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…

BookBrushImage-2021-8-20-19-3611

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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!).

BookBrushImage-2021-8-18-20-1331


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).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Alternative Twitter image

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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.

BookBrushImage-2021-7-7-19-5813


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.

BookBrushImage-2021-7-9-19-203

 

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.

BookBrushImage-2021-7-9-19-3724

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Alternative Twitter image

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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.

IMG_WendyHJonesFB

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Twitter Corner

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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.

BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-19-3450

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!).

BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!).

BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-20-2435BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-20-2313BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-20-2237

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

Twitter Corner

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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?!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Twitter Corner

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Introducing Dawn Knox – The Chronicles Continue.

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of Dawn Knox/The Macaroon and Basilwade Chronicles/The Great War/play photos were all supplied by Dawn Knox. Many thanks to her.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied for her.

And a big thanks to the organisers of the Facebook Group, Christmas Book Hub, for creating the wonderful bookshop image for their page, which currently features Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Very very happy to give them a shout out!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m delighted to welcome #DawnKnox to Chandler’s Ford Today for the next two weeks as we discuss her writing journey, celebrate her new book, the hilarious The Macaroon Chronicles, and look at her varied career which includes playwriting. Dawn will be sharing her thoughts about writing and also chats about the joys and pitfalls of writing humorous prose.

Feature Image - Dawn Knox interview Part 1

The Macaroon Chronicles

It is always a great joy to chat to a fellow flash fiction and CafeLit/Bridge House Publishing writer and I’m looking forward to catching up with Dawn and many other colleagues at the BHP celebration event (online) on 5th December.

Will so miss seeing everybody in person but at least Zoom gives us the chance to meet online. And I can’t wait to share Part 2 of Dawn’s fab interview next week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Brrr…. It’s getting chilly out there not that Lady noticed. She had a fab run with a lovely Saluki/whippet cross this morning. Lovely to see them both having a great time.

Have been having fun with Book Brush again. This is my latest effort.

Really looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my interview with Dawn Knox on Chandler’s Ford Today. Look out for this tomorrow. Dawn is a delight to chat to and I always learn something useful from interviews like this.

No two writers have the same writing journey and I find it endlessly fascinating what has worked for one, what has worked for another and so on.

Dawn will be discussing her latest book, The Macaroon Chronicles, which is hilarious. If you need a cheerful read, do check this out.

Am catching up with some non-fiction reading at the moment. I’m reading London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. It’s a hefty tome but a fascinating read and I just love the idea of writing a biography about a city. Interesting approach to take on it.

Whether what I learn from this fab book filters into my writing later on remains to be seen but I do know non-fiction can often spark ideas for story writers. An interesting fact here and there can trigger story ideas so don’t overlook reading non-fiction as part of your overall reading “diet”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Had the perfect dentist’s appointment today. No. It wasn’t at two-thirty (tooth hurty – veterans of the old gag circuit will easily recognise that one!). I got out with nothing having to be done! So win-win immediately there…

Looking forward to “going” to the Bridge House Celebration event on 5th December. Normally this would be in London but of course it will be a Zoom session only for this year. The event is FREE but you do need to register. See https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/launch-and-celebration-event-tickets-127841763155 for more details. Hope to see you “there”.

These events are always great fun and, if ever there was a year we could all do with some of that, this year is it.

Personally speaking, what is lovely is being able to celebrate The Best of Cafelit 9, where I have two stories published; Mulling It Over, the new Bridge House annual anthology where I have a standard length short story published; Transforming Communities, where I had a 1000 word story published (this was the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition book); and, of course, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

Despite everything else going on in 2020, publication wise it has been a good year. And there’s more to come. A little later on the three ebooks from the last three years of the Waterloo Arts Festival will be published in one single paperback. Am looking forward to sharing details about that in due course.

This year has been a good one for professional development too in terms of video making, setting up the Youtube channel, revamping the website, appearing on Chat and Spin Radio, appearing on #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show. And Book Brush has been a revelation too.

