Diaries and Letters


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Many created in Book Brush). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good start to 2023. It is lovely being back at the writing desk. Look out for a useful writing exercise in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Hope you give it a go and find it useful.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my first Chandler’s Ford Today post for 2023 where I take a look at Diaries and Letters.

I look at the joys of reading books of these as well as explore using these formats in my own flash fiction writing. I also discuss the usefulness of keeping a diary (not just for noting down what I’ve got to do and when but also for reviewing where I am with my writing and to set goals). I also share a useful creative writing exercise here.

Hope you enjoy the post and hope you have had a good first week “back to normal”.

Diaries and Letters

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Looking forward to sharing Diaries and Letters for my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. See above – this is one of those posts where I have to watch my spelling. It’s difficult reading and/or writing dairies!

I love reading and writing both formats! Am looking forward to sharing more author interviews later on in the year and am glad to say I’ll be taking part in another writer’s blog in March. More details nearer the time. Also looking forward to running another flash fiction workshop later this month.

Hope to get back to work soon on a major project I had to shelve last year (due to my wanting to get my third flash fiction book submitted). Looking forward to that too. I’ve got a rough draft done on it but know it needs plenty of honing.

Have you set any writing goals you want to achieve this year? I like to have a rough idea of what I’d like to see done in the period and deliberately have a mixture of goals I know I’ll achieve quickly as well as the longer ones. It is nice being able to tick things off my “list”.

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Hope you have had a good day. Weather a lot better than yesterday – Lady and I didn’t get wet! It is the simple pleasures in life etc etc…

Am currently reading a biography of the late Queen by Gyles Brandreth (and loving it). Then I’m on to a crime novel. I like mixing things up! I read in different formats too (and I’ll be looking at some formats of story writing in the forms of diaries and letters for my next Chandler’s Ford Today post too. I often read books of letters and diaries – do check these out. They’re illuminating. I’ve written in both diary and letter formats too).

Writing Tip: Given you’re going to be spending some time with your characters (and yes that applies even to a flash piece), it does pay to get to know them a bit. If you could write a letter to your leading character, what would you put in it and why? Give some thought as to how they would reply to you. You’ll get insights into their personality doing this.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s great to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my story The First Day. An apt title for the first week in the New Year, I think. Hope you enjoy. (Also many thanks for the comments coming in on this already but I think you’ll like my characters in this one).

Screenshot 2023-01-06 at 09-18-42 The First Day by Allison Symes

If you want to practice writing short in a way that helps other writers, how about writing a review of their books? It helps authors with publicity and is the second best way to help them (the first is to buy said books of course). The great thing with reviews is they don’t have to be long.

Talking of writing short, I must admit I did find the strapline for both of my collections tough to come up with – I knew what I wanted to say but it was condensing it down enough that was the issue. Still I got there in the end.

For From Light to Dark and Back Again, the strapline reads A collection of very short stories to suit every mood.

For Tripping the Flash Fantastic, it reads A carefully crafted collection of story worlds.

It is funny how writing short is so often more difficult than writing long!If you’ve got ideas for possible strap lines or even words you’d like to use in a strapline, jot them down somewhere safe. Never assume you’ll remember. You don’t, honestly.

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble

I mentioned over on my main author page on Facebook about getting to know your characters. There are various ways of doing this. For flash fiction, you may not need to know so much. I often use a template to help me work out what I think I need to know. One or two pertinent questions can draw out a lot of information! It’s working out what you need to know I think which can be the tricky bit.

I know I need to know a character’s major trait and why it is that one. Others may need to know what they look like and deduce their personality from the type of clothes they like to wear etc. But as long as you know what makes them tick, that’s the important thing. You do have to convince ourself you know these people and therefore can write their stories up with conviction. You know X would react like this to Y because… etc etc

May be an image of text that says "".. Understanding what makes US tick is crucial for understanding what makes your characters tick."

Fairytales with Bite – New Year Acrostic (Writing Tips)

N = New Year = New start – do your magical characters need this and, if so, why?
E = Explore what your characters would do when dropped right in the mire. This can be great fun!
W = Work out what your characters could do with in the way of worthy opponents. You mustn’t make life too easy for them.

Y = You decide how magic works in your setting and whether your characters can all have the same powers or have the potential to develop them.
E = Eagerness to gain power – which of your characters have this? Why? What would they do with that power if they got it?
A = Always know what your characters are doing and what their motivations are. These need to be motivations readers understand but we don’t necessarily have to like them.
R = Read through your stories and check for consistency. If your character changes behaviour patterns, there has to be a good reason for that, again something readers can identify with. Were they “redeemed” or “corrupted”? What are the consequences of the changes? Your stories need to play this out.

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This World and Others – Starting Over

This is an apt topic for the start of another year (and Happy New Year!). Many stories show characters starting over (and my favourite here is A Christmas Carol by Dickens).

But give some thought as to whether your setting needs to start over. Has there been a climate catastrophe in your world where agriculture, industry etc all need to start again? What caused the disaster? How have your characters recovered from it? What changes have had to be forced on them? Which have they happily adopted?

Also there are personal disasters for your individual people. What form(s) do these take? How did your characters start over or have they never been able to really recover? What are the consequences of not being able to start over?

How would the history of your world impact on those living in it now? Is there history they prefer to forget (and so have “started over” by focusing on the history they are happy about?). Starting over can be an artificial concept exploited by the powerful so you could explore what they are trying to bury here.

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Interview Part 2 with Jenny Sanders, Shout-outs, and Getting Steamed Up

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Jenny Sanders for supplying author, book, and other pictures for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. As ever, screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good working week. Nice surprises this week – unexpected shoutouts for Tripping the Flash Fantastic and I will be glad to share further publication news very soon too. (And it stopped raining for a bit too so Lady and I consider that a win!).

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s with great pleasure I welcome back Jenny Sanders to Chandler’s Ford Today for Part 2 of a stunning interview (and many thanks for the comments coming in on this already).

This week, Jenny and I discuss writing devotionals, short stories, and flash fiction. The latter especially is another example of where Jenny and I cross (writing) paths – hence the title for this interview this week. Hope you enjoy.

The writing journey can take you on all sorts of interesting pathways as Jenny and I have both found.

Crossing Paths with Jenny Sanders – Flash Fiction, Devotionals, and Short Stories- Part 2

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Many thanks to #ValPenny for a lovely shout-out today for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. That was a lovely surprise, as was the fabulous comment from #JoyWood. Now that is what I call a review! Thank you, ladies.

Also had a further nice surprise when I gave someone, a fellow dog walker, one of my business cards as they’re interested in my books. Now that’s music to a writer’s ears, is it not?

Don’t forget, as well as getting copies of TTFF and From Light to Dark and Back Again, online (usual outlets), you can contact me via my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like a signed copy (or copies) directly from me. See my contact page.

Talking of flash fiction, I’ll be discussing that very topic, amongst others, with Jenny Sanders in Part 2 of her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up tomorrow. See above.

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Lady got to play with her best buddy, the lovely Ridgeback today, and after Monday’s weather, it was so lovely to have a nice day out in the park today. Nice to come home still dry too!

Am enjoying the Flash NANO challenges especially as there is great variety in them. Looking forward to tackling today’s one later on. I deliberately mix up the random generators I use to produce stories. I don’t want to limit myself to one type. I think this has stood me in good stead for Flash NANO. Best of all, it’s fun anyway!

I was impressed – my train tickets for the Bridge House Publishing event arrived today. I only ordered them a couple of days ago. So looking forward to catching up with people again here (and I hope making new friends too).

AE - November 2022 - Taking part in Flash NANO

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. It’s time for another story. (Think it is quite nice to start the working week with one on my YouTube channel and to finish said working week with another one on Friday Flash Fiction). Am pleased to say Getting Steamed Up is my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. This one started life in response to a Flash NANO prompt. Hope you enjoy it.

Screenshot 2022-11-25 at 09-38-34 Getting Steamed Up by Allison Symes

Many thanks to #FridayFlashFiction for commenting on my post yesterday about one of the disciplines of flash fiction. Couldn’t agree more – see screenshot if you missed the post. Don’t forget a new batch of stories will be up tomorrow and do check out what’s on there.

Fabulous reading and catching up with stories via websites like this can be a great way to ensure you get some contemporary flash fiction reading in as part of your “reading diet”. I consciously try to ensure I read in and out of my genre, past and present work, books, magazines etc. It keeps life interesting for a start. It’s fun too!

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One of the disciplines of flash fiction (which comes in useful for other forms of writing) is in knowing where and when to stop! You tell your story, your character has done/said all they needed to do/say, and then you stop. I find the word count restriction helps here.

