Seasonal Books

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


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I talk about the types of book I read at certain times of year in this week’s CFT post. Which books do you save for particular times? Which can you read at any time? Comments as ever are most welcome on the CFT comments page.

Oh and happy reading!

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Further to my CFT post this week about seasonal books, do you write seasonally? Are there specific types of story you only write at certain times of year? Do the seasons help with your writing in an way?

I keep roughly to the same amount of time in writing throughout the year and see advantages to all of the seasons. The lighter evenings improve mood and that can help creativity. The darker evenings encourage me to spend more time at my desk writing so win-win there!

I have written Christmas based stories for both From Light to Dark and Back Again and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic. I can’t honestly remember what time of year I wrote them. I DO know it wasn’t at Christmas. I do take some time off around then for one thing. For another, I also sometimes submit these kind of flash stories to Cafelit and I like to get them in well ahead of time.

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It is always the characters I remember in well loved books, films etc. Sometimes I remember a killer line such as “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” from The Italian Job. But mainly it is the characters I recall. Why?

I suppose it’s because most writers, including me, are interested in what makes people tick. We need to understand motivations so we can give our own characters credible ones readers will latch onto and accept (even if they loathe the characters themselves. Mind you, there is nothing to beat booing at a “good” villain now, is there?!).

And people watching will spark off ideas for characters and stories. I’ve used the colour of someone’s hat that I liked amongst other things. And, of course, there is the old favourite of overhearing something, always out of context incidentally, but wondering what would make YOUR characters come out with something like that. (This is especially true if what you hear is funny!).

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Am busily preparing a book trailer for Tripping the Flash Fantastic as well as finishing off blog pieces to submit. All good fun!

It’s always interesting being on the receiving end of questions, by the way. I love interviewing other authors for Chandler’s Ford Today but it is always fun to be quizzed myself. The best questions always encourage an interviewee to expand. The worst kind are those where you’ll only get a Yes/No answer.

I’ve mentioned before the idea of interviewing your characters as it helps you outline your “people” and you get a better idea of what they are capable of before you write their story. Pretty much the same applies here – again ask your characters interesting questions. Make them talk!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Just a quick reminder I’ll be on Chat and Spin Radio talking about the joys of flash fiction tomorrow night, 3rd October, at about 9.15 pm.

Also just over a week to go to my cyberlaunch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Hope to see you “there”. And if you have questions about flash fiction, do send them in on the night.

Flash is a fantastic form to write and to read and well worth celebrating. It is also my hope it can be used to draw in the reluctant reader to the wonderful world of books.

Focusing on what really matters is important to any kind of writing but the spotlight is turned up a LOT when your word count is DOWN! But the benefits of that are you have a more intense story precisely because it is short and the impact on a reader can be stronger too.

Screenshot_2020-10-02 Tripping The Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch Facebook

Flash shows you a very brief moment in time for a character but oh what a moment! And that’s the whole point. That moment must be something truly transforming for the character. It doesn’t have to be in a good way either.

In Tripping The Flash Fantastic, in my story Understanding, I used a narrator showing the reader something about another character’s life. Liked the way this worked and I hope to do more of this in future. Seeing something through someone else’s eyes can shed a whole new perspective on things and that can be true for fiction too.

BONUS POST. Two bits of late news, as they say.
1. I’ll be on Chat and Spin Radio this coming Saturday, 3rd October to chat about Tripping the Flash Fantastic. I’ll be on at about 9.15 pm and will share the link with the interview later.

2. I’ve finally got around to creating a story for me on Facebook.


Wet Wednesday here. Lady not overly impressed. I was even less impressed. Still, one good thing about bad weather, is it makes getting back to a nice warm room to get on with some writing even more appealing!

Delighted to share part of another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Many thanks to “Fish Lady” for:-

Allison’s stories always make you stop and think a little – there is something slightly off-centre in the way her characters see the world, and she switches effortlessly from humorous tales to stories with a harder bite. A real treat for readers who enjoy being taken on a mystery tour.

It’s always great to know when your stories impact on readers positively. And a huge encouragement to keep on writing.

The writing life is full of ups and downs and the encouragements help enormously when things are on the down side.