The flip side? I have so desperately missed meeting up with writer friends in person at Swanwick, Winchester, the Association of Christian Writer events, and the Bridge House/Waterloo Arts Festival celebration days.

Let’s hope for better things for 2021 but I guess if this year has shown anything, for me at least, it has been doing what you can when you can and making the most of things like Zoom.

Oh and keep on writing and submitting of course!

Happy writing!

Book Brush - Cafelit 9, Mulling It Over, TransformationsBookBrushImage-2020-11-16-21-040

From Light to Dark and Back Again

I enjoy being part of a number of writing groups etc on Facebook. These groups are a lovely way to meet other writers, albeit only online in some cases, and I always learn a lot from them.

I am part of the Christmas Book Hub – see https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookhub/permalink/1003208640189243/ for more.

#PatriciaMOsborne, one of the founders of this, is someone I know from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and I’ve had the pleasure of chatting to her for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts in the past too.

Now I mention this for two reasons:-

1. If you want to create a book buying list for Christmas, do start here!

2. There is a wonderful banner for this Facebook page – of books in a Christmassy shop window. The books on this change every so often and my Tripping the Flash Fantastic is on there at the moment.

The artwork for this is wonderful and it is a great pleasure and privilege to see my book on there. A huge thanks to the organisers behind this page on behalf of all of the authors on here. Online things like this are always useful but never more so than now during what has been such a strange year for us all.

And it is a timely reminder to say that do DM the authors on this page, including me, if you would like to know more about buying signed copies of our books.

We would be so pleased to hear from you!

TTFF in Christmas Book Hub shop windowScreenshot_2020-11-27 Facebook Groups

I’ve mentioned my love of mixing up the kind of flash fiction stories I write before. I do think one of the great strengths of flash fiction is because it needs to be character led, you can get to set that character anywhere you want in genre and time period, past, present, and future.

The crucial thing is to have a character who is worthy of being written up! Even if you don’t plan any other writing, I do think giving thought to what your lead character is going to be (or likely to be, I know things can change in the editing), is important.

If you want to write a story about a financially astute character but discover the way you’ve portrayed your lead, they’re more likely to be as astute as a chocolate teapot, then you have an issue (though it could make for a wonderfully funny or tragic piece, depending on how you wanted to “play” it).

But things like that should be a conscious decision by you as the writer. You can’t rely on “happy accidents”. You can rely on some forward planning though!

Many thanks to everyone for the wonderful reviews so far for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. They are much appreciated and I was delighted to see two new ones in today.

Appropriately for a flash fiction collection, I will stress reviews don’t have to be long and they are a great way of supporting authors. (This year we are even more grateful than we usually are for that kind of support. I have missed being able to go to writing events dreadfully. Fingers crossed for next year!).

Do I review books myself? Oh yes. One of the things I love about the writing world in general is there is a lot of give and take and that is only right. All of us know the pains and pleasures of bringing stories/books/articles to life etc. All of us appreciate the support from others but it is good when you can give support back. I like to see it as paying it forward and back.

Screenshot_2020-11-25 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic(1)Screenshot_2020-11-25 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

Fairytales With Bite – Twists and Turns

Fairytales are full of twists and turns, which is another reason to love them. You know, after you’ve read a few (and/or listened to them when you were a kid), that the underdog will somehow come out on top, usually with the aid of a friendly fairy godmother or talking cat or some such thing.

Fairytales are great because you accept that magic is part of the setting and it is a question of finding out who is going to use it, whether they’ll use it to do good or not, whether it backfires etc etc. But you also know the character being helped this way has somehow got to be worthy of it. Fairy godmothers don’t just turn up for anybody!

So when planning your own fairytales/magical realism/fantasy stories, think about what your twists and turns are going to be. Magic is going to be around but don’t overdo it.