The End really does have to be the end. It can be tempting to add in a kind of concluding bit. Flash writing cures you of that habit quickly as you can only include anything which moves the story on in some way. There really is no room for anything else and that’s good. Your focus is sharpened thanks to this.

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Fairytales with Bite – Who Guards The Guards?

In a magical setting, there should be some way to measure magical standards. One way is obviously through schooling and exams but what about later? Who ensures standards are kept up by fairy godmothers and the like? Who ensures short cuts aren’t being taken which could endanger others? Who sets the standards people need to stick to in the first place and have these ever been changed or challenged?

Is there a magical enforcement agency of any kind and, If so, who guards those guards to ensure they’re doing their job properly? Is the agency a good one or are they the equivalent of the old Keystone Cops (i.e. fit for comic purposes only)?

Are the guardians of magical standards respected or feared? (Could be both but I find it interesting where a body like that is respected rather than feared. It would tend to show me that these people are doing their job in a way that benefits the people and there could be stories here about where the public helps the agency solve magical crimes, prevents standards slipping and so on precisely because that respect exists. People don’t tend to assist those they fear unless they have no choice).

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This World and Others – Law Making

In your fictional setting, does law making tend to follow the pattern we have here of parliamentary democracy or dictatorship? How do laws get made and passed? Do people have any say in this? Can people petition the likes of their local councillors/MPs? And when laws are passed how are people informed about them? How long does a new law take to be implemented fully?

Does your world have a separate civil/criminal law making body/bodies?

In the case of longstanding laws, what could make the authorities change these? Do they update laws where situations/technologies and the like have changed? That kind of change can make some laws redundant. For example, we no longer need a man with a red flag walking in front of a motor vehicle to warn pedestrians a car was on the road!

Is the law respected or mocked (even if the latter is done privately)? Are there laws which desperately need scrapping or an update and who/what is blocking that? Plenty of stories to be had there I think!

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Learning From Our Favourite Characters

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good weekend. This week sees my latest author newsletter go out and my taking part in Flash NANO for the first time. Weather all over the place here though we still have gorgeous autumn colours to enjoy (the photo below was taken by me during my Northumberland holiday only a couple of weeks ago).

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Facebook – General

Where does the time go? Mind you, it wasn’t hard to believe it’s November today. I’ve had heavy rain, gales, hail, all sorts here and that was by lunchtime today! Lady got to have a bonus play with her best buddy today so she was well pleased.

Author newsletter went out today. Received my first Flash NANO prompt which I plan to write up later this evening.

I’ll be reviewing Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery of Mallen Hall for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Always a joy to go and watch The Chameleon Theatre Group. Looking forward to going to their pantomime (Pinocchio the Pantomime) in January – oh yes I am!

Oh and big news – I’ve booked my place for The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, very much being an ”early bird”. If you want to know more about Swanwick, do check their website out.


Screenshot 2022-11-01 at 20-24-19 Swanwick Writers' Summer School

Hope you have had a good start to the week. Lady got to play with her best buddy today, the Rhodesian Ridgeback., so those two went home tired but happy. Went out at the right time too – the heavens opened at lunchtime!

Looking forward to taking part in Flash NANO which starts tomorrow. Good luck to everyone taking part in that and in the NaNoWriMo. Hope you all get plenty written. I’m hoping to write to as many of the prompts as I can with the idea being these might go forward to a future collection of mine.

Separately, don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month so do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to catch the next one “hot off the presses”, so to speak, given it goes out tomorrow. I often share flash tips etc here.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Did appreciate the extra hour’s lie-in this morning as clocks went back in the UK. Even the dog welcomed it!

Many thanks for the fabulous comments coming in on The Caterpillar and The Zebra, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction.

I’ll be reviewing Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery of Mallen Hall for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. It was great to see The Chameleon Theatre Group on stage again.

Also a big thanks for the comments coming in on Learning from Our Favourite Characters, my most recent blog post for More than Writers (the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot).

Will be pretty busy preparing interview questions for CFT for a couple of lovely authors soon. More details on these interviews nearer the time. Once nice thing about it getting darker sooner in the evenings is that it gives me even more incentive to stay at my desk writing away!

 

It’s my turn on the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. For More Than Writers this month, I look at Learning from Our Favourite Characters. For one thing, you can figure out whether you would make the choices they do in the book you’re reading. One of the joys of being a writer is you get to read more too and you can learn so much from what else you read, whether it is contemporary or classic, fiction or non-fiction.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Received my first Flash NANO prompt and am looking forward to writing that up later. Plan for the month is to write up as many of the prompts as possible. I’ll be worrying about editing in December!

One of the most sensible pieces of writing advice I’ve received (and act on) is to write the story first and worry about editing later. See them as two separate tasks.

That has helped me so much. It means I don’t “hamstring” myself trying to get the first sentence right. I just get the story written and then look at ways to improve it. There always are ways!

Writing Advice

It’s Monday. It’s a darker than normal Monday too – not because of Halloween but because the clocks went back in the UK yesterday! It bucketed down with rain at lunchtime. And it remains Monday. Definitely time for a story on YouTube then. This one, Past Writings, is inspired by a random theme generator and the theme which came up was that of old notebooks. It’s a complete contrast to my zebra video last week (and again a huge thanks for the views coming in on that).

 

I’ve signed up to take part in Flash NANO which begins on 1st November. You receive 30 prompts over 30 days and it is up to you how many stories you write up. If you want to find out more about this head over to Nancy Stohlman’s site at https://nancystohlman.com/flashnano/

Am looking forward to this. Should be fun. And talking of flash fiction, I am glad to say the November issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out and I’m talking about Twists in Flash Fiction this time. Also check out the wonderful stories that came in as a result of my challenge.


One simple thing any reader can do to help a writer is to review their books. Doesn’t need to be a long review. Just needs to be honest and to the point for the book in question. On that note, I’m delighted to have received another five star review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See screenshot. Many thanks to #JoyWood.

Also, there is no “use by” date for these things. Yes, they are especially helpful at the time of a book launch but any author will welcome helpful reviews whenever they come in.

This review mentions signed copies of my books. I’m always pleased to sign my books for people. Just get in contact with me via https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and we can take things from there.

Screenshot 2022-10-29 at 16-31-50 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

Goodreads Author Blog – The ABC of Books Part 2 – N to Z

It’s time for Part 2 of my alphabetical celebration of books.

N = New and old books – read both and have a great reading “diet”.

O = Open up your reading diet to include genres new to you – this is where I’m glad I have many writing friends. I like to read what they bring out. It’s wonderfully entertaining and I’ve got to read books this way I might not otherwise have come across.

P = Paperbacks and the Penguin. Paperbacks are my favourite format and Penguin opened these up for so many – definitely worth celebrating that.

Q = Quirky fiction. Plenty of room for that in the book world – and often it is the quirky books or characters that grab the attention. Who would have thought a trilogy about a brave hobbit would take off?

R = Reading – and across formats as well as genres. Stories can be taken in via the printed word, audio, etc. Enjoy them all.

S = Stories. This is what books give us – yes, even non-fiction. Why? Because in a non-fiction book, the “story” is you finding out something you had not known before on a topic that has grabbed your interest. Or has increased your knowledge on it.

T = Trailers for books. These are great fun and a fabulous way of giving a teaser to a book. I’m all for getting the word about books out there and this is another way to do that.

U = Universes, yes plural. Fabulous books take you into a world of their own (whether it is set here, back in time, or a fantasy planet somewhere). You should lose yourself in a good book!

V = Voice. A good book will show you the author’s voice through their characters and will enthrall you. You’ll look out for more by that writer hopefully too.

W = Words, the powerhouse of books. Books impact you through words, the way the author has put them together, what they get their characters to say and do. The words of characters stay in your memory. Words, and therefore books, are powerful.

X = X marks the spot found in classic pirate fiction such as Treasure Island, and that leads me on to saying (e)xcellence in fiction, especially children’s fiction will encourage a life long love of reading. How do I know? It happened for me!

Y = Young Adult fiction. I am so glad this category exists now. It didn’t really when I was growing up. I did find myself between categories and I’d have loved the YA range. Also a great way to keep people reading and I’m all for that too.

Z = Zestful books – the kind that keep you reading all night. The books that are hard to put down even when you have finished reading them. The very best books of all!

