitely going to plug them whenever I can!

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Hope you enjoy my new story video – The Dragon and The Clock. These shorts are great fun to do and a marvellous way to share one and two line flash tales!

 

I’ve always loved writing and reading dialogue and hearing characters speak. (Also in reading between the lines of what they’re saying so you get a sense of the real character behind what they say).

When I’m reviewing stories, I try to listen to my characters, that the words I’ve given them I can “hear” them saying, and nothing is inappropriate or out of kilter for them. I often speak work out loud, especially dialogue (and the great thing with flash is this is easy to do and doesn’t take long!).

Speaking dialogue out loud is the sure way to pick up any thing that does not ring true or if what looks right written down is tricky to say out loud. If you find it tricky, so will your readers. I try to stick to the Keep It Simple principle for writing (and especially for dialogue). It works.

Now with my flash fiction, I often have stories with only one character. So yes, I do get them to speak out loud. You can, of course, get them to speak into a phone. But much of what applies to dialogue writing can also apply to writing internal thoughts. After all that is the character talking to themselves so again the style of thought, what they’re coming up with, should be apt for the character you’ve created.


I approach writing a flash fiction story in several ways.

  • I have a prepared character I want to put in a situation and see what happens.
  • I have a theme I want to write to (or one I’m having a crack at for a competition, say) so I know what I’m writing about from the get go. It’s a question of picking the right character for this kind of story.
  • I brain storm ideas for titles, pick a few I like and then work out what kind of characters would work for these and then go with the ones I like the most.
  • I know the ending to a story (and this is almost always a twist tale) and it is just a question of working out how the story would get to that point. That almost inevitably leads to the kind of character who would end up in a twist like that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What I Like to See In A Book

Hmm… this is a good statement, isn’t it? I could give chapter and verse here, appropriately, but for me one thing only is key to whether a book is good or not.

It’s all down to the characters. Do they grip me? Do they get me rooting for them to succeed or fail? (Funnily enough, either is fine, and I do love to see a “good” villain get their comeuppance eventually. I blame my love of fairytales for that one).

If a character does not grip me, I switch off. I love Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett is a fabulous character and ahead of her time. She says what she thinks and I love that.

Conversely, I am not gripped by Mansfield Park as I think the heroine there is dull and, to my mind, not worth of being a heroine. Her happy ending does depend on the misfortunes of others, in my view, but Elizabeth had to work for hers and it was by no means certain it would happen until close to the end.

I wanted to see Miss Price do so much more to “earn” her happy ending but there you go. (I guess it’s a kind of warning to all writers that even the best can come up with characters who don’t engage with their readers and I know there are those who love Mansfield Park but it has never done anything for me because of this).

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Twitter Corner

 

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Starting Flash Fiction and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

I don’t know whether it’s just me or does January feel like it has been with us for ages already?! Very muddy outing to the park with Lady this morning. Not that she worries… (and I do bless my late mum for leaving me with loads of towels. So useful at this time of year – and yes I’d be at a loss without my washing machine too).

Talking of necessary equipment, is there something crucial to your writing you cannot do without and if so what is it? I’ll take a PC/laptop with printer for granted but other than those things?

For me it is down to software. I can’t be without Scrivener and Evernote. And being old school the old notebook and pen still plays a major part in my life (and will do so even more when we can get to writing conferences and the like again).

Looking forward to sharing my CFT post this week. I’m talking to YA author, Richard Hardie, about the challenges of lockdown he has faced both as publisher and author. Most insightful.

After that will begin my month long series, Launches in Lockdown, where my splendid guest authors talk with me about how they’ve launched books during this strange period. A couple of them launched three! Now there’s a challenge…! (Actually if you count the anthologies I’ve been in recently, I can include myself in that number too – and yes it has been a challenge!).

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New Story Video

Pleased to share my latest story video, You Said. Hope you enjoy. Have been having fun choosing suitable audio tracks via Youtube to add to things like this though I always use the free to use ones. It is the audio equivalent to Pixabay for me! (Oh and a big thanks for the lovely responses to my Flying Too High story on CafeLit yesterday – see below!).

Lady got to play with her best friend today so, unsurprisingly, she is rather tired (and her pal will be too). They also got to play with a lovely staffy pup though at one point I did find myself as the “meat in the sandwich” between two muscular dogs – the young staffy and Lady’s Ridgeback pal. I moved quick! Dogs, bless them, generally do not look where they are going when they are busy having a riotous and fun time with each other!

Looking forward to taking part in an interview in February. More details nearer the time. And there will be blog news to share later too. So a nice start to the writing week though what is it about Mondays that are so draining? Answers on a postcard…!

 

CafeLit Publication News

Am delighted to share Flying too High on CafeLit. Start the year as you mean to go on and all that…

Also pleased to say my recent post about receiving a tote bag with my cover for Tripping The Flash Fantastic garnered an incredible amount of responses. Many thanks, everyone – and, of course, to Chapeltown Books!

What is the most challenging aspect of writing for you? Is it continually coming up with ideas? Is it dealing with rejections/no hears from publishers, agents etc?

The positive thing here is that there are precious few writers who’ve not experienced either or both of these so (a) you’re not alone and (b) I’ve found most other writers to be wonderful sources of tea and sympathy. Okay right now we have to make our own tea and share the sympathy over Zoom, Facebook etc but the support is still out there.

Hope you enjoy Flying Too High. It was great fun to write.

Screenshot_2021-01-10 Flying Too High


My story, Flying Too High, will be on CafeLit tomorrow so I look forward to sharing the link for that then. Nice start to the writing year. (First submission under the new system CafeLit are using but it worked well).

Must admit I do hope we can have our usual Bridge House events later on in the year but must just wait and see. Having said that, the Zoom events were good fun and it was great to see people that way.

Am currently drafting a standard length short story which I hope to submit to Bridge House in due course.

Am getting my Launches in Lockdown series together and that is coming along nicely.

I’ve mentioned before I usually listen to Classic FM when I’m writing as I find that kind of music relaxes me and when I relax, I write more (and I hope better!). But there are exceptions to this. I tune into podcasts too (mostly notably Wendy H Jones’ excellent The Writing and Marketing Show).

I deliberately save some writing tasks for when I’m listening to spoken word like this. This is the time for those tasks when I know what I’ve got to write and it is a question of just getting it down. When I need to focus hard because I’m working out an outline and story idea, it’s definitely time for the music because that can and does wash over me (but that helps me relax and ideas for me flow better when I’m relaxed).

You do get into a pattern of work that suits you. It took me a while to figure out what worked best for me but now I know, I stick to it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know whether to bless or moan at whoever is putting the Tom and Jerry cartoons on Facebook videos… I have to ration myself strictly with these, having many, many happy memories of watching these when I was a kid. Of course the great joy with these cartoons is they are a complete story in and of themselves and by the time they finish, you have had a good laugh (and hopefully are ready for the next one).

Flash fiction can be like that! And the great thing is that, dependent on the mood of the story, by the time you’ve finished reading it, you should be ready for the next funny or scary piece, as the case may be.

Learn from the cartoons! Leave your audience having had a great time with your story and wanting the next one. Oh and deliver the next one, the one after that etc etc of course!

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I mix up how I start a flash fiction piece. Sometimes I will work to an opening line. Now every so often I will have brainstorming sessions and come up with a whole host of these for me to pick later on to work into stories. Highly recommend doing that. It means there is always something for me to fall back on to work into a story.

I also work to a closing line (and yes I have brainstorming sessions and list a whole host of these too).

Sometimes a phrase or proverb will catch my attention and I will often use these as the theme for my tale, though every so often, I will use it as the title as well.

And of course I am working my way through Prompts by Gill James. I will work my way through these eventually, honest!