I know as a reader I like to see characters who are trying to improve things for themselves, who are being thwarted or held back through no fault of theirs, and then hey presto the fairy godmother turns up. It is also not a bad thing to show the downside of magic.

As with any source of power it can be abused so think about how that might happen in your creations and what your characters could do to overcome this (assuming of course they want to and they’re not the ones abusing the magic! In the case of the latter, I would like to see some sort of “back fire” happen so said characters have to behave in a better way and/or don’t get away with what they’re doing and/or are thwarted by other characters).

Expect the unexpected is a good motto here but as the writer think about how this could play out in your stories. Plan what your twists will be and how they will be executed. What clues will readers have to look back on and think later “I should’ve spotted that”?

And just as life is full of ups and downs, so your stories should be. But the nice thing with stories is you can make them end on a good note! Stories can be arranged!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – What Is Normal?

Now there’s a leading question but it is a vital one. Whether your created world is a fantasy one or set here firmly on Earth, you do need to work out what is going to be normal/perceived as normal by your characters. (Readers of course may well think entirely differently!).

So what kind of setting are you using? If here on Earth, will be in an Earth we would recognize? You could of course set up an alternative based on certain aspects of history being changed.

If X happened instead of Y, what would Earth look like as a result? The series The Man In The High Castle was based on that. If you’re using a fantasy setting, what aspects would appeal to readers? Which wouldn’t? Which are necessary to the successful running of that setting?

For your characters themselves, would we recognise their behaviours as normal? If not, why are they different and in their setting, is their behaviour considered oddball or not?

Working out details like this early on can save you a lot of editing and rewriting later on so I think it is worth doing. Even if you don’t want to plan to the “nth” degree, wanting to see where the story and characters take you, I still think it pays to jot down a few basic notes.

Character A is capable of this because…. The setting is this because…. What you jot down here really is an aid for you and I am all for things that help make the writer’s life smoother!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

THE PHONE CONVERSATION

Image Credit:

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.


Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today
Double post from me tonight. A busy end to a busy week!

First up tonight is the link to my Chandler’s Ford Today post for this week. The Phone Conversation is a bit different from the kind of post I usually write here as (a) I set a writing challenge in it and (b) I include a new piece of flash fiction too.

My challenge is where I invite you to name one person (existing forwards or backwards in time) who you would love to speak to by phone. You only get the ONE phone call. Remember the old cop shows that always had that as a plot device? Well, I’ve taken the idea and run with it here.

Whichever direction in time you choose, the recipient would be enabled to use the phone. (Nor, if you go back in time, would they be burnt for witchcraft in being able to use such a strange device!).

Rules: Keep it short, keep it funny (and that rules out politics given that is anything BUT funny).

Now naturally I answered my own challenge and came up with a new flash fiction story as it was the best way for me to answer it! See The Biter Bit which I hope both amuses you and acts as a kind of heads-up to be wary of the scammers out there.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with – comments over on the CFT page please. (Oh and I had great fun with the captions for some of the images below but do check these out over on the CFT page! You can probably guess which ones I had the fun with!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SECOND POST!
A big thank you to #BarryLillie for hosting me on his blog today. The questions were challenging but great fun to answer! Hope you enjoy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Delighted to share another lovely review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks!

Screenshot_2020-10-15 Truly delightful
Now as we head rapidly towards the end of the year, and with book events mainly going to online versions only, writers, I know, are going to be even more appreciative of support than we normally are. (And generally we ARE an appreciative lot, honest!).

The nice thing is there are two big things you can do to support the writer friends in your life and they cost nothing, merely take a little time.

These are:-
1. Support their event by “going” to it even if only for a short while.
2. Give an honest review of their book on Amazon and Goodreads in particular.