This is another reason I like writing flash fiction I think. I can produce something fairly quickly and submit it. I don’t have to wait too long for results and, if they’re positive, it ends up being that I receive a steady stream of encouragements. And that helps so much.


Fairytales with Bite – Transformations

Transformations are a classic part of fairytales. I wonder what the rats who became footmen remembered when they became rats again! And how easy did they find becoming bipeds when usually they were quadrupeds? Did the spell on them take away all thought of what they had been? Hmm…

Transformations can often be for good, of course, but not always. Sometimes they can be questionable. I doubt if the fairy godmother in Cinderella would have won any prizes for the humane treatment of animals given her transformation of the rats. They had been quite happy being rats after all!

All stories do need some sort of transformation. There has to be a change for there to be any story at all.

Whether you make that transformation good, evil, or questionable will depend so much on (a) you and your personal tastes and (b) your characters.

The transformation must be true to the character though always. If someone evil is going to transform into something better (and you define what that better is!), then you do need to show that character as at least having second thoughts about their behaviour in the run up to that transformation. It will make the transformation more realistic for your readers and they will be more willing to believe it.

The only place things happen by magic is in the fairytales and even in Cinderella you have the situation where the godmother has to look around for things to use. That is a signal to the reader that something is about to change.

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This World and Others – Reflections

Do your characters ever reflect on their actions and if so, how? You generally don’t want monologues here but a character wondering about a course of action is a character showing signs of self-doubt, vulnerability even, and that is likely to appeal to a reader. Certainly readers will understand it. We all have those moments after all.

Does your world reflect this one or have you set up something totally different? (Even the latter can be a reflection of life here to an extent!).
What would you like your characters and/or world to reflect? This could be anything from what you would like them/you to be or they could be the opposite to you and you use your stories as chances to see how things would play out.

Have fun! But a story that makes readers reflect on what they would do if they were in your character’s shoes is a story that is making an impact and that is always good.#

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Final Thoughts on The Writing Game

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. A HUGE thank you to my fabulous guest authors for their pics, including book cover ones, for the Chandler’s Ford Today series, The Writing Game – and What to Watch For.

FINAL PART OF THE WRITING GAME – AND WHAT TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT.  Hope you find it useful and enjoyable.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m thrilled to share the final part of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. HUGE thanks to all of my fabulous guests for the wonderful advice they’ve shared in this three-parter.  Do take a bow, everyone!

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Today my guests are from the world of independent publishing, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Association of Christian Writers. Some of them cross more than one category!

 

Feature Image - Part 3 - The Writing Game and What to Watch For

Many, many thanks to all of my fabulous guest authors for taking part in The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. This is one of those series for Chandler’s Ford Today I should’ve written a long time ago!

Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

Mind you, I can speak for all of my guests in that if this series stops one person going down the vanity press route, with all the heartache and expense that causes, we would be well pleased.

I know, looking back when I first started writing for publication seriously, the main problem is in NOT knowing what you DO need to know. As you start to make progress with your writing, you then REALISE you don’t know but your next issue is where do you turn to for advice? If you needed a really good reason to make writing buddies, this is it. And the best places to meet and make writing buddies?

Writing groups – online and otherwise. Creative writing conferences – day events and longer etc. At the moment so many of these have to be online via Zoom etc., but still take part in these things. You will get a lot from them.

Have a fab weekend!

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

Delighted to say the story I was working on inspired by a #GailAldwin prompt is going to be published on Cafelit later this month. Will share the link when I have it. I hope this will be next week.

It was great fun to write (and thanks to Gail for a great idea here. Given my love of chocolate, writing stories inspired by sweets could keep me busy for a while! Mind you I still have well over 200 prompts to work through in Gill James’ excellent Prompts book! Still they say slow and steady wins the race. If true, that means I’m in for a brilliant result!).😆😆😆

Fence news: have finished creosoting the wretched fence. Lady was most upset I would not allow her out to join me but I really didn’t fancy going back indoors with a Ronseal “Matured Oak” coloured border collie! (There is no way she would have kept her nose out of the tin either!). Not sorry to have this done ahead of the heatwave due this weekend – and yes, Lady will be kept nicely cool.