Sometimes a character’s voice comes to me and I will start a tale with what “they” tell me.

My Punish The Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again began life that way. And the opening for that is:-

Dear Sarah,
They say the perfect crime is where the criminal doesn’t get caught. Wrong…

Well, with a strong character voice like that, I just had to go with it! (And if you want to find out more, you can check the book out at am Amazon Author Central page here!).

I also like mixing up how I approach a piece as it makes things more interesting for me and, I hope, for a reader too.

BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939BB - blue poster for booksPrompts by Gill JamesBookBrushImage-2020-11-16-21-040


Hope you enjoyed my Fairies acrostic flash story yesterday. Acrostics are good fun to write and they work best when they are kept short so are perfect as a different form of flash storytelling. It also means the individual lines can’t be too long either. Again no bad thing!

I decide on what the acrostic word will be first and then ideas come from that. Fairies, for example, are known to not always be that nice so that gave me the theme for this one.

I wouldn’t want to write this kind of flash tale all the time but every so often to ring the changes suits me.


F = Fantastical creatures who are not always that nice.
A = Avoid angering them as they will find a way of repaying you.
I = Imogen, silly, girl, jumped up and down and stamped out their magic circle.
R = Revenge came quickly – as anyone with any sense could’ve told her.
I = Imogen is now entrapped in her own magic circle.
E = Exiting it is out of the question and there she must stay unless…
S = She accepts she was out of order and humbles herself and says sorry

Two days later… she is still there.

Ends
Allison Symes – 9th January 2021

Hope you enjoy the above and mind who you annoy!

Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Gifts

Books make wonderful presents, of course. There is something for everyone in terms of genre and format. And they’re easy to post as well (which given the current situation with the pandemic proved vital for the Christmas we’ve just had. I wonder just how many book-shaped parcels Royal Mail delivered in December 2020!).

There is one dilemma with books given as gifts though. You have got to resist the urge to read the book yourself or you’ll find it harder to give it away. Get the book home, get it wrapped! It is the only way…. Or is it?

Okay, there is an answer to this one. Get two copies of the book. You get a book, your friend gets a book (which has not been read through by you first!) and the author will love you for it.

You know it makes sense. Support your local authors!

I’m always delighted to be on the receiving end of books as presents and for Christmas and my birthday, I end up making a list. No surprises there but as I always tell my family, it does mean I’m easy to buy for!

Yes, books are wonderful. Ideal presents. And for those who loathe shopping of any kind (and I know a few!), you can give them a list and simplify what they have to do so win-win!

 

Twitter Corner

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Decisions, Transformations, and Useful Questions

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Dawn Knox kindly supplied by her.

Facebook – General

Hope you’ve had a good Tuesday. I see we’re due for sleet in Hampshire on Friday. At least we have made it into December first before any signs of the really cold stuff!

I will be posting Part 2 of a wonderful chat with Dawn Knox on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday and am looking forward to sharing the link for that. She’ll be talking about how she got into flash fiction writing and shares what has been the most fulfilling aspect of her career to date.

One lovely thing about writing is you never know quite where things will lead but this is a good thing. My short story writing led me to discover flash for a start! But the other good thing is you should seek to develop and to improve on what you do. This can lead to trying out forms of writing new to you and discovering you can add another string to your writing bow. More from Dawn on this, along with other lovely things to chat about, on Friday.

Now NaNoWriMo has officially finished, how did I do with my “kind of” version? Well, I was pleased. I’ve carried out the restructuring I knew my non-fiction project needed and added a great deal of useful material to it. So win-win. I’m carrying on with this as I want to get a first draft done by the end of the year but am on track to do that.

 

I’ve been having fun with Book Brush again. This time I created a story video, uploaded it to Youtube, and then used their audio library to add a soundtrack to the video. I always check out licences allocated to things like images and audio tracks and this one is a free to use one. Always, always, check out what the licences say. You don’t want to break copyright. You really, really don’t. I’ve got used to doing this thanks to writing for Chandler’s Ford Today so regularly. (And it’s why I love Pixabay!).

Creating the video was good fun and I hope you enjoy the story. I was particularly pleased with the background I used as the video here as the movement of the word “sale” reminded me of the way Jaws moved through the water! Apt for the tale but click the link to find out why.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers More Than Writers blog spot

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers More than Writers blog. My piece this time is called NaNoWriMo – Doing It My Way. Well it’s kind of appropriate given I haven’t written a novel and I know I’m probably under 50,000 words. So how come I even thought about doing this? See the post for more – and I have found the experience incredibly useful for helping with focus. Hope you enjoy!

 

Facebook – General – and PUBLICATION NEWS – TRANSFORMATIONS


Busy night tonight – I have two posts for you.

It is with great pleasure I share further publication news. I’m pleased to say the three e-books that comprise the stories from the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition have now been combined to make one wonderful paperback called Transformations. (The three ebooks were To Be…To Become, Transforming Being, and this year’s Transforming Communities).

Link to follow in due course but meanwhile here is the fantastic cover. Many congratulations to all of the other writers who are “between the covers” with me for this one.

Oh and I love the cover for this.

Transformations Medium

SECOND POST

I posted about this topic over on Val’s Book Bundle on Facebook on Wednesday but thought I would expand on the topic here. I asked what people’s favourite part of a book was and my answer was the moment I realise I am rooting for the character(s).

Sometimes I root for them to fail if they’re the villain but the important point is the character is making me react and from that point onwards, I know the story will be fine. No reaction = no interest in the character = no interest in the book!

So developing this further, how can we get a reader to react to our characters?

The simple – and all at the same time complicated – answer to that is to make the reader care about what happens to said character. Simple because it really is down to that. Complicated because just how do you do this?

I outline my characters before I write a story. Sometimes that outline is a brief paragraph, sometimes it’s longer than that, but by the time I’ve done this I have worked out why it is I want to write this character up. I am feeling something for that character. And I can feel something for that character, a reader will. Thinking of questions to ask your character can be useful.

Try these to get you started.

1. What is the character’s main trait?

Can be good or evil or somewhere in between. Think about what would come out from your character if they were really put under pressure if you’re not sure what the main trait might be. Would your character show courage or run away at the first sign of trouble?

Whatever the answer to that is, think about why the answer is as you have given it. If a character would run away for example, is that because they have tried to help before and all it did was land them right in it? Jot down your thoughts. Your story thoughts may well start “sparking” from what you note down.

2. What is it about the character you as their creator like/dislike?

Your readers are likely to feel the same way!

3. Why do you want to write their story? Why does it matter?

If you’re looking to just write a funny story to amuse people, that’s fab. That is just as valid a reason to write as writing a story with purpose behind it. But you still need to think about how your character would amuse people and that will often come down to their main traits. For example, a character who is a loudmouth can set themselves up for a fall and that can be funny or tragic.

An outline doesn’t have to spell out everything. You want some room for your imagination to kick in with other ideas but it is a great place to start!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use the first person a lot for my flash tales but when I do name a character what do I look for in that name? I look for a name that will reflect something about the character and sometimes I choose age. In my story Identity in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I chose the name Walter. That immediately called to my mind an older gentleman which is what I wanted for this story. (Making this decision was helped along by the fact my maternal grandfather was called Walter!).

Books of names help a lot here of course but looking up articles from old newspapers can also be a good source of information. If you know your character is going to be in their seventies, for example, you can look up articles from around the time they would be born and look at the names in the paper to get a feel for what names were in common usage then. And don’t forget to look up the family announcement pages too. Those can also help trigger ideas.