Many thanks, folks, on behalf of EVERY writer!😊😍

thank you signage

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

cup of aromatic cappuccino with thank you words on foam

Photo by wewe yang on Pexels.com

Many thanks to #ValPenny for hosting me on her blog today. This is the final part of my mini blog tour, all involving splendid people from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (Last week I was guest on #PatriciaMOsborne‘s and #JenWilson‘s blogs – thank you, ladies!).

Tonight’s post with Val is an in-depth article. Naturally I talk about Tripping The Flash Fantastic, what I love about flash fiction writing, and discuss what I can of my internet search history! 😂😂😂 Best leave it there I think.

I also share a little about my writing routine and what I think is the best thing about being a writer.

Thanks again, Val. It was fab to chat!

From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve written a new flash story, The Biter Bit, as part of my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (and that’s a first). Hope you enjoy!

I found writing a story was the best way to answer the challenge I set in this post (and naturally I was going to meet said challenge myself). Stories are fabulous vehicles for getting points across without preaching or switching people off.

(Oh and a quick update on Tripping The Flash Fantastic. It is available on the Waterstones website too).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Hope the week has been a good one. Now I usually share news about my Chandler’s Ford Today post over on my Facebook Author page. But this week’s post is different!

Called The Phone Conversation, I issue a fun challenge and share a new flash fiction story in my response to the challenge I set! Can’t really say more than that without giving the game away but link up tomorrow. (See above!).

I don’t usually combine my fiction with non-fiction writing but for the challenge I set, I realised using a flash story was the best way to meet it! More tomorrow. It is the first flash tale I’ve written for a couple of weeks given the cyberlaunch for TTFF etc and it was good to get back to that again.


A huge thanks to #ValPenny for hosting me on her blog today. It’s always a joy to chat about flash fiction. Naturally, Tripping The Flash Fantastic was mentioned too!

(Link to go on my website shortly on my interviews page and later in the week on my next blog post. I have shared this on my author page on Facebook tonight though so do pop across to that if you would like to read this now. Val knows how to set good questions!).

I do have an interview page on my website (which I will be updating shortly to include the mini blog tour I’ve been on with Val today, and #PatriciaMOsborne and #JenWilson last week). If you want to know more about my work and/or flash fiction, the interview page is a good place to start.

(And I will be updating the page again probably over the weekend to include my appearance on #BarryLillie’s blog this week too).


Fairytales With Bite – Is Magic All That Wonderful in Stories?

One thing I don’t think is stressed enough is that magic is not the be all and end all in a story. Nor should it be. If a character can just solve all of their problems with the wave of the old magic wand, well that’s going to make for a very boring story. Wave wand, conflict and story over. Hmm.,, I don’t know about you but I would feel a bit cheated with that.

There should be limitations as to how magic can be used (and I also believe it would have to drain the user of it physically and mentally too). I felt the Harry Potter series covered this aspect well.

Also Lord Vetinari in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series also makes pointed comments about how dangerous magic is especially when countering Moist Von Lipwig’s plea to use the stuff in Raising Steam and call the wizards in to help with a major and urgent problem he’s facing.

So, for me, a good story does show the down side of magic. I also like to see characters call on their own non-magical resources to solve problems. I also like to seem them overcome issues which are caused by magic. And when magic is used, it should be where there is no other option and should be for the good of more than one character.

Also there’s the whole aspect of abuse of magical power to be explored too. How that is tackled or not is to me far more interesting than the magical element itself.

 

This World and Others – What Readers Need to Know

The writer will always need to know far more about their fictional world than the reader does. You will need to know what drives your characters and some of their back story but that doesn’t mean it has to appear on the page the reader enjoys.

What should come through is a sense that the writer really knows their characters and it is that I think readers pick up on.

I love discovering more about the fictional world as the story goes along. I don’t need to know it all at once. And having characters reveal things is also intriguing. What is obvious to one character isn’t to another and that character discovers something new at the same time as the reader does. Always like that.

So it is a question then of working out what it is your reader does need to know and how best to “plant it” in the story. You don’t want a huge block of info all in one hit as that risks sending the reader to sleep (especially if their reading is done at bedtime as mine is!).