I’m looking forward to sharing the concluding part of my CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For – on Friday. My guests this week will be from the world of self publishing, the Association of Christian Writers, and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Fabulous tips and advice to share once again. A big thank you to all of my great guests over this series.

Have been happily drafting a new flash fiction piece where the prompt was to write about a sweet. This was a prompt suggested by #GailAldwin in the Prompts Book by Gill James.

I’m slowing working my way through the prompts though it is going to take me well over a year to get through them all! I hope eventually to get another collection out of these pieces in time. I also hope to share some of them via Cafelit in due course too.

But what is lovely about writing like this is it means I can get a flash piece drafted in those short pockets of time which might otherwise be wasted.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The final part of my The Writing Game – and What to Watch For is now up on Chandler’s Ford Today. For the next couple of weeks, there will be some fab interviews with writers who are changing direction with their most recent publications. Looking forward to sharing those. Lots of interesting insights.

I love reading, as well as hosting, author interviews. There is always so much to learn. But that I think is one of the great things about writing. It spurs you on so. You take the view that “I’ve done this before, I can do it again, but can I do it better?”. The answer to that one is always yes, incidentally!

And that is the way it should be. You always want to strive. It is the striving that will make you the better writer. With flash fiction, I’ve had a lot of fun recently with haiku and hope to continue that. I’m sure there’ll be other kinds of flash to have a go at somewhen as well.

Have a fab weekend! (Must admit I am NOT looking forward to the heat. Lady and I will be doing all we can to stay cool).

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I’m aiming this year to have something submitted to Cafelit once a month. Am glad to report a story I was working on the last day or so will be on there later in August. Will share the link when I have it.

Submitting stories regularly helps give me focus. I can vary the length of story I send in and I sometimes use the Prompts book Gill James produced to trigger my submissions. (Many of the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown authors contributed to the Prompts book including yours truly. Do check it out. It’s a fun book to work through – and you could play “lucky dip” with this too. Pick a page and write one or two of the ideas up from that etc. Pick an idea and write it to different word counts etc.).

 

Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I’ve been drafting some work from the Prompts book by Gill James, as I mentioned over on my author page here, but what are the advantages to working to prompts?

1. The prompt gives you a framework to write your story to and I’ve always found that so helpful. It is why I prefer a competition with a set theme rather than an open one as a rule. I’ve got something there immediately to have a crack at!

2. There’s nothing to stop you taking the prompt and writing one story, two stories, three tales from it. Why not take the theme in two or three different directions and see what you can do with it? If you get two or three different stories to submit, fabulous. If not, you pick the one you think is strongest and submit that one.

3. If you find you’ve written a story to a prompt and you really like the character, again why not write other fiction for them?

4. Writing to someone else’s prompt can “prompt” your own imagination to come up with ideas you might want to note down for future use. This happens a lot with me but that’s fine. It means I’ve got a good store of ideas to write up as and when I can.

Happy writing!

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Fairytales with Bite – 

Who Defines the Goodies in Fairytales?

Yes, I know, the writer does obviously BUT a lot depends on the reaction of the reader too. I can’t help but think of Alan Rickman’s wonderful portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The out-and-out villain almost had people rooting for him to win! Now that was not supposed to happen was it?!

And Shrek turns the idea of the ogre being the bad guy on its head. There is a lot of fun to be had writing fairytales from alternative character viewpoints. This is something I’ve done a lot and my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, was written from the viewpoint of the youngest “ugly sister” to good old Cinders.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am rooting for the good folk in fairytales but bear in mind good can also encompass those who’ve been misunderstood. (I’ve not seen Maleificent but believe that is the crux of the plot there).

What makes a character good to me is that their actions and motivations are understandable and do not harm others. Courage in facing up to evil usually comes up to it somewhere too. (What is even more interesting is when a character realises the evil can lurk within themselves and takes steps to fight that).

So who are your good people in fairytales and why?

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This World and Others – Reflections

One of the joys of setting stories in alien worlds is they can often reflect on aspects of life right here on Planet Earth. The Lord of the Rings and The Narnia Chronicles both do that for me. What matters is being able to understand the characters and why they’re acting the way they are, no matter how outlandish their home planet is etc.