Names can be a great tag in flash fiction. They can be an indicator of class, as well as age, and you can use that to good effect. Telling details carry weight in short form writing. For a writing exercise I was set at Swanwick once, I came up with the phrase “take the Garibaldi” as I needed to get my character to say “take the biscuit” but I didn’t want to use the cliche.

Cliches are cliches for a reason but you can have fun subverting them, having said that. But if I had put something like “take the Lidl’s Rich Tea” instead, I could’ve indicated likely background of my character just by referring to the supermarket they use. So think of names, personal or otherwise, as useful tags here.

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Eleven months down, one to go! What a strange year 2020 has been. If 2020 had a strapline, it would probably read something like “2020: The Year That Delivered Something Nobody Wanted” or “2020: The Year Everyone Wants to Forget”!

Over on my author Facebook page,I shared the link to a new story video on my Youtube channel called Decisions. It was great fun playing with both Book Brush and Youtube for this but it is the one line stories that work really well for this kind of thing. You don’t want a video to be too long. So therefore the story can’t be too long either. So this will be an outlet I think for my one/two line stories in future. And, of course, it acts as an advert. Looking forward to doing more with this.

One thing I love about any kind of creativity endeavour is it often helps you develop others as you try to improve on what you do and find new ways of doing exactly that.

And do see writing one-or two line stories as good practice for blurb and strapline writing even if your main writing is something else entirely. These also make great warm up writing exercises.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA


Hope you enjoyed The Buddies yesterday. (N.B. See further down for this new story!). I like to mix up how I approach writing flash fiction as it keeps things fresh for me (and hopefully for readers too). Using the various random generators is a great way of mixing things up.

And another way of using the word based ones would be to deliberately place the words generated in the opening or closing lines or somewhere in the middle and then work out a story from there. Equally you can put the words in the title and nowhere else and then crack on with the tale. But there are different ways of using these things so the only limit should be your own imagination here!

Don’t forget to mix up the word counts to write to as well. There’s nothing to stop you taking an opening line and then writing a 50 word story from it. Then see what you can do when you make it 100 words and so on.

Above all enjoy your writing!

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I thought I would take another look at the good old random word generator and I was delighted to find some other parameters to tick. You can select names too! I generated two and came up with Charlie and Elsa.
Things to do here:-

  • Use the names in the story.
  • Turn this into a full name – e.g. Elsa Charlie or Charlie Elsa and put this one character into a story.
  • Use another character who shows the reader what these people/this person means to them. For example in a crime story, Elsa and Charlie could be two people who ripped the narrator off. Equally the narrator could be the one to con them!

So plenty of possibilities here! Now let’s see what I can do here…

The Buddies
The park bench is empty now. It used to be the three of us on there – Elsa, Charlie, and me. Went to school together, even ended up working for the same boss. Always good for a laugh those two. We were known around these parts as the Cheery Trio. Elsa and Charlie married and I was their best man. It was a lovely day. They were married for 55 years, bless them.
I met Mary at their wedding, she was Elsa’s cousin. We all laughed at how that worked out. Mary and I were married for 52. Good years for the most part. None of us had kids though. Just didn’t happen. Had lots of fun trying but sometimes things just don’t work out and you have to accept that and move on.
We’ve all moved on.
But now Elsa, Charlie, Mary and I are together again. Right here on the park bench. We’re allowed out to come here sometimes.
Just a pity you lot can’t see us but we can see you.
No such thing as ghosts?
Ha! The four of us have plenty to say about that!

Ends.
Allison Symes – 28th November 2020

Hope you enjoy!

Goodreads – Christmas Book List

Well, I trust you do have plenty of books on your Christmas wish list! There is a tradition in one of the Nordic countries where Christmas Eve is spent eating chocolate and reading books. I like that – a lot!

Don’t forget audio books. There are plenty of ways to take in stories. Reading will always be my first love but listening to stories comes in at a respectable second. And these are great for people who might not want to sit down with a book but who are happy to listen to a story while doing something else. You take in more than you might think.

Re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and watching the adaptation of it is on my list of things to do and A Christmas Carol will be on the agenda for me to revisit again at some point in the run up to Christmas. I’ll almost certainly be watching the Muppet version. Not only is that a great adaptation, Gonzo, as narrator Charles Dickens, reminds people to go and read the book at the end of the film. I love that and I’d always second that suggestion!

Okay, you know when you’ve got books as presents. The shape is a dead giveaway but it doesn’t matter if you know what’s in the wrapping. There will always be something special about unwrapping a book for Christmas.

And they do make fabulous presents.

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Twitter Corner

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Favourite Characters and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to Dawn Knox for supplying her author photo.

Image of me signing Tripping The Flash Fantastic by Adrian Symes.

Facebook – General

Hope Tuesday has proved okay. More raking up of the oak leaves for me today with Lady assisting by looking for sticks in amongst the leaves though she would have preferred to find a squirrel.

Talking of which, I would love to know why every dog I know/have ever known, on spotting a squirrel, always looks hopeful that said squirrel will come and play with them!

Has not happened on my watch. Is unlikely ever to do so. Mind you, Lady is the only dog I’ve had who might be in with a chance of catching one.

Writing wise, I’ll be interviewing fellow flash fiction and Cafelit writer Dawn Knox about her latest book, The Macaroon Chronicles, on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

This will be a two part interview and we’ll be discussing the challenges of writing chronicles, what drew Dawn into writing, and how long it took her to become an established author, amongst other interesting topics.

I love conversations with other writers. I always learn something useful. Given no two writers ever have the same writing journey, it is fascinating to find out what others have found most helpful to their writing or, conversely, find out what they think has to be the worse writing advice of all time etc. Link up on Friday.

I haven’t kept a word count for my kind of NaNoWriMo project but to be fair I never intended to do so. My non-fiction project needed restructuring, which I’ve now done, and it is now a question of adding material to it. Then a massive edit or several! But that’s okay. I’m enjoying seeing the project coming together and this is an interesting experience since I’ve not written non-fiction to this length before.

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Am continuing to have fun playing with Book Brush.

Many thanks to Dawn Knox for inviting me on to her blog today. It was great fun to take part. I chat about flash fiction, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, the one regret I have about writing and other topics.

Do check the interview here.

And more news from Dawn and I in a moment….

Bonus Post – Publication News

Talking of further news from Dawn Knox and I…

It has been a busy Monday, as always, but it was nice to discover further publication news! Dawn and I both have stories in the new Bridge House Publishing anthology, Mulling It Over. It is currently out as an ebook but the paperback will be out soon.

Many congratulations to the other authors in this ecletic collection. It is always great fun to be between the (electronic) covers with writer friends!
My story, It Is Time, is one of my colder, darker ones. Appropriate for this time of year I guess!

Mulling It Over Medium

It was great fun taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Fest earlier today (22nd November 2020). I shared videos for Judgement Day, Being Yourself, and the book trailer for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. (See further down for all of these).

I also shared some of the recent images I’ve had fun creating on Book Brush! (The phone one which also has From Light to Dark and Back Again on it too works really well I think). (Again see below).

Below is a round-up of my posts from earlier today in descending order of appearance.

Last but not least from me. This is Judgement Day from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Hope you enjoy.

Am happy to take questions about flash fiction. The irony is I never started out as a flash fiction writer. I discovered the form by accident but it has been a very happy accident!

BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939

My story, Being Yourself, on Brechin/Angus Book Festival today.

My book trailer as shown on the Brechin/Angus Book Festival event today.

Many thanks #SarahArchibald for your hard work putting the Festival together online. Great fun to take part! A big thanks for the opportunity events like this give authors especially since our usual events are not possible right now.

It was also lovely to share the posts and share a little of what flash fiction is about. It is the ultimate in the quick read of course but its impact should be a powerful one precisely because of its reduced word count. It lives up to the phrase less is more!