But by drip feeding information, that goes a long way to keeping the reader turning the pages to find out more.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Writing Prompts and Publication News

Image Credit

As ever, images are from the fantastic Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers  – More Than Writers

My turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot, More Than Writers.

I’m on the 29th so that means I get every three Februaries off! 😆😆

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful. Mixing up how you write stories is fun and keeps you on your toes too!

I talked about writing prompts in my monthly slot for the Association of Christian Writers today. As well as sharing some tips, I share a story I produced using one of the tips. Annoyed librarians may well like it… hmm… go on have a look then!😊

What I’ll add here is that I’ve found it useful to mix up how I approach writing a story. It keeps things interesting for me. It keeps me on my literary toes too.

By mixing up the methods, I avoid the dangers of becoming formulaic too. I don’t want any of my stories to sound the same to a reader after all. What I do want is someone to read my stories and spot my voice through them all, but to also enjoy each tale for its uniqueness. My characters are very different people after all. The way I tell their stories should reflect those differences too.

 

Facebook – General

Loved the finale to Doctor Who but that’s all I’m saying about that. It is nigh on impossible to say anything else without unwittingly revealing a spoiler so best not, I think. Give it a week and then I should be all right on that!

Well portrayed characters, for good or evil, will keep you glued, whether they’re on the page or on the screen. The challenge as a writer is to ensure the characters you create have that quality to keep a reader hooked. How do you make the readers care about what happens to your people?

Firstly, YOU’VE got to care what happens! Thankfully this happens rarely but I have come across instances where I’m bored with a character portrayal and I suspect the author became bored too.

Secondly, your character has got to have a problem that must be resolved somehow. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death problem, though that is obviously a great one for winding up the tension in a tale, but the issue your character HAS to resolve must be something they can’t run away from. Their situation won’t improve until they DO do something etc.

Thirdly, your character mustn’t give up easily. When their initial attempt(s) to get out of their situation fail, how do they react? Do they learn from their failures? What gives them the break through to success?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General and From Light to Dark and Back Again and Publication News

Story time again. Hope you enjoy. A little humour at the end of a busy Monday is never a bad thing!

Taking Time Out From the Day Job is my latest tale on Cafelit. (I’ve written flash fiction tales with fewer words than the title for this one in my time but there you go!). I have every sympathy for my lead in this one.

It’s lovely having one of my humorous fairytales with bite up on Cafelit.

Taking Time Out From the Day Job shows what happens when a fairy decides to do just that.

Hope you enjoy reading it. I loved writing it but then I do adore characters like this one.

It is a real contrast in mood from my recent linked stories on Cafelit but now you know why my collection is called From Light to Dark and Back Again. It sums up what I write!

Just to say that #ParagraphPlanet archive stories at the end of each month and the February 2020 “lot” are now available. See the link.My Time Is Everything is amongst the collection here. #flashfiction #amwriting #75wordstories

Is it easier to write to a specific word count or write the story first and then work out what the word count would suit it best?

Hmm… I’ve done both. The discipline of working to a specified word count is a great one and keeps you on your toes. It really does force you to check that each and every word has to be included in your tale. If there’s anything that doesn’t carry its weight, out it goes.

When I am working to a theme or title (often generated by random word generators), I write the story first. I see what I have, edit it, and then decide on whether it would work better at 100 words or 200, for example.

However you write, have fun!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Conflict in stories can take many forms of course but some of my favourite tales are the ones where a character is in conflict with themselves.

This is why I find Gollum from The Lord of the Rings an interesting character. You know you can’t trust him but I found on reading the tale for the first time, I desperately wanted him to somehow come good at the end. (And I’d say it’s open to interpretation whether he did or not. I am with Gandalf on this one when he says Gollum had his part to play in the history of the Ring and left it there).