Screenshot 2022-10-29 at 20-39-26 The ABC of Books - Part 2 - N to Z

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Murder with Ghosts Review, Publication News, and The Gift

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
A huge thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos in my Chandler’s Ford Today post.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Nice intriguing title for tonight’s post I think! Hope you have had a good week. Am very much looking forward to going to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival next week. Many thanks to Sarah Archibald for the fab posters.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is always a pleasure to share on Chandler’s Ford Today a review of the latest performance by The Chameleon Theatre Group. This time, I review Murder with Ghosts, a spoof written by Simon Brett. It was lovely to meet up with my fantastic editor at CFT, Janet Williams, for a kind of “CFT works outing”, which was the first we’ve had since before lockdown.

We had a fantastic time watching the performance and there are plenty of literary influences at work in this play. See the review for more. This particular play also gave me a very pleasant wander down memory lane too – again see the review for what and why.

I look at the performance, the play, and the setting – plenty to enjoy here. And what is always nice is The Chameleons hold raffles in aid of a charity each year. Of course that also went kaput last year thanks to You Know What but they are back in business on this too and are raising funds for the Hampshire Air Ambulance, a most worthy cause.

Review: Chameleon Theatre Group – Murder with Ghosts

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Looking forward to sharing my review of the latest production by The Chameleon Theatre Group on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. They staged a wonderful spoof by Simon Brett called Murder with Ghosts. Think Agatha Christie crossed with P.G. Wodehouse and you get a good idea. Link up tomorrow. (If you get the chance to see this play elsewhere, do go. It was marvellous).

Many thanks for the lovely comments on my post yesterday about Resolutions by Bridge House Publishing. See post further down. It is always a lovely feeling having another story published in one of their cracking anthologies. And I can’t wait to catch up with fellow authors from BHP at the celebration event in London on 4th December. What will be especially nice this year is we’re having lunch together first as well. Plenty of time to chat! After that I might even begin to think about Christmas!

PUBLICATION NEWS

Am so thrilled to be able to announce further publication news. The buzz of being published never diminishes!

I am delighted to say my story Next Time, Maybe is in the hot-off-the-presses Bridge House Publishing anthology, Resolutions. As ever with the BHP books, there is a wonderful eclectic mix of stories and styles here. My tale follows the mishaps of Sandra as she tries to find a resolution that works for her. Great fun to write and a character I think a lot of us would identify with. Does she succeed in her quest? Well there’s only one way to find out!

Resolutions is out in paperback and on Kindle from the usual outlets but the link takes you to the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop, the online shop for Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books.

Screenshot 2021-11-10 at 18-44-46 The Bridgetown Café Bookshop

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A huge thank you for the wonderful comments coming in on The Gift, my latest tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Feedback is always appreciated. If you have cats, have ever owned any etc., this story will have particular resonance for you. Hope you enjoy it (oh and by the way this tale proves I am unbiased. I am a dog owner!).

Screenshot 2021-11-12 at 16-51-35 The Gift, by Allison Symes

Now after yesterday’s exciting news about Resolutions, the latest Bridge House Publishing anthology, comes news dear to a writer’s heart. I designed some new postcards for publicity purposes and they arrived as I’d hoped in good time for me to take them to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. I look forward to showing them off there first and hopefully again at the BHP celebration event on 4th December.

Am always pleased when something like this works well. They always look wonderful on screen but holding the actual product in your hand and really liking it is good. And this has a nice link to flash fiction as one of the names for flash is postcard fiction (I.e. what you can get on the back of a postcard – roughly 200 to 300 words, depending on how tiny your writing is or not!).

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Am back between the covers again for Bridge House Publishing with my story, Next Time, Maybe, for their anthology called Resolutions. Good to see familiar names in here with me. When reading a short story or flash fiction collection, I look for a good mix of styles and moods. You won’t be disappointed here. Available in Kindle and paperback. And it is always a thrill to be published.

Below this book on the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop is a collection by Lynn Clement called The City of Stories. I will be interviewing Lynn for Chandler’s Ford Today soon as I met her a few years ago when I was a guest speaker at the Hampshire Writers’ Society. Delighted to see she too has embraced the wonders of flash fiction!

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Fairytales with Bite – Practical Magical Transportation

We all know the busy fairy godmother has to have reliable transport and it would be ideal if she didn’t have to coerce…err… change some rats and other wildlife who somehow volunteered into becoming that transport. So the answer is to arrange things herself and fly. No broomstick for her. (She doesn’t like the chafing). What she needs is a powerful set of wings that can take her through storm force winds, torrential rain, unusual tornados above Kansas and that kind of thing.

Clothing is important too. No stupid tutus for her. It gets cold up there. So thermals to cope with the thermals is a good idea. Another item on her list is smart separates, ideally of the fleecy variety. She’s not looking for style here. She can change into something stylish on landing after all. And now you know why you never see a fairy godmother land. She needs time to sort herself out and then appear in something suitably sparkly and bright, waving her wand about, to go and help the next client on her list.

Oh and a decent pocket or several where she can stow her wands while flying, her mini spell book (so useful for any occasion), and a hip flask and high energy snacks are also vital. Flying does take it out of a fairy godmother. Still she doesn’t have to worry about calorie counting so that’s a plus.

What she really doesn’t need are the birds getting in her way when she’s moving at speed. She feels they resent anything not a bird being up in the sky with them. Her attitude is tough but the other reason she has to change her fleecy separates so often is because many birds have an excellent and unavoidable way of showing their disapproval and have a great aim with said disapproval which they express in physical form.

Even when you’re magical, things won’t always go your way.

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This World and Others – Transport Systems

Assuming my fairy godmother character has got to her latest destination safely, let’s take a look at transport systems you might want to bring into your own fiction.

A lot depends on the time frame for your work – is it futuristic (in which case invent your own transport)? Is it contemporary (in which case you could take what we have here and add a unique twist to it to make it unique to your fictional world?). Is it set in the past (in which case look at our old transport systems and see if there is something you can take from that to use in your fiction?).

When my family was younger, we used to love visiting the transport museums and it was fascinating to see how, say, trains developed. Why not consider a visit to places like this and see if something sparks your imagination here? (You get a better idea of size and scale if you go in person. Pick up a guide book – you can use this as a basic research tool as most of these are well written with details you might be able to use to help inspire your own ideas. Seeing how we did things can inspire ideas for how your characters will do things and not just for transport).

You also need to decide whether magic will be involved in your transport system, whether it is to make it work at all, or whether it is the transport system. You will need to decide what power is used here and especially if you do use a magical system, is that power sustainable? How is it obtained/generated?

Also is transport available to all or only the elite? Are there classes of transport and people use the kind assigned to their ranking? Are there roads as we would know them? Do your characters travel much or is this a rare event only done in an emergency? How do your people get from A to B?

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Writing Humour, Reviews, and Discretion

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. A huge thank you to Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh for taking part in a fabulous two part Chandler’s Ford Today interview about Writing Humour. Book covers and author pics supplied by Fran and Ruth for the interview. Ruth also supplied images from her garden. Isabella would be at home there!

I love the mix in my title this week! It has been a busy week on the blogging front…

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share Part 2 of Writing Humour, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Here #FranHill and #RuthLeigh discuss the joys and challenges of writing funny material. Fran writes memoir. Ruth is a novelist who has used a diary format for her book. So different styles of book then but the problems and joys of writing humour are the same for both writers.

This week the ladies share with me whether or not they outline, given funny material has to arise naturally from the characters they portray. They also share their favourite one-liners and discuss marketing funny books. They also look at how their writing has developed and I ask the “killer” question. Given we all have to edit our work many times before sending it anywhere, is there a risk the humour wears thin for them on repeated reading of their own material? Check out the post to see how they respond to that.

And many thanks to Fran and Ruth for a wonderful two-part and very in-depth interview which sheds a spotlight on a form of writing which is difficult to get right. Tastes in humour vary for a start but when a funny book is “done” well, the impact of it can be tremendous. Think what a poorer literary world it would be without Austen, Wodehouse, and Pratchett.

After the last year or so with the pandemic, I think the world needs more funny books and material. Not that I’m dropping a hint to Fran and Ruth or anything…!

Part 2 – The Joys and Perils of Writing Humour – Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh

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Hope you have had a good Thursday. This time last week was my last full day at Swanwick 2021. Has this week at home been strange getting back into the usual routine? Yes, but you need time back at home to process all you have taken in and work out what you are going to do with all those lovely ideas you came up with while in the wonderful company of inspiring writers. Inspiration breeds inspiration.

I’ll be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour where I chat to #FranHill and #RuthLeigh about the trials and joys of writing what is a difficult form to get right. See link above. Humour is subjective after all. Link up for that tomorrow. (And I am looking forward to reviewing my week at Swanwick for Chandler’s Ford Today on the following Friday. Lovely pics to follow with that one too).