More details about my books can be found here (Amazon Author Central)

Screenshot_2020-11-22 BRECHIN ANGUS BOOK FEST(1)Screenshot_2020-11-22 BRECHIN ANGUS BOOK FEST

Bonus Post – Guest Blog Appearance on Gill James’ Blog

Am delighted to share the link where I am the guest on Gill James’ blog as one of the contributors to The Best of Cafelit 9. See  for more (the screenshot is a sample!).

Screenshot_2020-11-22 Talking to another of our Best of CafeLit 9 contributors

Have been enjoying the first day of the Brechin/Angus Book Fest. Looking forward to tomorrow when I’m due on from 1.35 for about 25 minutes.
Plenty of videos to watch and you could make a good Christmas book present list here.

Continuing to make good progress on my kind of NaNoWriMo project. Really enjoying writing new material for this though I am also looking forward to tackling the editing later on. I like editing. You can almost “feel” your work improving when taking out the wasted words and so on.

Good questions to ask when preparing blog, Facebook posts etc include:-

1. What have I learned as a writer that could benefit others? Posts like that are always useful and I have learned from so many over the years and continue to do so.

2. How can I entertain a reader so they’ll want to come back to read more of my posts? One of my ways is to share a new flash fiction story every so often. Flash being so short works well for this – and who doesn’t like a new story to read from time to time?

“See” you tomorrow at Brechin online!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Monologues can make great flash fiction pieces. I find they work best when kept short anyway so you’re immediately on to a winner there. Monologue with its demand for the focus to be on one character and flash fiction with its demand to keep the word count low make for a good match!

I outline my characters for my stories and, if you don’t usually do that, it would pay to do this for monologue writing. The question to ask above all I think is what it is about this character that they deserve a monologue?

What would fascinate a reader to keep them glued to your character?

A good tip is always to put yourself in your potential readers’ shoes and ask what is in this story for them?

 

Hope your Monday has been okay. Mine has been hectic as usual but the plus side of that is it will free up more writing time for me later on in the week, which I make good use of!

Lovely watching Lady having a good old fun session with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddie this morning. (It is a case of watch the show and stay well out of the way! Part of the reason for that is both dogs are still convinced they’re puppies… erm….no… and they have the size to prove not!).

The weekend went from having a flu jab to cracking on with my kind of NaNoWriMo project to taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. So yes, it got better as the weekend went on!

Writing wise, I’m drafting a future CFT post as well as working on my big project. I’m a little ahead of myself for once with CFT as I have a fab interview to share over the next two Fridays. More on that tomorrow and link up on Friday of course.

(I can always tell how rapidly the year is going thanks to writing for CFT. The Friday deadline zooms and then vanishes week on week and before I know it, another 12 months has gone by. Mind you, I don’t think anyone is going to be sorry about that this year).

Am working also on more flash material which will no doubt see the light of day in due course. Oh and how about a flash two-line story to finish with tonight? Here goes…

To Turn Or Not To Turn, That Is The Question

It wasn’t the odd creaking that terrified Bill. It was the frightened rat who was looking at something behind Bill.

Ends.

Allison Symes – 23rd November 2020

 

New Story Video on My Youtube Channel

It has been a busy day on the old video front but given it’s a Sunday evening as I share this, what better than to finish the weekend with another story? I took my The Best Laid Plans which I shared here a couple of weeks ago and created a video for it using Book Brush and then uploaded it to Youtube. Be sure to watch to the end! Hope you enjoy.

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

Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot_2020-11-09 Allison Symes - YouTube

I must admit I don’t have a favourite character in my stories, which is just as well I suspect, given I’m inventing people all the time for flash fiction writing. My favourite kinds of character do have things in common though.

They’ve got a sense of humour.

They’ve got guts.

They’re prepared to stand up for what they believe in.

I especially love those characters where coming out with witty one-liners would be appropriate for them to do.

I have a soft spot for thoughtful characters where their reflections show you so much about their personality. Flash fiction works well for this kind of story as they work best when kept short.

Favourite characters from other books? Hmm… hard to say as there are so many to choose from but they have to have some of the above attributes to catch and keep my fancy.

Goodreads Author Blog – The Joy of (online) Book Festivals

This weekend is going to be an interesting one as I’ll be taking part in a Book Festival for the first time. I’ll be “at” the Brechin/Angus Book Festival which finishes tomorrow, Sunday 22nd November. I’ll be “on” at about 1.35 pm UK time and am looking forward to sharing the joys of flash fiction, which is the form in which I’ve been published the most.

Book Festivals and events are wonderful ways of celebrating the written and spoken word. (Bear in mind we do talk about audio books).

The one positive thing about this strange and horrible year has been that many events like this have been able to take place online and that has made them more accessible to more people.

I wouldn’t ordinarily have been able to get to Brechin for one event, much as I’d love to go, as from what I’ve seen, Brechin looks lovely. But I can take part in its Festival online (so a big thanks to the organisers and #WendyHJones for putting me on to this one).

I love going to book fairs and the like even when I haven’t got my author’s hat on. I love seeing the variety of books available and I enjoy listening to author talks too. The latter can still be done.

For the first time this year I’ve made videos of my reading from Tripping The Flash Fantastic and explaining a little about how I came to write the story I chose to read.

What I do know is authors are still glad of reader support and always will be. Whether it’s writing a review or going along to an online event and commenting on videos you’ve enjoyed watching, remember it all helps.

And in helping authors, you’re helping books in general. You’re showing they’re important. That books matter. They so do!

Twitter Corner –

Re Brechin/Angus Book Festival – tweeted on 22nd November 2020

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Great fun to take part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival today. I was on from about 1.35 for 20 minutes or so but the Festival does go on for the rest of today. Grab a notebook and make a Books Make Great Christmas Presents shopping list!!<a href=”https://t.co/5ygkIuokBi”>https://t.co/5ygkIuokBi</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1330510528591093760?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 22, 2020</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Re appearance on Gill James’ blog – 22nd November 2020

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Gill’s Blog: Talking to another of our Best of CafeLit 9 contri… <a href=”https://t.co/4MIXeTjl76″>https://t.co/4MIXeTjl76</a&gt; I was thrilled to be guest on Gill James’ blog today. Screenshot is a sample! See link for what led me into writing for Cafelit and what I find more difficult than writing stories for them! <a href=”https://t.co/BiMUZ1oalD”>pic.twitter.com/BiMUZ1oalD</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1330609892701462529?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 22, 2020</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Re Appearance on Dawn Knox’s blog – 23rd November 2020

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Please join <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@AllisonSymes1</a&gt; on my blog today and find out more about her new book ‘Tripping the Flash Fantastic’, her writing and what she thinks of custard, cheese and chocolate! <a href=”https://t.co/SSJrZfIr0a”>https://t.co/SSJrZfIr0a</a></p>&mdash; Dawn Knox (@SunriseCalls) <a href=”https://twitter.com/SunriseCalls/status/1330803625375961089?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 23, 2020</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Joy of Photos – and Finding My Feet

Now there’s a post heading I hadn’t expected to write! All will be explained below…

Image Credit:

  • All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
  • Images from Scotland were taken by me for my Chandler’s Ford Today this week bar one. That was the one with me in it taken by Adrian Symes.
  • Images of me reading at Bridge House and Swanwick events taken by Dawn Kentish Knox and Penny Blackburn respectively.
  • Image of me signing a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again for the talented and lovely Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, was taken by Jennifer C Wilson at Swanwick. We all missed Swanwick this year, cancelled due to Covid.
  • There! I think I’ve credited everyone I need to now! And a big thank you to all for the pictures. Appropriately my CFT post this week touches on the importance of photos!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Double bubble from me this evening. Firstly I talk about The Joy of Photos in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. The great thing with this post is I had no trouble sourcing images for this one at all! I share a few of my favourites, some of which naturally involve Lady, but also discuss the impact of photos on writers.