This can work both ways round of course. An outlandish setting could seem ridiculous to our eyes but you could write a story set here in such a way it actually makes what we know the daft option!

Fairytales have, for centuries, reflected aspects of human nature. They’re not flattering when it comes to showing what characters (and therefore us) could do. The motivations of the characters are all ones we know about too.

So how can you make your world and characters understandable to us?

No matter what your setting, your character has to be striving for something important and the readers have to care about the outcome. So outline what your character could need to do and what is in it for them if they succeed and, even more importantly, what would happen if they fail. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death thing (though it could be) but it DOES have to matter and the reader should be able to pick up on that.

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Reflections

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is an alliterative one! As Autumn Approaches is a reflective look at the season, I share some thoughts about how the season is for writers.

I also discuss the importance of taking time out to look back, as my church has recently done for its 200th anniversary, but equally how vital it is to move on from periods of reflection, given what stays static dies eventually.

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My CFT post this week is a reflective one on autumn. I share what I like about it, why it is an interesting season for writers, and also discuss my church’s recent exhibition to celebrate its 200th anniversary where we took stock of our history and recalled friends past, present, and no longer with us. Oral storytelling and local history are so important.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers’ More than Writers – The Highs and the Lows

Many thanks to all who commented on my More Than Writers blog earlier. You really can’t underestimate how much persistence, determination, and ability to work hard you will need as a writer. The great comfort is ups and downs are a normal part of the writing life so you’re definitely not alone here.

The Highs and the Lows – Allison Symes

What would you say were the writing highs? 

Your first piece of writing (aka “the I did it” moment!)?

Your first publication credit (the “family start to take you seriously” moment!)?

Your first book acceptance (the “some of the rest of the world start to take you seriously” moment!)?  Sadly, it always is some of the rest of the world…

What would you say were your writing lows? 

That first rejection?
Having your novel come back for the umpteenth time?
Countless short stories turned down?

The great irony, of course, is, with the right spirit and attitude, a writer can use those rejections and set backs to (a) fill them with determination to keep going, (b) to improve on what they do so the turn downs don’t arrive so often as they once did, and (c) recognise all writers go through this.

There are no shortcuts to publication.  Also, even when published, the learning curve goes on and you have to be open to it.  The writer that doesn’t learn is the one who remains static.  What is static dies, eventually.

So then it is a question of relishing the highs and getting through the lows, which is where the support of understanding writing friends is crucial.  One of the things I love about social media is the fact it makes it easier to stay in contact with said writing friends, especially when you can only meet up face to face once or twice a year.Writing forums such as the one we have on the ACW website are also useful for this kind of contact (and for sharing helpful advice and tips too).  Going to a good writing conference is invaluable too given that for most of the year we are at our desks, working alone.

Peter, of course, literally had his mountain top experience but his low was clearly his denial of Christ.  (What I love about Peter’s story is his redemption – it offers hope for us all).  So this pattern of highs and lows then is a reflection of life as it is lived and not just the writing life.

Our characters must have their highs and lows.  Without them, there is no conflict yet alone a story.  The highs and lows are not just the story events but what is in those characters.  No villain should be all evil (there must be a decent reason for them acting the way they are, decent to them at least).  No hero should be a goody two shoes.  Much as I loved Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I found it easier to identify with Amy or Jo rather than the saintly Beth.  Identifying with your characters is the goal.  The moment a reader does that, the more likely it is they will read on and find out what happens.

Show the flaws.  Show the vulnerabilities.  Show the things the character does well.  Enjoy the process.  And good luck.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Don’t forget if you subscribe to Writing Magazine, you can put your book on their Subscribers’ Showcase. It’s free for a while but after that you pay a small amount per month to have it on there. My own plans later, once hopefully I have more books out, is to switch which ones I put up there to keep things fresh.

n a novel, you would have the space for different moods. Moods in the story itself. Moods of the characters. In flash fiction, you have to focus on one mood (and often on one character). But the advantage of putting a collection together is over the space of the entire book, you can have a range of moods and therefore of stories.

This was one aspect of putting From Light to Dark and Back Again together that I really enjoyed. Themes and moods became apparent and it was so easy to group these together.