Still can’t get over the weather. It is bizarre for August. Very murky and autumnal almost out there. (Lady doesn’t care. She’s happy to have me home again!).


It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this month I am talking about reviews. Do you love them or loathe them? How easy or otherwise do you find getting reviews for your books and stories? Do you have a review policy for other writers and their works? I discuss all of these in the blog but can’t stress enough how useful a review, no matter how brief, can be for a writer. Other than buying our books of course, reviewing them is probably the next best way a reader can support their favourite authors.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest flash piece on #FridayFlashFiction is called Discretion. I return to my hapless Sarah, the magical being on Earth who has been sent on a mission to get humans to believe in magic again without performing any to prove its existence that way. How does she fare this time when told to produce something in front of a human yet still not use obvious magic? Hope you enjoy finding out!

Screenshot 2021-08-20 at 19-19-31 Discretion by Allison Symes

I’ve had the pleasure of judging some flash competitions (and hope to do more in the future) and what I can say from that perspective is the title definitely matters! It is the first hook to lure your readers in to discover what your story is all about. And most flash competitions don’t include the title as part of the overall word count allowed so make the most of that. (Some do include it so always double check the rules but the majority I’ve come across do not).

You can use the title to set the mood and genre of the story without then having to spell that out in the tale itself. Open titles, that is anything which could be taken in more than one direction, are my favourites as those entice the reader in to find out which direction you have taken with it. (I love these as a reader. I enjoy it when I guess right but am more impressed when the author betters me here!).

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I discussed alliteration yesterday (see below) but I do like to mix up how I approach finding titles for my stories, as well as for the way in which I write the tales up. I often use proverbs and well known sayings for titles but I sometimes change one word to bring a unique twist I can make good use of for my story.

When I have brainstorming sessions, I often jot down ideas for titles only. Later I will come back to these and work out story possibilities from there. (This is where spider diagrams or flowcharts are useful as I can easily see where the different ideas are taking me. I always go for the one that makes the most impact on me as that will be the idea I will write up with the most conviction. It’s coming from the heart because it has had that impact on me. Also if it appeals to me, it is likely to appeal to others).

I keep titles short. (Generally one to three words. The most I go to is about seven. I want my titles to be easy to remember and when I do go for longer ones it is because I am using a proverb I need to quote in full – e.g. Time Waits For No Man – or where the title wouldn’t make sense without the “extra words – e.g. Time Is For Others to Worry About).

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Fairytales with Bite – Messages in Storytelling

One aspect to fairytales I especially love is that the classic stories get across timeless messages without preaching. For example, the classic message from The Ugly Duckling is to not judge by appearances. (That is also the message from Beauty and the Beast).

Another popular one through so many tales is that good will overcome evil, even if it does take its time doing so. Think The Snow Queen, Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel amongst many, may others.

You learn to look out for character types in fairytales too. I can’t remember what age I was but I did know early on that if a wizened character turns up, look out for them. They’re likely to be someone important in disguise. I don’t know how many stories I had to read and re-read to get that message but I did get it!

Likewise, you develop a kind of sixth sense as to which characters really are up to no good despite their fine words.

Best of all, the fairytales show us the messages and leave us to come to our own conclusions. And that is what we need to do for our tales. We need to think about our message, the characters who could deliver it, and then let the characters and the story unfold as the readers go on. Timeless messages are the ones that work best. When will there ever be a time when we don’t want to see evil overcome?

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This World and Others – Would You Live in your Created World?

Well, would you live in your fictional world? If not, why not? Think about the aspects of it you dislike. Why are they in your story? Are you reflecting your dislikes of things we know about here in your stories?

It’s absolutely fine doing that but it pays you to be honest with yourself about why you are writing these things the way you are. By understanding this, you will make sure you are getting across what you need to get across.

If, for example, I wrote a story about anti-bullying (I loathe bullying of all kinds), I could write this from the viewpoint of a victim (yes, I was once). I could easily show the horrors of bullying and the impact it can have on people. I could also write from the bully’s viewpoint (though I think I would find this far harder to do and I think I would probably have to go down the “it is part of expected culture” school of thought as it gives the bully a reason to do it. Indeed, if the bully was threatened for not wanting to do it, you could use that to generate some sympathy for them).

So you have to know why you’ve chosen things you dislike because it will help you to write those things up with more conviction. That does come through to a reader. I know I’ve read things where I instinctively feel yes, this author has been here or knows someone who has. It makes the story “live” for me.

An anti-bullying story would reflect my loathing of bullying but I need to have realistic characters and their behaviour to make sense, even if I dislike it. It has to feel real. My loathing of bullying is a good starting point but I need to move on from there to create a story readers would get behind.

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Helen Matthews Part 2 and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Screenshot of my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction taken by me, Allison Symes.

A huge thanks, once again, to #HelenMatthews for supplying author and book pictures for her fabulous interview with me for Chandler’s Ford Today. Our conversation has led to an idea for next week’s CFT post too.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books (CafeLit 10 especially this week – screenshots of cover taken by me, Allison Symes) and Bridge House Publishing. It has been a busy but overall a great week with further publication news too. Like weeks like this!

 

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Am pleased to share Part 2 of a wonderful interview with #HelenMatthews on Chandler’s Ford Today. In this half of this two part series, Helen explains what drew her into writing domestic noir and shares her top three tips for writers amongst other things. Many thanks, Helen, for being my guest here and good luck with the writing.

Good news too – Helen has news of a special offer for one day only on Sunday, 11th July. See my CFT post for two useful links – one is to her author newsletter accessed through her website (which will also tell you about her books) and the other is to her Amazon Author Central Page. But save the date for the chance to pick up a bargain – it is for one day only.

Meanwhile and looking ahead to next week, an idea Helen “seeded” while we were talking is going to be the theme for next week’s post on CFT. I’ll share more about that later on in the week but hope it will prove to be useful to people.

Small World Syndrome – Part 2 – Helen Matthews

Hope you have had a good day. Changeable weather again here. Hard to believe it’s July. (Lady also not that impressed).

Delighted to see a fantastic review in for The Best of CafeLit 10. See screenshot below – just too good not to share. Well done to all my fellow authors in this lovely collection of stories, who I know will appreciate this review as much as I do. It is also good to see the book break through into the top 1000 of Fiction Anthologies (Kindle Store) – currently at 741 as I type this – would love to see it break into the top 500 – how about it, folks?

When I write a review myself I look for things to highlight and I will also point out excellent characterisation whenever I come across it as this is one of my great storytelling loves. Therefore it is always lovely to flag that up. I keep my reviews short, appropriately for a flash fiction writer I guess. I don’t review books I know, due to personal taste, I am unlikely to enjoy as, to me, that is not fair on the writer. We all have differing tastes after all.

But on behalf of all writers with books out there, I would put in appeal to write reviews. They don’t take long and they do help authors. It is one of the best ways people can support writers they know.

And talking of CafeLit 10, see what arrived late this afternoon. Always nice to open boxes like this one.

 

Looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my interview with the lovely #HelenMatthews for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. See above. And something Helen mentioned is going to be the topic for my CFT post for the following week – more details nearer the time. Just to say when writers get together and start chatting inevitably ideas will bounce around and let’s just say I know a good cue for a CFT post or a flash fiction story when I hear them!

Currently working on some edits (and a potential further interview for CFT) at the moment so there is plenty going on with the non-fiction side of things.

Glad to say The Best of CafeLit 10 is now up on my Amazon Author Central page and also on Goodreads. As ever, folks, please review when you get the chance!
Screenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-36-15 Author DashboardScreenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-35-17 Allison Symes

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been a busy week but I was so pleased when my copies of The Best of CafeLit 10 turned up yesterday, a good ten days earlier than expected. I have two flash pieces in here – Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of the Day Job.

And to finish the week, please see the link for my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction called No More Miss Mousy. Hope you enjoy it.


Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 18-40-02 No More Miss Mousy, by Allison Symes

 

I talked yesterday about using dates or days of the week as a frame for your story. But there are other types of frame of course. A good one is a journey as you know that has to start and end somewhere. Basic story structure in place from the word go, there.

A frame I use a lot is where I know the ending in advance and I then work backwards to get to a logical starting point. Story frames are a bit like finding the corner pieces of a jigsaw – they give you something to work with and then you fill in the middle.

Ways in to a story are vital. I like frames and knowing my characters well enough. Once I feel I can get cracking on a story, that is precisely what I do but I have found taking a little time to work out how I am going to “do” this one pays off.

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Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Do you use days of the week in your storytelling and, if so, how? I have used dates before (but not tied these up to the actual days of the week) in my Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is a story told in diary format. For that the time of the year etc was more important than knowing whether a certain day fell on a Monday. But the calendar (and time generally) can be a useful framework for a story.