In my story, Rewards, which is one of my longer flash tales, I use thoughts to show my lead character’s conflict. The reason this tale needed to be towards the upper end of the flash limit was because I needed some space to show those thoughts and then how my character acted on them.

But then that’s the joy of flash. You can go from the tiny tales in terms of word count to the longer ones but still have a limit you need to stick to. (I do find that a really good writing discipline. It’s why when I prepare my Chandler’s Ford Today posts I set my own word count and stick to it. I have to have parameters!).

The conflict a flash fiction writer has is deciding what word count will work best for their story. Sometimes you do have to go to the upper limit. Sometimes you can say all you need to in 100 words or less. Always think of the impact of the story on a reader. Don’t water it down by padding it out. If the conflict in the story is played out in 250 words, leave it there! But if you need 999, that’s fine too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Symbols have a great deal of meaning of course. Can they be used in flash fiction?

Yes, as long as readers are likely to know the meaning of the symbol or can get to the meaning from context. As with any writing, clarity is the important thing here.

Could you come up with your own symbols for your characters?

Yes but it would be useful to base them on what we already know.

For example, red roses are associated with love but what could black roses be associated with?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reviews are so important for any writer for a variety of reasons but the good news is they don’t have to be lengthy. One or two lines would be absolutely fine. A big thank you, while on topic, to all those who have been kind enough to review From Light to Dark and Back Again.

So if you’re looking for a way to support author friends, do review their books. The one caveat is reviews have to be honest for them to have any meaning. Honest reviews also aren’t usually at risk of being taken down!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/B07T…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Openings

What is it about a story opening that makes you want to read on?

For me, either the character has to be “hitting the ground running” in such a way, I’ve got to find out what happens to them, or the set up is intriguing enough to make me want to read on.

Mind you, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the classic fairytale opening of “once upon a time”.

There is the wonderful association with happy childhood reading of those great stories. That opening just, for me, sets the tone for what is to follow.

I know to expect fairy godmothers turning up at surprisingly convenient moments. (I’ve always wondered why Cinderella didn’t berate hers for not coming to her aid a lot sooner but that’s another story).

I know to expect talking animals (and I should imagine the Three Bears had quite a bit to say about Goldilocks that was best kept off the page. I know how I’d feel if someone destroyed my chair and bed – though they’d be welcome to the porridge. I’ve never liked the stuff!).

I know to expect the villains to get their comeuppance. It’s just a question of finding out how and when.

And there is something wonderfully poetical about Charles Dickens’s opening to A Tale of Two Cities (which I confess I’ve not read but is on my To Be Read list), but even I love the sound of “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times” and the rest that follows. The rhythm of that opening paragraph is amazing.

So what I’m saying here is I want a story opening to take my breath away so I have to read on. Now there’s a challenge for any writer (including me!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submissions, Reviews, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Thanks as ever to Pixabay for the images here.

Facebook – General

Good evening so far. Submitted a flash piece, pitched a couple of non-fiction ideas. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.

Also sorted out my bedside cabinet and organised my reading piles (one for books, one for magazines before you ask!). Feel both productive AND virtuous and, trust me, that doesn’t happen often!

Hope the weather isn’t causing too much havoc where you are. Mainly tree debris where I am. Always sad to see trees down (though Lady will end up having more sticks to play with than she ever thought possible so there is that to it).

The other thing to be said about the weather is if you needed encouragement to stay cosy and warm and get on with writing at your desk, you’ve got it. Well, you’re not going to want to go out now, are you?

It WAS a dark and stormy night – and writers everywhere took one glimpse at the horrible weather, got on with their latest epics, only too glad to do so!😀😀

Happy writing, everyone!❤️⭐️

I’m looking forward to sharing two separate items of publication news later on in the week. It has been a good few days. I wish they were always like that but there you go!

Am almost there on a standard length short story I want to submit for a competition. I hope to get that submitted by the end of this week. And I’ve picked out the next competition I want to have a crack at so need to start thinking out some ideas for that.