Time for some more one-line stories, though one I admit is also useful wildlife advice!

1. The dragon, determined not to be fobbed off with false gold coinage, destroyed the Royal Mint with two blasts of flame.

2. Glass slippers, how the hell did that happen, thought the fairy godmother as she hung up her wand in disgust.

3. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog only to find the canine could bite in places no male animal would ever wish bitten.

4. When the red, red robin comes bob bob bobbing along, it’s looking for food in the winter months, not the chance to be the star of a song.

5. The girl in the red hooded coat took one look at the Big Bad Wolf in her granny’s bed and said, “That gingham really doesn’t suit you, try silk next time.”

Any story, no matter what its length, should create an impact on a reader, whether it is to make them laugh or cry. I concede though No. 3 will probably make a few of you wince!

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog Where Do You Turn First?

So you have limited time to read (it is ever so!) and you can choose between reading one hardback, one paperback, or pick one option from your Kindle? Which would you automatically plump for over the others?

I’d go for the paperback every time (partly because while I have some hardbacks, my paperback collection is far greater). There is still the element of the “go for the real book” here, much as I love the Kindle.

Where the Kindle does come into its own is when I’m away anywhere and the last thing I want to do is lug a lot of books along with me (unless they’re by me and I’m trying to sell them of course!).

The other reason I’d go for the paperback first is I’d want the experience of the “whole book”. You can’t smell a Kindle’s “pages” but you can do it with a paper book – and I have and will continue to do so.

I do like the smell of a book. I like the look of a well designed cover. I like the feel of a paperback in my hands. So there is the whole tactile experience going on here.

I do know I’m not the only reader/writer to feel that way so if I’m weird, I know I’ve got company. Very well read company, I should add!

So what would you pick then and why? Comments welcome.

Fairytales with Bite Fairytales A to Z Part 4

J = Jealousy.  Such a powerful emotion and an excellent trait to exploit in your characters given it is understandable as a motivation for action. People do strange things, motivated by this, in real life.  Your characters can do so too in fiction.  You don’t have to like jealousy as a trait or the character to be able to identify with where the character is coming from here.  It can also act as a kind of shorthand.  If you say someone is the jealous type, it conjures up an immediate image of what that person is likely to be like, doesn’t it?

K = Killer Instinct.  Do your characters have this?  Do you?!  Firstly your characters, particularly your villains, need this (and often in the literal sense), but even the “goodies” need this to keep them going in the face of opposition etc.  They need to know when to “go” for a course of action and it will be their instinct here that will ignite the spark which drives them on.  As for you as a writer, do you have the killer instinct when it comes to editing your work?  Will you take out anything that is really not working (and be open to the idea it isn’t)?  You need to learn to be ruthless about taking out anything that is not pushing your story on.  The “kill your darlings” expression has a lot of truth behind it.

L = Learning and Laughter.  Do your characters learn from their mistakes?  A good story and great characters will have that as a major factor.  Some of my favourite series novels have shown the lead character developing over time and I love that.  It makes the character far more real to me.  As for laughter, even in darker stories, there can be room for this.  In the classic fairytales, for me, the Emperor’s New Clothes is a great example of laughing at those who supposedly are superior but are taken in by conmen (and you do have to hand it to those tailors for sheer nerve).  So where can laughter fit into your stories?

This World and Others Reflections

Reflection is a major theme of my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post called As Autumn Approaches.  (Well, this is true for the UK and Europe anyway!).

What would make your characters reflect on their actions to date/their attitudes to life?  Being made to confront the consequences of what you are doing would be one major reason to take time out to reflect, especially if there was time to reverse matters or limit any damage done.  Love, as they say, changes everything and can be a major influence in making people change their behaviour (usually for the better, but this isn’t always the case).

Sometimes a character will take time out to reflect before heading out on their adventure/quest etc.  What is interesting here is how that period of reflection influences what the character then does.  If your characters do this, how do they reflect?  On their own or do they have a mentor?  Do they look up books (especially history) to find out how others in their world’s past handled certain situations?  If the characters themselves will be setting a precedent, are there general guidelines to give them pointers as to what they should be doing?

Last but not least, are the characters themselves willing to learn from the reflections of others?