For flash, it would be pay to use a limited time frame given you’re not going to have the word count room to go on for too long. But you could have a story set over a week, say, and show what happens to your character on each day of the week without going over the 1000 words maximum allowed for flash. It would encourage a tight pace.

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Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F= Fantasy setting maybe but reflects aspects of our nature, brutally at times.
A = Animals can often be smarter than the humanoids in a fairytale.
I = Imagination encouraged – what would you do with a magic wand if you could use one?
R = Real conflicts between good and evil reflect on our world too.
Y = Youngest will often turn out to be the hero or heroine, maybe because they’re more willing to listen to sage advice than their elder siblings.
T = Terrific tales, usually happy ever after endings (which we know we don’t get in life so perhaps these act as a comfort even for adults).
A = Action, reaction, cause and consequence make fairytales a gripping read and always fascination with worlds not like our own.
L = Lessons often learned as most fairytales do have a morality to them but get this across without preaching.
E = Expect magic, expect adventure, expect wrongs to be put right, except right to triumph, and expect those being cruel to not get away with it.
S = Splendid and timeless stories – it is amazing how, for example, the Cinderella story crosses cultures too.

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This World and Others – Communications

What are communications like in your created world? Is technology the same as ours, far more advanced, or does it not exist at all? How do your characters communicate with one another? Are there forms of communication only available to the elite and why do they keep these for themselves?

I can’t imagine a world without some sort of communication but the methods vary. Looking back at our own history, the invention of the phone and radio, for me, stand out as landmarks (given how far they can reach people. Radio, for me, had to be the precursor to television being invented. When you stop and think about it being able to talk to those thousands of miles away from you is pretty amazing so imagine how people reacted when they could first do this. We tend to take it for granted now).

So in your fictional world are there inventions which transform your society and how do your characters react to it? Are there any characters who loathe the inventions so much they want to destroy them because it threatens them in some way?

All interesting story ideas to explore there.

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Reviews, Book Covers, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week.

To those who celebrate Easter (as I do), may you have a blessed one.

Writing wise, not a bad week and there’s another story of mine up on Friday Flash Fiction. This site is a great way to encourage me to write a drabble (a 100-worder) every week! More below.

Always fun to find out what happens next, writing wise!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is on a topic close to many a writer’s heart – Reviews!

I look at why authors need them, my policy on reviewing (including when I review National Theatre Live productions and shows put on by our wonderful local amateur dramatic company, The Chameleons). I also discuss hatchet jobs and share my thoughts about those (!). I also share why paid-for reviews are, for me, a huge no-no.

Like so much in writing, building up reviews does take time and it has to be done the right way to avoid running into difficulties with Amazon especially. Even ignoring that, the policy of paying for a review does make my blood run cold. It just doesn’t seem ethical to me. I want reviews to be honest and with thought put into them.

The old saying goes that he who pays the piper calls the tune but for a review, I want that “tune” to be an honestly considered one and not “bought in”. You really don’t want to be muddying the waters here, to use another old phrase.

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Pleased to share a More Than Writers blog from #WendyHJones tonight. More Than Writers is the blog of the Association of Christian Writers. Wendy’s post this time is all about book covers and, as well as discussing her latest cover reveal (for the lovely Bertie The Buffalo), she invited some fellow ACW members to share their latest book cover and a few words about it.

Many thanks, Wendy, for inviting me to take part in this. And do have a good look – there are wonderful covers here.

(Oh and my CFT post is up tomorrow).


My CFT post this week is all about a subject close to many a writer’s heart – reviews!

I talk about why they are useful, my policy for giving reviews, and share a few thoughts on how to write a review that will be useful to an author.

I also chat about my policy when I review stage productions, National Theatre Live plays etc (and I am so looking forward to being able to go to these things again and review them once more! It has been a long year and even more so for our great local am dram company, The Chameleon Theatre Group).

I also discuss hatchet jobs. Now the big question is do I manage that without carrying out a hatchet job myself? Well, you’ll have to find out tomorrow when I put the link up!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

I sometimes start a flash piece by coming up with an intriguing title. For example, in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, one of my stories is called The Terrified Dragon. I had great fun working out what on earth could possibly terrify a creature that is renowned for causing fear in every other creature that is not a dragon!

I do sometimes use a simple flowchart or spider diagram to work out different possibilities and I then go with the one that I like the most. That choice is nearly always determined by the impact the idea has on me. If the idea makes me laugh the most, or makes me cringe in terror, then it will have the same effect on other readers. I am always thinking about potential impact on a reader and that’s a good thing. I want to write with a potential audience in mind, always.

And good news, I have another story up on #FridayFlashFiction. Nice way to end a week! Hope you enjoy this one. Called Mustn’t Tell. I do like an “open” title which hopefully draws people in!


My latest author newsletter went out earlier today including an exclusive flash fiction story. If you would like to sign up just go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

As well as sharing exclusive stories here, I share writing tips and news, most of which is related to flash of course. This time around I’ve also shared a writing challenge and set a 250 word count for it.

It wasn’t something I planned but the 100 to 500 word mark does seem to be my natural home for flash stories. I gravitate to that word length almost as if I’m on auto pilot. (I’m not by the way! If possible I would save auto pilot abilities for boring tasks such as the housework!).

A screenshot from my latest author newsletter. I also share tips and writing prompts here amongst other things.



There will be a new flash fiction story from me in my new author newsletter, which will be going out tomorrow, 1st April. If you would like to sign up for this, please go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have submitted another drabble to #FridayFlashFiction.

Am working on material for a third flash collection too so plenty going on to keep me out of mischief!

I’ve found the basic ingredients for a flash fiction story, regardless of length, are:-

  • A character (doesn’t have to be human!).
  • An action (sometimes a refusal to act can be the action).
  • Something indicating the story has to go on.

Get those lined up and you’re well on your way to producing a promising first draft!

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Fairytales with Bite – What Would Your Characters Wish For and Why?

Well, what would your characters wish for and why? Just as interestingly, is there any chance at all of them getting their wish granted? What would the consequences be?

Action and reaction. Cause and consequence. The basic building blocks of all stories.

A character outline is a useful tool for working out what your characters are likely to want and why. (I ignore the basics of wanting food, shelter etc because you can take them as read. Everyone wants those things, understandably). What you want to go into here is deeper than that.

Character A wants a loving relationship because they have had loneliness foisted on them all their life and they want to change that. (Interesting story here: who foisted the loneliness on them and why? Why wait until now to change things?).

Your outline would go into who Character A is, who or what has got in their way (and what happened to them incidentally), what they are planning to do to change things. You won’t have every idea immediately but what you should have is a glimpse into who Character A is and, as a result of that, how they are likely to try to change things. A shy character is going to use more reserved methods compared to an extrovert, say.

Just knowing that will get you off to a good start with your story (and finding things out as you go along is (a) fun and (b) should confirm whether or not you know your character well enough to write their story up.

You may well find you will find out more about your character as you go along and that’s how it should be but you should also find your outline did nail the core elements you needed to know about them before you got started. I always find that aspect reassuring.

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This World and Others – Limitations

What limitations do your characters have? How do they overcome these? Can they overcome them?

If they can’t, do they have ways of getting advantages from their situation? What limitations does your setting have? Can your people only live above ground for certain time periods due to restricted oxygen (or other gas) availability the rest of the time?

I write flash fiction and find the word count restriction there (1000 words maximum) doesn’t stifle creativity. It fuels it. Why?

Because I have had to learn to think laterally to get the most out of every single word I put into my stories. And you can do this with limitations on your characters and settings too. If your characters can’t use magic without weakening themselves significantly, they will themselves limit their use of it (and probably save it for life and death moments. You just would, wouldn’t you?! So what would they do the rest of the time?).

If your setting has limited capacity for supporting life, how would that capacity be used? Who would control it? Would someone find ways of boosting that capacity so more people could live?

All interesting thoughts to explore.

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An Electric Author and Podcast News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones, podcaster extraordinaire, kindly supplied by her.

Snowy garden image taken by me, Allison Symes, on the rare event of a decent amount of snowfall in Southern England.

And where will your writing and reading take you this week? Some possibilities below!

It's amazing what worlds can be created on paper - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Thoroughly enjoyed being quizzed by Wendy H Jones this afternoon for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. We were chatting about writing regular columns, as I do for Chandler’s Ford Today. Plan to share the link tomorrow when the podcast goes out.

Lady was pretty good throughout though she did let out one bark towards the end – our postman was later than normal! And you can’t expect a dog not to woof at a postie… especially one she knows!