Not only is there the author pic we all need to have so people know who we are, but then there are the book cover images, book trailers etc. Without still images, there would have been no moving ones either. So photos are definitely something to celebrate.

Hope you enjoy the post! (Oh and I was thrilled to find the Feature Image for this post. Pixabay, my darling people, you came up trumps here!).

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Second post tonight and publication news. My humorous story, Finding My Feet, is now up on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy and that it makes you smile. Great fun to write and one of my favourite kind of tale – that of the fairytale told from a minor character’s viewpoint. It always makes for an interesting perspective! (Teaser below but do follow the link for the whole story).

Screenshot_2020-10-30 Finding My FeetFLASH - Ideas will spark others, something else I love flash fiction for - Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

Well, they say you should write about what you know so I did! I talk about prep work for a cyberlaunch in my blog spot this month for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog.

There is no ONE correct way to have any kind of launch, online or otherwise, but whatever you decide to do here, preparation is key. It really does pay off. See the post for more.

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As well as my story page on Cafelit, there is also a page for each of many of the regular writers here. I’ve just updated mine to include an update on my website details and naturally my book list!

And I’ll have a new story on Cafelit on Friday so am looking forward to sharing that (see above!). My CFT post about The Joy of Photos is also out on Friday. (Nice thing for that post is I sourced most of the pics from the ones I’ve taken earlier this year and I discuss why I like them. I also look at how photos play a big part in most writers’ lives).

I talk about preparation for a cyberlaunch in my More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers and will share the link for that tomorrow. Hope it will prove useful. (Again see above).

Idea for a writing prompt: take the same opening line, change just ONE word in it, and then use the line for TWO stories! I’ve done this in Tripping The Flash Fantastic with my tales, Mishaps and Jumping Time.

My opening lines here?

1. Going back in time had its drawbacks.

2. Going forward in time had its drawbacks.

I had a great deal of fun with this and I used the same lead character in both stories. I hope to write more linked flash fiction like this.

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From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to have another funny flash tale on Cafelit this evening. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Cinderella story as this tale will also show!

But surely the story of Cinderella is so well known, it can’t bear any more re-tellings?

Hmmm…. no!

I love writing from the perspective of minor characters, indeed it is how I got into print with Bridge House Publishing over a decade ago now. And it opens up a host of new story possibilities simply because you can (a) invent your own minor character or (b) use one that is already in the canon of the story so to speak.

Have fun with these people. It is their turn to shine!

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Story time! Well, mostly. One thing I’ve been active with this year has been producing videos of me reading from my work and sharing a little of how I came to write the stories.

This is from my winning entry for 2020’s Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition. I was one of the winners and this is an extract from my tale, Books and the Barbarians. Great fun to write. Hope you enjoy!

Video for Books and the Barbarians by Allison Symes. Copyright 2020.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/iqeepkzyud5u7l9/Waterloo%20Art%20Festival%202020%20-%20Allison%20Symes%20Video.mp4?dl=0

As well as my two collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I have a number of flash and other stories in various anthologies. See my Amazon Author Central page for more. See
See my next post tonight for one of my winning stories from one of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competitions (see above and hope you enjoy the video!).

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For my flash fiction writing, as it has to be character led, I focus on getting the character right before I plunge into the tale itself. So my outlining is focussed on working out who my character is and their traits, for good or ill, will play a major part in the story I’m about to write.

That’s because if a character is arrogant, for example, you can bet that arrogance is going to land them right in it during the tale. Indeed, it ought to! What I need to decide then is whether the story is going to be a funny or serious one.

I like to know what makes my character tick before I write them. They do still sometimes surprise me and that’s fine. If the surprise proves to be better than what I originally outlined, I go with the surprise every time!

Fairytales With Bite – Never Ignore the Underdog!

One of the early lessons I learned from reading fairytales is to look out for the underdog! The fairy godmother will be turning up to help them for one thing. You learn quickly that the underdog is likely to turn out to be the hero or heroine. Nor do they let the circumstances in which they’ve become the underdog grind them down.

Also the underdog is generally the nicest character by far. What makes your underdog “worthy” of being helped? What can they do to help themselves improve their situation? Does magic help or hinder their progress?

The underdog never gets the happy ever after ending straight away either. They do have to go through difficult times to get to that point. They usually learn something which helps them develop as a character directly due to the difficult times they’ve been through.

So let’s hear it for the underdog then, albeit they won’t get their just deserts immediately! (Meaning the other qualities they must have are patience and endurance!).

This World and Others – What Convinces a Reader Your Created World is “real enough” to Read about?

I’m convinced by the reality of a fictional world by the little details. Yes, I love a good fantasy map (all hail The Lord of The Rings for that), but I also like to know how a place is governed.

I need an idea of the species that live in the fictional world and whether they get on or not. Politics plays a part too. After all fictional worlds still have to be governed by someone and they are bound to have opposition (whether that’s justified or not).

So a sense of how ordinary life is lived is crucial, as well as reading about the inevitable extraordinary changes your characters will be facing in your story. Those little details help give your creation a solid foundation.

I know they help me visualise things better and that in turn draws me even further into the tale. A character swearing about the dreadful weather will be understandable to everyone even if their species is the most bizarre it is possible to imagine!

And characterisation is of the utmost importance. Your characters may have sky blue pink skin tone and have three heads, but we still need to know what makes them tick, what their motivations are and so on.

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Twitter Highlights

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Learning From Stories

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Hope your Tuesday has been okay. Lady and I got a soaking this morning. She dried out quicker than I did. Hey hum…

Lots coming up on CFT in November – two fab interviews I’m looking forward to sharing and naturally I’ll be flagging up the Brechin/Angus Book Fest which I’ll be taking part in. Am also going to be using November to make a breakthrough on my non-fiction project so will not be short of things to do. But that’s always good!

Must admit I’ve not adjusted to the clock change well this time. Keep feeling really tired about 9 instead of about 10. My subsconcious clearly hasn’t been fooled by the change!

I suppose the good thing about the darker evenings is that it does encourage you to stay in, get to your desk and ignore what is going on in the mad, mad world, and focus on what your characters are getting up to instead!

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Pleased to say I’ll have more publication news later this week (Cafelit) and I was delighted to see a friend and fellow Chandler’s Ford Today writer, Mike Sedgwick, on Cafelit too recently.

There is a wonderfully eclectic mix of stories on Cafelit so do check the site out. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/ and the idea is the stories here are long enough to have a drink to (and ideally a bit of cake too. Where would the world be without cake?!).

Great start to the week with another fab review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. All reviews much appreciated.

Plenty on my To Do list right now but am looking forward to sharing my CFT post this week too. I’ll be talking about the joy of photos and even for fiction writers photos make a huge difference. After all we rely on being able to share book cover images, screenshots of fab reviews etc!

And photos can make great story prompts too.

 

Screenshot_2020-10-26 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

Have started subbing stories again and looking forward to getting on with writing more. Have a lovely interview to write up for CFT and am looking forward to that.

Plus will be doing some prep work this week on my non-fiction project ahead of doing a massive stint on this during November. (I am basically looking to complete a first draft if I can. I have written some of the material already but I know it needs reorganising and more material to be added to it).

A big thanks to Wendy H. Jones who updated the #ClubhouseBookshop header today to include book cover images of some of the authors involved in this FB group. (And do check the group out – it will give you fab ideas for Christmas book presents for one thing!).