I’m also going to be working on the edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, so have plenty in the pipeline.

But that’s how I like it – a nice mix of non-fiction writing (CFT particularly), sending stories out to hopefully good homes (!), and editing.

Reading wise, I’ve recently started London: The Biography. It’s an interesting concept for a historical book – a biography of a city – and I anticipate an enjoyable read. I love history – fiction and non-fiction. I won’t be sorry if story ideas spark from reading this book. (I’d be disappointed if I don’t get something. Non-fiction can be a great source of sparks for stories).

Hope the weather rapidly improves where you are. It is calmer here in Hampshire though there is some flooding. Lady gets a bit skittish in high winds (a bit like some young children can do) so it’ll be fun walking her tomorrow when said high winds are back. Still, at least it’s going to be dry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What do you love writing the most? I love getting inside my characters’ heads and sharing their thoughts. Sometimes said thoughts surprise me and I think where did that come from but it’s a wonderful feeling when that happens. It confirms to me the character has backbone, is taking on a life of their own, and is going to resonate with readers. All good things to aim for!

But the danger here is to only focus on the things you like writing most. I do enjoy writing narrative but I’ve come across too many books in the past where the narrative has gone on for too long and is keeping me away from the character whose story I want to follow.

For narrative writing, I’ve learned to focus only on what a reader needs to know for the character and/or story to make sense and there are absolutely no massive descriptions of setting etc. That I feel belonged to a bygone era.

I got into conversation with someone (and I apologise now because I’ve forgotten the name) who felt that the long descriptions of setting particularly in classic novels were necessary then – no TV or film back then. I think that’s a valid point. Now, of course, books are just one form of entertainment amongst many. Everyone knows the kind of setting that would be in, say, an ancestral home thanks to things like Downton Abbey, TV adaptations of stories such as Pride and Prejudice, etc., so do you now need to write every aspect of that down? I think not. You just want enough to conjure up the appropriate images in a reader’s mind and leave it there. Less is more and all that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

PUBLICATION NEWS

Delighted to share not 1, or 2, but 3 of my linked flash fiction stories called Story by Number published on Cafelit. Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her excellent prompt idea in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. My stories here are directly inspired by that.

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

The titles all reflect the number of words in each story. Hope you enjoy.

Will I write more of this kind of story again? I hope so. It is great for the old imagination muscle to mix up how you write a story. It keeps things fresh for you and will do for a reader too.

(The image I’ve added to the link below comes from a recent Chandler’s Ford Today post of mine called Numbers into Writing Will Go. It seemed appropriate! Link to article below.).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Firstly, a big thank you to Val Penny for her lovely comment on the book on Twitter earlier today (18th February). Much appreciated, Val!

 https://twitter.com/valeriepenny/status/1229794879544479745

If you’re a reader and know some writers, I bet they’ll have asked for reviews of their books etc in the usual places. (My friends know I’ve asked them!).

If you think well hmm… I wouldn’t know where to start etc., I’ll just add that reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc., don’t have to be lengthy write-ups. A line or two would do and whatever your tastes in reading, the author will appreciate those reviews. They’ve got to be honest ones though!

(Oh and a good place to start is what YOU liked about the book and yes what you disliked too. Reviews have to be honest to have any meaning and writers will learn a lot from feedback they receive this way).

Making writing friends online is great but meeting them in person is even better

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use character traits to help me “get going” with creating a new person to either write about or to be my narrator for my next flash fiction story.

I also talked about this in my interview with #WendyHJones which went out on Wednesday this week. Naturally that gives me a golden opportunity to share the link again! (Shameless plug and all that….! 😊❤️).

Episode 4 – How To Write Flash Fiction

Feature Image - Local Author News - Allison Symes - Podcast by Wendy H Jones

It was lovely being able to write a bonus CFT post for this. Image by Pixabay

But going on from there, one question could be “could you run out of character traits?”. Surely there are only so many.