Good to see a quick report earlier to say book sales have reached an eight year high. Not too surprised. Books are a wonderful form of escapism, regardless of what format you pick. Hope the upward turn continues. Though I must admit I would love to be able to browse in a bookshop again… it’s funny the things you miss.

My Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today continues with contributions from authors from the Association of Christian Writers this week. More details later in the week and link up on Friday.

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Wendy H Jones, author and podcaster

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

Plenty going on so far this week (yes, I know it’s only Monday!).

Firstly, I now have an About the Author spot on the Authors Electric website. Many thanks to #DebbieBennett for ensuring this ended up in the right place. I use Blogger for a few things I write but I’m not an admin on it so am just used to posting on the posts “bit”.

Having said that, I am looking forward to sharing my first post here on 18th February. It’s also great to see some familiar faces on this site and I am relishing reading more of the posts. (Tip: to make sure you don’t miss any, subscribe to the blog itself. I know it sounds obvious but it is easy to forget to do this. Let’s just say it’s not a mistake I make now! Incidentally because I do blog, I like to keep up to date with what is out there in my field and while it is impossible to keep up with everything, I do follow as well as contribute to blogs. I see both the reading and writing of blogs as vital research).

Secondly, I am being interviewed by Wendy H Jones tomorrow afternoon for her podcast due “out” on Wednesday. I have two sides to my writing life (I know – as if one wasn’t enough but in fairness it often isn’t for writers!), and last time I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show I talked about flash fiction. This time I’ll be talking about my blogging work and generating ideas for a weekly column.

I’ve written a weekly column for online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, for some time now and one great thing about doing this is it keeps me on my toes. I have to write something every week and to a deadline. I’m looking forward to talking more about this with Wendy and to sharing the link on Wednesday.

And if you pop over to my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page in a moment, I have further news! Phew… I think it is going to be one of those fun but mightily busy weeks!  (See below for this!).

The snow did turn up! The view below is taken by yours truly from my back window and, before you ask, Lady does love the snow. It’s only the second time she has been able to play in some. On the plus side it did mean I didn’t have to take her water bottle out with me today – I knew she’d eat the snow. Is there any dog that doesn’t do that? (I will pretend I am not hearing all of my cat owning friends laughing at this point, given this is an issue they’re unlikely to face!).

News: I’ve been invited to take part in a monthly blog for Authors Electric. Excited about this and looking forward to sharing my first post on the 18th. Brief: blog has to be book/story/writing related in some way. Yes, I tick the boxes there well enough!

I prepare my blogs in advance (trust me, it pays!) and when I can I draft “spares” and save them for those times when I’m away or struck down with the dreaded lurgy (not that one, to date at least, thankfully) so I can just schedule these and that’s all done.

I love scheduling. Aside from Scrivener, it is probably one of the most useful things I’ve finally worked out how to do properly! I sometimes use it for Twitter too and I need to make more use of that. You may have noticed I often put a Twitter Corner spot in my twice weekly blog spot for my website. This is to encourage me to make more use of Twitter and the use of graphics with my tweets makes a nice addition to my blog round-up as well. I like a good balance of text and graphics and it seems to go down well with my followers here (thank you, everyone).

Snow View as at 24th January 2021

Brrr…. a cold one today. No snow where I am in Hampshire though some is forecast tomorrow. We’ll see. (I did – see above! Murphy’s Law is working well – had I not said anything, would there have been the teeniest, weeniest snowflake? Course not!).

At least I’m not going anywhere other than by foot (which in turn is powered by sturdy walking boot with a decent grip!)!

Many thanks for the great response to Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I learn so much from chatting to other authors and it always a pleasure to interview them here. Hopefully the series will prove to be encouraging to those who are wondering what they should do with their launches this year, given this will still be an issue for some time. Even when normality does return, it is highly unlikely to be “all at once” (and it wouldn’t be a good idea I think even if that did somehow prove possible).

Now on to another favourite topic. Story time! Did you have such a thing at school? I did at primary school (roughly aged 5 to 7 years). It was for about the last 15 or 20 minutes before going home and I found it then a great way to unwind and relax. I still do though my own story time these days tends to be at bedtime!

I much preferred school story time to the free milk we used to get in the third-of-a-pint bottles. I love milk, don’t get me wrong, but the bottles were either left by the radiators and I just can’t stand warm/hot milk or, especially at this time of year, the milk in the bottles had frozen and nobody was going to risk breaking their teeth trying to drink it! Oh and you can imagine what it was like during a hot summer… Funnily enough, I do love yogurt now!

At junior school level (roughly ages 8 to 11), we used to have something called SRA cards where there was a story on one side and questions about the story on the others. These were colour coded and you worked your way through the system. Adored that. (Often used when the English teacher wanted to catch up with marking. Excellent idea all around I think!).

At secondary school level (ages about 11 to 16), if you wanted to read a book, you did it on your own, unless in English Literature, but the school library was a good one so I spent a lot of time in there.

Encouraging people of all ages to read though remains a very good thing indeed. And great storytelling which draws people in is a great way to achieve that. No pressure then! Back off to the writing!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One form of flash writing is to base it on the Twitter character count. Gill James has done with this with her 140 x 140 flash fiction collection. I suspect my one-line stories, the type I often use for my videos, would probably count for this though I ought to give it a go “officially” at some point and put these on my Twitter feed. That’s a good thing to put on my To Do List and another way of writing and advertising flash fiction! (Ernest Hemingway with his famous For Sale: One Pair of Baby Shoes would be well under the character count here!).

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One ongoing thing for most writers with books out is to try and get reviews (and please do review, it helps more than you know. Also a one or two line review is absolutely fine – five minutes and you’re done). Anyway, while I was working on this, I discovered something I had not known. It is possible to put videos on your Goodreads Author Profile page.

Now I expect I’m late to the party here (I can hear you going “yeah, yeah, yeah, knew that ages ago”) but I was pleased to discover it. Naturally I’ve added the book trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic to my page. See the link. Worth doing I think if you’ve not done this already.

Screenshot_2021-01-26 Allison Symes

 

Delighted to share another story video with you. Dress Sense shows Red Riding Hood’s attitude to life and the big bad wolf beautifully I think! Fans of quirky tales will like this one. Hope you enjoy.

Dress Sense Video Link

There is no such thing as the perfect character so it is a question of getting the character “perfect” from your, the writer’s, viewpoint. If you need your character to be a pain in the neck, then have you created the perfect example? Do all aspects of that character fit in to create that type?

The “perfect” character then has to be fit for the purpose you’ve created them for. Are they portrayed strongly enough to carry out what you want them to do? The reader has to believe the character is at least capable of behaving the way you’ve set them out to do without there being any “jarring notes” that would make that open to question.

The way the character speaks, even the way they dress, their minor traits etc should all add up to create a composite picture and it should be the one you want to show. Have your characters ever surprised you with what they’ve come up with? Mine have!

It’s a good thing – it shows there is life to them but it can also show you needed to get to know them better before writing for/about them! This is why I now I do spend some time outlining a character as well as their story so I can be sure I know my person really well. It saves time later on in the editing too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading/Writing Guides

Do you find reading and/or writing guides helpful? For reading, I still like the BBC’s Big Read Book of Books compilation of books that made it into their top 100. They produced a series of programmes to discuss the books chosen too and if I remember correctly there was a celebrity who would champion a particular book or author. (Some authors have more than one entry here. I’m not giving away anything major by saying Dickens was amongst these!).

The compilation book is beautifully illustrated, gives you a precis of what each book is about, and details about the author. Lovely book and a good way to fill in gaps in your knowledge and add to your TBR list of course! The latter of course was the whole idea behind the Big Read.

Maybe it is time for an update? I would welcome one. Would much change? We’d still have the classics in there (and rightly so, they’re classics for a reason) but the contemporary novels would change and it would be interesting to compare what would come in now as opposed to when this programme and book first came out in the early 2000s.

For writing guides, I like those which are down to earth and full of practical advice. My favourite here is On Writing by Stephen King but I am also fond of books such as Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez. Lots of practical tips and I love the layout too. (You also can’t beat a good index for books like this so let’s hear it for the indexers!).

Naturally I like The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and the Mslexia Indie Press Guide. Information all in one place – let’s hear it for the well thought out book! And the good news? There will always be plenty of room on the bookshelves for books like this.

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Looking Ahead

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Images created via Book Brush such as the Special Note below use Pixabay).

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Picture of Lady helping me open my box of Tripping The Flash Fantastic taken by Adrian Symes. Can’t help but feel Lady looks very knowing here.