I’ll give you one guess precisely as to why I was pleased with what Wendy came up with!😂

Screenshot_2020-10-25 Clubhouse Bookshop Facebook

Delighted to have an unexpected guest blog appearance on #MaressaMortimer’s blog (and another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon). See the blog link.

And best of all, I am in very good company with Scottish crime writer #WendyHJones (and her DI Shona McKenzie series) and #LizCarter who has recently released her poetry and short story collection, Treasure in Dark Places.

If you need somewhere to start with your Christmas book buying wish list, folks, you could start here!

Despite the awful weather in the UK right now (and I hope everyone has kept as warm and dry as possible), it has been a lovely day as I’ve had the great pleasure of signing another book and getting that ready to post early next week. I love tasks like that!

Writing wise, I am busy preparing for another blog appearance and for an interview I’m looking forward to carrying out for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course. And I am about to get back to my non-fiction project which I hope to make great steps forward with during November.

Who needs to go outside and get wet then? Oh yes…. Lady but thankfully her walkies are finished for today and even she appreciates cosy time of an evening!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the things I enjoyed most for the cyberlaunch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic was in creating some videos where I read a couple of stories. I then talked a bit about what led me to the write the stories in the way that I have.

I hope to be doing more of that in due course but for now my top tip is, after you’ve got the first draft down, DO take time to think back on why you’ve written the story the way you have. Ask yourself if the story DOES achieve what you hoped it would.

You are going to see the flaws of course. Don’t worry about that. This is a draft after all but if your key point was to show a character overcoming adversity, well check they actually do so and in a way that is realistic to them and to your reader.

A character using magic to help them get out of a situation is okay where your story is clearly set in a world where that is possible. It’s not okay in the middle of a suburban High Street with no previous hint of magic being a possibility. (That scenario is likely to cause unfavourable comment! Mind you, I suppose there could be comic possibilities there! The general point remains though. If magic is a possibility, then it should be flagged up early in the story. You don’t want to risk your reader feeling cheated).

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What do you learn most from stories?

Well, you learn what you love and loathe. But it pays to look carefully at a story that didn’t grab you and ask yourself why that was. There usually is something (for me it’s usually characterisation that didn’t convince me) and then you can take that and hopefully avoid making the same mistake in your own work.

For a story you love, look at what DID grab you and explore why that was. If it’s sparkling dialogue say, look at how the writer has written their wonderful prose. What can you learn from that?

I love playing the guessing game with stories new to me. I do try to guess how the characters will end up. I’ve mentioned before that I love being wrong-footed by authors here but, on the assumption this happens to you too, go back and look at where you think the writer “mis-led” you.

Almost inevitably you will find clues in the story you should’ve picked up on but didn’t on the first read through. And again you can learn from that for your own storytelling.

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Sent off a flash tale today so pleased with that. Hope to be back to writing flash more regularly now though obviously marketing for TTFF will be ongoing.

I am trying to do something on that most days and see it as a long term thing. This is the good thing with marketing. It doesn’t all have to be done by a specific time period. After all I will want to talk about both of my flash collections, do what I can to promote them, for a VERY long time.

The best marketing is in itself creative so I see it as part of the whole writing “package”.

Hope you have a good writing and reading week and I hope you enjoyed The Perfect System yesterday.  Follows below so yes story time!

You know I have a fondness for random generators. Well I was exploring a random verb generator today and came up with the words ride, file, and cling. As ever with these things, you choose how many words you want to generate. You can also set the first and last letter. I tend to just choose the number of words I want. So what can I do with these three then? Let’s have a go…

The Perfect System
‘Your timing is not wonderful, Inspector. I wanted to complete my filing,’ the old lady peered up at her unwelcome visitor. But given she was only 3’10, she peered up at almost everyone. ‘Couldn’t this wait? All I want is to get myself organised and all I get are visitors turning up at all times. Most inconsiderate I call it.’
‘No, Ma’am.This can’t wait. And I’m sorry to disturb you but even in a magical world such as ours, the law won’t wait for anyone and, with yet another disappearance, I must talk to you now. You were the last one to see Draganna alive.’
‘Draganna.. Draganna…oh yes, the tiny fairy who thinks she knows better than everyone else. That is who you mean, Inspector?’
The Inspector coughed. ‘I have heard tale the lady could be bossy, Ma’am, but she didn’t deserve to die.’
‘May I know what happened to her?’
‘Draganna was last seen going for a ride on a dragon. Goodness knows why. The government warn people often enough dragon riding is dangerous. You can cling on as much as you want but if the dragon gets fed up, it just turns its head and either eats you whole or flames you. They are not meant to be used as taxi rides.’
The old lady tutted and went to her filing cabinet. She took out a manilla folder and opened it. Inside was a picture of a girl, a dragon, and a one page report. ‘Is this of any use to you, Inspector?’
The Inspector gasped. ‘That’s Draganna. That’s the dragon. And this page “predicts” Draganna will die by dragon. This is dated a year ago.’
‘And Draganna died when?’
‘Today, Ma’am. Look how…’
‘I want to know, Inspector, why my predictor filing system is out of sync. I will complain to the manufacturers. They don’t make things the way they used to do. I pride myself on my accuracy and I will not stand for my timing system to be out and by a year at that!’
‘Ma’am, that is not the point. You predicted this girl’s death and the way it would happen and it has turned out that way. I think you need to come with me to the station for a chat.’
‘Very well, Inspector, if you insist but may I first go and get my coat?’
‘Of course.’
Out in the hallway the old lady put on her coat, having first had a quick look at the manilla file inside it. It read “Inspector Know It All. Death by enraged elder fairy godmother. Thirty seconds after he escorts her out of the house.’
The old lady smiled. Her timing might be out but her predictions always came true.

Ends
Allison Symes – 24th October 2020

Hope you enjoy!

PS I was so thrilled to find this pic on Pixabay. It tied in beautifully with my story Time for Some Peace on the book trailer for Tripping the Flash Fantastic and it works well again here!  But so you can have another story, I will simply put the book trailer in again! The picture I refer to is the one of the dragon who looks as if she is congratulating herself after a spectacular burst of flame… as you would.

  Book Trailer – Tripping The Flash Fantastic

Goodreads Author Blog – What Drew You Into Reading?

I owe my love of reading to my late mother. I loved reading from an early age and never got out of the habit. I’m phenomenally grateful for what I see as presents – the gift of literacy, the gift of wanting to read, and the gift of enjoying stories of most kinds. Those gifts are priceless I think.

So what drew you into reading? Were you encouraged to read early? Did you discover a wonderful book and wanted to read more by the author? (I was like that with the wonderful works of Terry Pratchett. I first read Jingo and then absolutely had to read the rest of the Discworld series).

What matters is we keep on reading. It’s important not to get out of the habit even if you don’t have as much time for reading as you might like. This is where short story collections play a wonderful role as they are great for dipping into and I would say that even if I didn’t have work appearing in them, honest!

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Swanwick Memories – see below!

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This tweet came up again on a friend’s Twitter feed (hello, #ValPenny!) but it’s a great picture from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and great to share again. I can safely say all of us in this picture are very much looking forward to Swanwick 2021, having missed the cancelled Swanwick 2020 enormously.

Lessons from Writing and Scenic Scotland

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish pics and images of Lady, the daft but loveable Border Collie cross, were taken by me, Allison Symes.


Book cover images for The Best of Cafelit 9 and Tripping The Flash Fantastic supplied by my publishers – Bridge House Publishing and Chapeltown Books respectively.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share the link to Part 2 of my Lessons series on CFT. This week I look at lessons learned from the writing life, all of which are useful beyond that.
So over to you. What lessons have you learned from writing and how have you applied these in other areas of life?