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

My turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot. Sometimes the calendar is a direct inspiration for what I write here (I’ve called the piece Looking Ahead!). Well, given we are almost at the end of 2020 (and what a year that has been!), looking ahead does seem to me to be the most juste of a topic to write about!

Further to my earlier post about my Looking Ahead piece for More Than Writers (the ACW blog spot), I should add that if you are usually not a planner for your writing, still jotting down a few notes about what you think you might like to do is helpful.

You are still more likely to achieve more in terms of getting writing done if you write down what you think you might like to do. It is too easy to forget promising ideas when they’ve not been written down. And once you’ve forgotten them, that’s it. Any possibility of doing anything with them has gone. So looking ahead a bit does pay off, even if you decide not to look ahead too far.

For my flash fiction writing, when I know who the character is, I sometimes have the situation where I could put them in two differing stories (often one will be funny, the other anything but). I put down a few notes as to how each story could go and then write up the one I think will suit the character best. I look to play to the character’s strengths here.

The notes I make for the specific story ideas I’ve had will bring out elements to the character not covered by my initial outline as for that I was focussing on who the character is, what their major traits are etc. For, say, a humorous story, I need to look a bit deeper and work out what could be funny about the character so they “play the script” as a good actor would do.

(Never ever underestimate the foil in comedies. They are the ones that bring the humour out and the same is true for a story. Oh and for the record the finest foil the UK has ever produced in my view? Why Ernie Wise of course… Morecambe and Wise simply would not have been the same without him. Eric was the best comic this country has ever produced but he needed the foil to play to – and so does your character, whether or not they realise they are the foil to the situation you’ve put them in).

Cold and wet in Hampshire today. A little snow but ground too wet for it to settle. Brrr….. Perfect night to stay in and write then! I will be back in business with Chandler’s Ford Today this week which, surprise surprise not, given the piece will appear on Friday 1st January will be about the New Year! Sometimes you do just have to go with the calendar for writing ideas…!

I’m also looking ahead a little to a piece I am currently drafting about writing exercises and why they’re beneficial. Will flag this up nearer the time. And I can’t wait to share new series with you called Launches in Lockdown but again more on that nearer the time.

I’ve been focusing on my non-fiction project so fiction work has taken a little bit of a back burner but I am hoping to get back to that shortly. I hope to finish the first draft on the non-fiction by the end of the year (so I’ve got until Thursday basically!), I will then rest it for a while, and then resume working on my third flash fiction book. So plenty to do, all of which will be fun, but that’s the way I like things!

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)I prefer the second one inIndeed - says it all, Happy 2021 everyone

I hope you had as safe and happy a Christmas as possible. Very pleased with my new writing diary (though it has taken me ages to copy across what I need to copy across). This diary is also packed full of useful information for writers and I will be meandering my way through that in due course. Am also enjoying one of Joanna Penn’s non-fiction books which I am sure is going to be of assistance to me in the next year or so. More on that as and when I can!

Slowly getting back into the old writing tasks again though I loved writing a letter this afternoon in reply to one from a friend over Christmas. We’ve been pals (and penpals) for more years than either of us care to remember but it was lovely writing a letter instead of belting out an email or ringing her up on the phone. Can’t recall the last time I did that (though I have written flash fiction as a letter format – see my Punish the Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again. Not sure that counts as proper letter writing though!).

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NO POSTS FOR CHRISTMAS DAY OR BOXING DAY (can’t imagine why!)

24th December – Christmas Eve
Have a safe and as happy a Christmas as possible. Enjoy stories whether in books or on audio or via film or any combination of those! The lovely thing with stories? No calories in them whatsoever so indulge as much as you like! Nobody has ever had to diet because they read too many stories… that isn’t going to change!

23rd December
Will be winding down on the old writing front for a few days though am now relieved to have the present wrapping done and the food shopping in and away. (Lady was interested in the latter. There is no such thing as left over turkey ever again when you have a dog in the house. She has also decided she is very fond of pigs in blankets so will she help “supervise” as I cook Christmas dinner. Oh yes! Mind you, dear Gracie and Mabel took the same views here!).

Hope to be doing a lot of reading over the Christmas break. And it would never surprise me if book sales shoot up again after Christmas given so many of us are now in Tier 4. Increased book sales would at least be something positive!

A story I drafted as a response to a writing prompt has ended up being far longer than I intended so will be looking to cut it back. (Mind you, anything over 1000 words is lengthy to me!). Am starting to flesh out a few thoughts for a theme I need to write to in the New Year. And am getting ever nearer to finishing that first draft of my non-fiction book. So a good way to finish for Christmas I think.

Looking forward to catching up with favourite films etc over the festive period. I see those as another way of taking in stories and a very entertaining way at that!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So pleased at the latest review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks! (And don’t forget writers will always welcome post-Christmas “presents” of thoughtful reviews. What do I mean by thoughtful? Simply, it is clear the reviewer has understood the book they’ve reviewed and what it is meant to be , even if they still don’t like it!).

Delighted to have my lovely new writing diary and have already started scribbling entries into it. Looking forward to using my new Harry Potter notebook at some point too. No doubt I’ll end up jotting some ideas for stories in that in due course.

Ideas for stories do not always come at convenient times which is why the good old notebook and pen will always be useful!

Screenshot_2020-12-29 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

I had a quick look at the random question generator again and this came up. If you could go back in time 1,000 years, what year would you visit? Well, I think I can hazard a guess at one year nobody would choose to visit again – 2020!

The question is an interesting one though and has good possibilities for flash fiction writers. As well as answering the question directly, you could select the time for your character to visit and then tell their story. Equally you can pick the time first and then decide which would be the best character to write about for it. Here, you would be using the time period chosen as a setting, almost a character in its own right.

And another possibility is to have a character out of sync with the time they are in (whether this is due to their being ahead of their time, a time traveller etc, is something else to consider). What is important though is that you have fun writing the story!

Incidentally, you do not need a wealth of detail to conjure up the time period. Specific details are enough. For example, if you set a story during the reign of Elizabeth 1, showing a coin which commemorated the victory over the Armada confirms it is her reign and that it has to be after 1588. So look for specific details to show in the story. They will “punch their weight” here.

Looking forward to sharing my ACW More Than Writers’ blog post later this week. It will be about planning ahead. Sometimes, just sometimes, the calendar is a direct aid to article and story ideas!

Will be having a new CafeLit story up in January and look forward to sharing that in due course.

Just slowly getting myself back into the swing of things again writing wise and hope to be drafting flash stories later. They make for a great warm up writing exercise anyway but also a good way to get back into writing again after a break, which everyone needs sometimes. Hope you had as nice a Christmas as possible. Lady was very pleased that Santa Paws had included her on his nice list!

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

NO POSTS FOR CHRISTMAS DAY OR BOXING DAY (hope you had as safe and as happy a Christmas as possible).

24th December – Christmas Eve

Have as safe and happy a Christmas as possible. I hope you find plenty of book shaped presents waiting for you tomorrow. Happy reading!

23rd December

Do you think the star the three wise men followed to get to Bethlehem would count as the first example of “sat nav”? Just a thought!

There are moments in the Christmas stories which would translate well into flash fiction. For example, what did the innkeeper make of the strange visitors to his stable? It’s not every day that three wise men turn up after all.

And one of my recent CafeLit stories, Finding My Feet, looks at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the footman who had to travel the Kingdom to find the one girl whose foot would fit that glass slipper. What did he make of it all (and for my take on it do see the link!)?

Think of moments. So often they can be turned into stories. Not necessarily long stories but hey that is flash fiction’s strength is it not?!

Goodreads Author Blog Post – Books under the Christmas Tree

I hope there were plenty of books left for you under the Christmas tree this year. I’m happy with my selection, in particular a non-fiction one I’d had my eye on for a while, which I’m sure is going to help me with a major writing project I’m working on.

I’ve got three months now to compile a book request list for my birthday! I think I’ll manage it though!!

Unsurprisingly, Christmas is the biggest market for publishers and writers. With my reader’s hat on, it is perfect given the weather outside (in the UK) is often ghastly, what better thing to do than curl up with a book and a mug or glass of something nice to drink? And finishing the day with a good read has always struck me as an excellent thing to do.

So what made you decide to go for the books on your Christmas list? Was it a case of getting the latest by a favourite author or was there a title that caught your eye? Or both, of course?

Whatever you chose, I hope you have a fabulous time reading (and I know it is post-Christmas now but I think there is still time for the following story!).

Fairytales with Bite – Top Tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale? Top tips include:-

1. Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2. You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3. Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story). (Oh and never tell them who is really the boss!).

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This World and Others – Can Cliches Ever Be Useful?

The answer to the above question should be “like the plague” really! But to be serious can cliches have a place in fiction?

Yes, they can but in different ways.

1. Above all else, they should be used sparingly. Too many of them spoils any good effect you might want to use them for and will just switch readers off. Also, don’t use them in every story you write either. Every now and again but more on this in 2 below.

2. A cliche can be a useful shortcut but choose the right one and aim for it to have a positive impact on your readers. You want them to be able to see why you used it and for there to be no stronger alternative. Most of the time there will be as you come up with your own expressions and these should be the ones you always go for first.

3. You can subvert a cliche. I’ve used “take the Garibaldi” as a subversion of “take the biscuit”. This approach can also help you convey something of character too. Someone who takes the Garibaldi is going to be of a different social standing to someone who “takes the Lidl Rich Tea” for one thing and you can then play on that for effect.

And for flash fiction, where every word has to punch its weight to justify being included, subverting cliches can be a useful tool indeed.

BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-20-2722FLASH - I would hope there would be some flash fiction collections amongst this lot - PixabayFLASH - You can set your characters anywhere in flash fiction - PixabayFLASH - Flash fiction soon teaches you how to cut unnecessary words - PixabayFLASH - Ideas will spark others, something else I love flash fiction for - PixabayFLASH - Always time for this - PixabayFLASH - Flash fiction can only show so much but that is the point - it is all on the focus - PixabayFLASH - Flash fiction, like lightning, is fast and to the point - Pixabay

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Bridge House Celebration, ALCS, and the What If question

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Image of me with wild hair and Tripping The Flash Fantastic taken by Adrian Symes.

Facebook – General

Great to see Amazon have updated my Author Central page quickly so Mulling It Over and Transformations are now both on there.  (Lovely to see a good collection building up here!). And that has reminded me to add these books to ALCS too. What is ALCS?

As I’m a member of the Society of Authors, I have free membership to ALCS (the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society). ALCS collects money from copyright licences etc and distributes said monies to authors. There is no way any one writer could possibly keep tabs on X making photocopies of their work here, Y doing it there and so on.

If you’re not a member of the Society of Authors, you can still join ALCS. It costs £36.00 and this is lifetime membership, not per year. See https://www.alcs.co.uk/how-to-join for more.

I had my first modest pay-out from ALCS back in March and most welcome it was too. Do check out their website for more information. The main thing to remember is to update your details when you have new works out. And this includes, for me, not just my two flash fiction collections, but all of the paperback anthologies I have been in and continue to have work appear in.

(The reasons for the emphasis on paperback is ALCS need you to tell them the ISBN number and ebooks don’t have that. They have an ASIN which ALCS do not work with but given most anthologies come out in ebook and paperback, you can at least register the latter!).

Very well worth doing. (And another little task ticked off my writing admin list today!).

Even colder than yesterday here in Hampshire though Lady did get to have a fab time with her busy buddy, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback today. No chance of them getting cold with all that running around.

I’m going to be having a look at Continuing Professional Development and how it can apply to writers in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Have also put in my book order for copies of Mulling It Over and Transformations and have also asked Amazon to add these two to my Author Central page in due course. Hopefully they’ll appear on there later this week. I’ve usually found Amazon answer such requests quickly.

It is nice to see a good collection of books appearing on my page now. This is not something I anticipated when starting out but it does show the value, I think, of persistence, keeping going, and learning over time to get better at targeting my work to the appropriate market. And yes, it does take time. But this is true for everybody and I found that quite encouraging when I was starting out. It is good to know it is not just you!

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Brrr… so cold today. Even Lady wasn’t sorry to get in from her evening walk. Enjoyed watching The Polar Express tonight. One of my favourite Christmas films along with A Muppet Christmas Carol. Better half put the decorations up yesterday so the old homestead is looking festive. Am very thankful Lady leaves the tree alone.

Making good progress on my non-fiction project. Am on track to finish the first draft by the end of the year. Whenever I write anything, I always feel a certain relief on getting that first draft down. I love the creative side but I also enjoy the editing and getting the work into good shape ready for submitting somewhere. I swear I can almost feel the draft getting better as I take out my usual wasted words and sharpen up what remains. I like that feeling.

I’ve also got a third flash collection on the go. I plan to resume work on that once I’ve got the first draft of the non-fiction project done as I know I’ll need to rest that for a while so I can look at it with fresh eyes when I get back to it.

Writing is the gift that keeps on giving in many ways.

Firstly, boredom is a thing of the past as I’ve always got something to work on!

Secondly, writing stretches me. I want to keep trying to get better at what I do.

Thirdly, to write well you need to read well so you get two activities in one here. But best of all?

Making friends thanks to a shared love of writing!

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It was great seeing everyone at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event this afternoon. It was lovely to see friends and meet new people and the turnout was wonderful. There was plenty to celebrate too, despite the obvious problems affecting everyone this year.

There were plenty of new books out via Bridge House, including the recently released Mulling It Over and Transformations. Plus there were new single author collections out too, including my own Tripping The Flash Fantastic.

There was a cryptic clue quiz. I was hopeless at it but I always am at cryptic clues. It was something of a relief that I did get my book title in amongst the mix, plus the two I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of editing for Bridge House this year. (And that really was about my lot!).

There was lovely mix of stories read too and I read Progressing. This was my first winning story for the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition (and is in the new Transformations book too).

All great fun and we are all looking forward to next year’s events! Pics for this one are the Cafelit (BB) mock up, the tunnel one, my anthologies one, and the phone one plus the “sky” one for FLTDBA and TTFF.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story video on Youtube. This is one of my acrostic flash tales called Autumn. Let’s just say the video is apt for the tale and that no spades were harmed in the making of this story! Hope you enjoy.

 

As well as my own flash collections, I often contribute flash pieces to CafeLit. My Humourless in The Best of CafeLit 9 is one of my most recent and is on the darker side for me. The idea for this piece came to me when I asked one of my favourite writing questions – the old classic “what if”? What if someone had lost their sense of humour due to their job? What could that job be?

Finding a starting point for your stories is crucial and asking the “what if” question is an invaluable place to begin because it should trigger other questions and you will find yourself wanting to know what the answers are. If you can be hooked into finding out the answers, then hopefully a reader will be too.

Other useful starting points include using Kipling’s famous serving men – What, Where, How, Why, When, and Who? Anything that makes you ask questions to find out more about the character and what they’re facing is going to help you plot out the story in more depth.

The tricky bit is in working out what the most relevant points are and focusing only on those. This is why I find flash’s restricted word count useful. It makes me focus and that’s no bad thing.

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It was especially nice to talk to a fellow flash fiction writer, Dawn Knox, for Chandler’s Ford Today last week. Always good to advertise the form and to show what can be done with it.

Flash is a great vehicle for character studies. I find those work best when kept short (as is the case with monologues) and flash fiction is ideal – a match made in writing heaven perhaps.

When I’ve drafted a flash story I ask myself certain questions about it.

  • Does the story make the impact I thought it would before I wrote it?
  • How does the character make me react/feel? (No reaction = character not strong enough = no story).
  • Have I marked up my usual suspects of wasted words ready to take out for the second draft?
  • What phrases have I used that could be fine tuned into creating stronger images for the reader?

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Delighted to see another review come in for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks! Reviews really do help authors. Neither do reviews have to be lengthy. I use reviews myself when checking out potential books to read or when I’m wondering whether to try a new grocery product!

Had a fab time at the Bridge House Publishing event this afternoon. It is one of the highlights of my writing year. It was great to see a good turnout too. I did miss the actual getting together (and the splendid authors’ lunch that precedes it!) but I am sure we will make up for that next year!

But the biggest thing about Zoom is making events accessible and it was wonderful to see some of Bridge House’s more far flung authors able to take part in today’s event. When the nightmare of Covid is over, I want to see Zoom continuing. It has been one of the more positive things about this whole year.

Screenshot_2020-12-05 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

 

Goodreads Author Blog – New For Old?

New for old is a catchphrase from Aladdin of course but is this something that is appropriate for book lovers?

After all I love old books. I love new books. I just love books!

I think it is good to have a balance of old favourites. These are my comfort reads when I need that.

I also like to read new books, especially from contemporary writers. It is good to know what is being put out there now.

One handy side benefit to making writer friends is this does help ensure you do get plenty of contemporary reading in. I take great pleasure from the fact I have shelves which are packed full of fab books written by people I’ve come to know and count as friends. I always look forward to adding to my shelves in that regard. I can’t wait to get back to book events so I can pick up those books signed by said friends in person.

Naturally I’m looking forward to being able to hold some book events of my own in due course.

So have I got books on my Christmas list?

What do you think?!

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Twitter Corner

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