Went back to Dunnet Bay. Such a wonderful beach. Lady thinks so too! Walked for miles though it always seems further on sand than it actually is!

Plenty of brisk fresh air. Managed to see buzzards fairly close up (could make out the colouring underneath. Don’t usually get to do that). Also spotted a kestrel, sand pipers, and oyster catchers.
Now drum roll please… Very exciting news on Tripping The Flash Fantastic to come soon but in the meantime, take a peek at this!


Achievement of the week and possibly the year for me  – I climbed 600 feet in about a mile exploring the track that runs behind where I’m staying. Yes, it was a very steep track! But see the views below. 

Lady bounded up it with no issues at all before going on to have a splendid playtime on Dornoch Beach later in the afternoon. Result? One tired but happy dog!

What would be the perfect day for your characters and why? What would they do to anyone or anything that got in the way of them having that perfect day?

There are story ideas there for a start but also use questions like this for outlining your people. Work out what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Different writers have varying requirements here but what you do need is enough for you to get going on a story with characters who deserve to be written about.




Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I’ve learned so much from the writing life as I discuss in this week’s CFT post. The great thing is I know that learning will continue.
My hopes with regard to flash fiction is to continue to develop characters and stories.

Maybe try different genres within flash? Maybe write a novella in flash one day – who knows?

But while I know there is writing to do and things to try within that, I know the buzz of writing won’t diminish. And I love that!😄

Big news is that I can now do a book cover reveal for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will be sharing more news soon on this.
I will be talking about TTFF as part of an author talk with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox on 26th September.

More details next week and my CFT post on 18th September will give details on how to register for the FREE Zoom event at the end of the month.

Am I a happy bunny right now? You bet!
Lovely day back at Dunnet today. One great thing about dog ownership is that our pets break down barriers. I’ve had far more lovely chats with people since owning a dog than before! 
Although 2020 has been an awful year, I am so pleased to hear in one week The Best Of Cafelit 9, where I have flash stories included, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, are “out there”. (Kindle only at moment for TTFF but paperback to follow).
Would still like 2020 to dramatically improve though and I know I’m not alone there.

I love autumn. I love the changing leaf colours. And the heathers on the hills around where I’m staying at the moment are such wonderful colours.

But there is a sense of transition this early in September as we leave summer behind. 
Flash fiction is great for demonstrating those senses of transition in your characters.

They go from one state of being to another – that is the story you’re writing after all.

What you need to figure out is which moment of transition is the important one to write up.


Fairytales With Bite – Favourites


My favourite part of most fairytales when I was a kid was when the fairy godmother etc turned up and you knew somehow from that point, everything was going to work out okay.
My favourite part of a fairytale now is harder to define but I like to see characters contributing to the fairy godmother’s efforts to help them.

I also like to see the villains get their comeuppance.And I know that last like is something I’ll always have!
I refer to a lot of my work as fairytales with bite precisely because they are not twee. Nor am I writing to the children’s market (Roald Dahl was the past master there in my view!). 
I’ve never liked it when someone dismisses something as “just a fairytale”. There is no just about it. Fairytales are deeper stories than some give them credit for!

 

This World and Others – Geography


I don’t refer to geography a lot in my flash tales but did use it in my unpublished (as yet!) fantasy novel.

I needed to know something about the landscape my characters inhabit and whether that gets in their way. Also I wanted to look at the differences and similarities with our world.
This is where photos come in handy for sparking ideas. I totally understand why so many fantasy works have a map with them. (I must check out the Discworld one for The Streets of Ankh-Morpork as that is one map which will be fun!☺).
The nice thing now is there are far more avenues of research available now. Archives, libraries, the web etc. I guess the danger now might be you could have so much fun researching, the writing takes a back seat!

So it would pay I think to plan out your research just as much as you would plan out the story itself.

Think about what you need to know, jot down where you think further research might be needed later, and write.

Also make a note of sources of research in case a publisher asks and in case you need to retrace your steps. It happens!

Holidays and Publication News

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish and Lady pics by me, Allison Symes. Book cover image by Gill James for The Best of Cafelit 9.

Facebook – General

Am heading to Scotland for a short break. First time I’ve been there in the autumn. Looking forward to lots of lovely walking on deserted sandy beaches and to exploring the forests.
Now the fantastic scenery won’t in itself inspire story ideas. My imagination doesn’t work like that.

What the scenery and walking will do is blow away the cobwebs and relax me. Then the ideas will flow. And I am all for that!😄

Gorgeous day walking at Lairg and Golspie. Dog very tired but happy. Literally dog-tired! Lovely to be able to join in with Zoom church service this morning too.

Planning to draft some blogs and flash tales this week. Writing and reading relax me so they are the perfect wind down.

There is a well-stocked book shelf here too so will be investigating that too. I recall the last time I was here there was a copy of Somerset Maughan’s A Writer’s Notebook. Must dip into that. Insights into the writing life always fascinate me.

Delightful day at St Dunnet Bay today, the top edge of the UK mainland. Lady had a wonderful time but is now struggling to stay awake. The price dogs pay for fun!😄😊
Am delighted to say The Best of Cafelit 9 is now out and I have stories in here. Hope to chat more about this next week but did want to congratulate all of the writers with work in here meantime.

If you like a good mix of stories and styles, do check out the Cafelit series.

Spent day walking along Golspie beach and at Lairg woods. It is amazing how much sand a black collie can collect! Lady is happily snoozing away as I write this. Always a good sign she IS getting her exercise well enough!

One major difference with us holidaying now rather than in May is that we’re not seeing the deer in the field opposite where we’re staying. We guess they’re up in the hills preparing for the rut.

Writing wise, I’m drafting bits and bobs as the wonderful Scottish fresh air is not just knocking Lady out for six! But am enjoying my “pottering” writing wise and my reading too. Sometimes it is good to “tick over”.

Facebook –

From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is fascinating seeing the country change as I go up to Scotland for a brief holiday.

Changes are interesting. They are vital too.Changes in character behaviour are what drives a story. Something has to happen. Something has to change.

But a character changing their mind can be the trigger for your story. Change doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatic.

Elizabeth Bennet changing her mind about Darcy turns Pride and Prejudice (as does his changing his mind about her).

How has your Sunday been? I’ve enjoyed glorious walking with hubby and dog on the NE coast of Scotland. Fab weather and good temperatures too.

Am looking forward to my annual challenge of getting as much info on a postcard as possible and sending same to my nearest and dearest. Still this is appropriate for me – flash fiction has been called postcard fiction!

And an interesting idea that came out of the creative workshop via Zoom I “went to” recently was to use the text as well as the pictures on old postcards to trigger story ideas. I might try and use the pics on the cards I pick up and see what I can do.


It is a privilege and pleasure to have flash stories included in anthologies, as well as in my own books.

On that note I’m pleased to report I have stories in the newly released The Best of Cafelit 9.

I hope to chat more about this later in the week when back from Scotland but it is lovely to have further publication news to return home for.

Am surrounded by beautiful old stone walls where I’m staying now. So many stories behind the building of those I suspect.

One thing I adore about visiting places such as Salisbury Cathedral is you do get to find out how the building was constructed, the names of the families doing the work and so on. Glimpses into a past world.

And that is what flash fiction is all about – giving readers glimpses into the past, the future, the present, the strange universe you’ve created etc. You choose where to set your stories and what glimpses your readers see.

Goodreads – Holiday Reading

– Holiday Reading

Do you make promises to youraelf to do so much reading while on a break? I do! Most of them I do achieve.

This time, while I’m in Scotland, I’ve promised myself to catch up with one paperback and three books on Kindle. Can’t wait to “tuck in”! I hope to catch up on reviewing too.

And the positive thing about heading into autumn with the nights drawing in, it does encourage more reading.

Sweet Dreams and Reading Acrostics

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Weather cooler again today – yippee! (Dog pleased too). Easier to concentrate and write too. Am preparing some blog pieces to send to various places in due course. As with the flash fiction, those are lovely to write during those pockets of time when I can only write for short bursts.

I forgot to share on this page the link for my latest Cafelit story, Sweet Dreams, (though I did share it on my book page). Hope you enjoy! This was a prompt from #GailAldwin in Gill James’ Prompts Book and it was good fun to write.

Now, without giving too much away, a favourite chocolate bar comes into this story. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

But it is useful to consider favourite and loathed things that your characters might have. Not only can you use those to add depth to your characterisation, you might be able to get short stories out of these things in and of themselves, as I’ve done here, thanks to Gail’s excellent prompt.

Oh and it’s a definite thumbs-up for writing to prompts set by others. They do make you think outside of your own writing box and that’s a good way to stretch yourself and what you can come up with as a result.

Happy writing!

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Hope you have had a good weekend and that the week to come is a productive and fun one. I did enjoy using the random noun generator (yes, there is such a thing!) to create a new flash story for my From Light to Dark and Back Again FB page yesterday. I will be using the noun generator again. NB.  The story I created, Misunderstood, will appear further down under the FLTDBA again section. Hope you enjoy it!

You can set as many nouns as you want and even choose the opening and finishing letters. I just went for two nouns at random and the great thing with that is you could use these as a title, the theme, or just work them into the story somehow.

I see all of the random generators I’ve used (word, phrase, question, noun, and even number!) as an alternative method of finding story prompts. And the great thing here? You’ve got an endless supply!

Give them a go and have fun. See what you can create. Playing with words and having fun in this manner is a wonderful trigger for creativity. And I’ve always found once you’ve got a creative spark going, you want to keep it going and you end up being more productive than you might have been otherwise.

Also the stories you draft here can be polished and edited and submitted later.

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I outline my characters as I’ve discussed before. What do I look for in said characters?

1. Basically a good reason for me to tell their story.
2. Go back to 1!

So what would count as a good reason then?

1. They have the qualities to overcome adversity even if they themselves don’t realise that to start with (and the best characters usually don’t). They don’t easily give up. They take good advice. They have the ability to recognise good advice when they hear it.

2. They are usually from a background that would make others consider them to be the underdog. I do love underdog winning through type stories and they are a mainstay of the classic fairytales too.

3. They have a moment of change they have got to see through, ensuring their lives can never be the same again. Stories like that are always fascinating.

4. They will often experience internal conflict as well as the obvious external type. Really gripping characters will have moments of self doubt (as we do) and that is what readers will identify with. It is then how the characters overcome that which will keep the readers reading!

 

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I’d thought I’d share some favourite moments in writing (and as ever this is not the be all and end all of lists. Am sure you can think of some things to add here).

1. Knowing I’ve picked exactly the right word for whatever it is I’m putting my poor characters through. I’m even more pleased if this is in dialogue. Good dialogue has emotional “whoomph” and shows a reader how the character is feeling.

2. Knowing my first draft is completed and I now have something to work with. This is where the work begins for me. It IS all in the edit(s) – and yes, there is always more than one! Sometimes considerably more than one!

3. Knowing my first edit has significantly improved my original story and I am getting glimmers of how it can be improved further. Out comes the trusted red pen and away I go…

4. Reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again (and a big thanks to all who have reviewed it).

5. Having positive feedback on my Chandler’s Ford Today posts as that shows the piece has engaged with readers well.

So over to you then. What are some of your favourite writing moments?

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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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I’ve found a new random generator! I’ve sometimes used random word, phrase, question, and even number generators to trigger story ideas. And now I’ve found a random noun generator which could be fun. Let’s see what can be done.

I set the generator to trigger two random nouns for me. Nouns generated were “foundation” and “actor”. (Incidentally as well as choosing how many to generate, you can set the first and last letter of each noun as well if you wanted to but I like to keep things simple).

Now the nice thing with the generators is you can use what comes up as the theme of your story, the title, or ensure you use the words that are triggered in that story at some point. Or you can combine any/all of that. The important thing is to have fun with this!

So what can I do with foundation and actor then?

MISUNDERSTOOD
The actor frowned as he dug out the foundation for the new amateur theatre building. He’d been promised an audience. Sure he had one. They were all yelling unspeakable things along the lines of this being the hardest they’d ever seen HIM work. Not what he’d expected at all.

He expected the finest foundation all right. He expected it to be applied to his face as he gave the starring performance of his life, which naturally would then receive glowing reviews all over the country, and lead to bigger, better roles.

He guessed it served him right for daring to mention Macbeth on stage last week. HIs fellow actors told him it would bring him bad luck.

He’d laughed then. They laughed now.

Allison Symes – 15th August 2020

Hope you enjoyed that. I loved writing it.

 

Really loved using the random noun generator yesterday. Will definitely add that to my list of story prompt generators. You can never have too many of those! Okay, you need the time to write up all the ideas, I grant you that, but this is a dilemma every writer faces and has to find their own way of tackling.

Flash is an ideal vehicle for those lovely story ideas that are best shown quickly. My story yesterday, Misunderstood, worked best as a quick tale only. I often find my humorous tales work better that way. If flash has taught me anything (and it has taught me loads!), it is to never, ever pad your story out. If it works better at 100 words, keep it there. If it works best at 1000, keep it there and so on.

Have a good writing week!

 

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You’d think a flash fiction writer would have no problems coming up with the blurb for the cover of their book, wouldn’t you?!

Now, okay, the word count is not an issue for me here. What can be tricky is choosing what HAS to be on the cover and what would be nice to have but is not the end of the world if it doesn’t make it. Inevitably it won’t! Why?

As with the fiction itself, only the crucial details can go on. You want every word to hook in potential readers so there can be no preamble, waffle etc. You have to be realistic with yourself as to what could be seen as waffle and cut, cut, cut.

I change the way I lead into a story as this keeps things interesting for me (and I hope in due time readers as well!).

Sometimes I will use a character’s thoughts. At other times I will show you the character doing something.

I try to get into the scene quickly so a reader picks up where they are nigh on immediately and there must be something about the character to draw their interest to ensure they read on and find out what happens to them.

In She Did It Her Way, Kind Of, I start with the line “Jane Westbrook knew it was too late to do anything.” Now that sounds like it might kill a story right from the start but what I planned here was that readers would want to find out why she thought this and whether she was right or wrong.

Curiosity about a character is a really good hook and one I enjoy using.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Acrostics

R = Riveting
E = Entertaining
A = Alternative Worlds
D = Drama and Dialogue
I = Imagination
N = Narrative
G = Genre Fulfilling/Crossing

All of the above are what I look for in a good read.

Regardless of genre (and I have a soft spot for those books which cross genres), I want the book to be riveting, entertaining, and for the drama and dialogue to keep me gripped until I reach The End.

I want to be amazed (in a good way!) by the author’s imagination. There can’t be a dull moment in the narrative either.

And yet some people still think writing is easy!!

G = Gripping
E = Educational
N = Nuanced
R = Readability
E = Enchanting

And again, regardless of genres, I want whatever I read to be capable of the above. Yes, fiction can be educational. You can learn from the mistakes the characters make for a start!

For me, nuanced means the characters have to be balanced. Nobody is all evil or all good. The only over the top characters I accept are Mr Toad in The Wind of The Willows and Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmatians but they are written specifically that way and their characters wouldn’t work any other way. But those are rare exceptions to the general rule. Characters should be balanced.

At the end of a book I want to have experienced an enchanting time reading said book. I want something about it to transport me to its setting and to regret leaving it at the end.