Well that’s true but I like to combine them with something else.

For example if I have a character who is feisty, I’ll give them a vice such as greed. There could be a crime story there. There could be a comic story too if their greed dropped them right in it. The reactions from a reader here could range from horror and disgust at my character to laughter as my character makes a complete fool of themselves.

The trick will be making readers care enough to read about a character like that. There will be a certain amount of wanting to see if that character either gets their comeuppance (I love stories like that!) or somehow redeems themselves. Either way there is going to be a significant change in that character or their situation by the end of the tale and I hope I can make a reader curious enough to find out what that is.

Another character who is feisty I may well make charitable but their big mouth lands them in it from time to time. So there I would hope a reader would want to find out if the character can carry on doing their good works and their loudmouth has not ruined things completely. Or perhaps the being outspoken ends up bringing in much needed changes and my character is a catalyst for positive change.

Yes, there’s that word again – change. The single most important thing about any story of any length. There has to be change. Your character has to be different in some way by the end of the story whether it’s 50 words long or 50,000. The challenge is to have a character your reader HAS to follow to find out what happens to them.

Image supplied by Wendy H. Jones

Will have flash fiction publication news to share later in the week so am looking forward to putting the relevant links up.

Will be starting work soon on the edits for Book 2 – Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Looking forward to that. I do enjoy editing. Sure there are some tasks associated with that which ARE less interesting (yet another misplaced comma to remove etc etc!) BUT I keep in mind the overall goal is to improve my work and to get it to the best I can make it. That helps a lot.

I’ll be talking about short and long form fiction in my CFT post later this week and will share more on that on Wednesday. No prizes for guessing which is my big love here!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How do you handle those times when you know your story hasn’t got anywhere with a market or competition?

My practice here is to look at my story again. If I spot anything that could do with strengthening, I do that but I then get the story back out again to another, suitable market or competition.

Another way of using a story that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is to look at why you wrote it in the first place and analyse it as if it had been written by someone else.

If this story had been in a magazine, would it have appealed to you? If there were bits that didn’t seem to gel with you, ask yourself why?

This is a good editing technique and by putting your reader’s hat on, you might find something about the tale that could do with working on and which, once done, will give it more of a chance in the big, bad world out there.

The one thing I’ve found is you have to be totally honest about what you think works in the story and what doesn’t work so well. The trick of course is to improve those latter sections so there are no bits which don’t work so well!

And be persistent too. One market or competition may feel it is not right for them (they may have taken something similar to your story recently, you will never know), but it doesn’t mean others will feel the same way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Just a quick reminder for Writing Magazine subscribers that you can advertise your book on their Subscribers’ Showcase. Proof of the pudding? See this link!

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

I hope later in the year when Tripping the Flash Fantastic comes out to put that on here (probably with a link back to From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Meanwhile over on Cafelit, do check out my latest three flash fiction stories. Yes, three of them. They are linked though. Linked flash fiction is relatively new for me and this set was inspired by a prompt in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. (Thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her cracking idea which inspired me here).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author BlogReading Piles

How many reading piles do you have? Mine include:-

1. My book pile.
2. My magazine pile.
3. Everything on my Kindle!

It’s probably enough to be going on with though I suppose I could split my book pile into two categories: novels and short story/flash fiction collections.

Note I said probably just now. I’ve just seen a lovely post on Facebook where someone has come up with a new idea for an escape room – you have an hour to get out of a well stocked book shop!

I don’t know about you but that’s me well and truly stuck then. One hour would just about give me enough time to have a good look around and work out what was where. I might get to decide where I would be starting first if I was efficient with my time!

I’ve mentioned before I like to mix up my reading. There are some evenings where I just HAVE to read magazines, rather than books, and the other way round. I don’t really know why that is but I love reading both overall so that’s okay. So therefore it is absolutely necessary for me to have reading piles that suit all my reading moods.

How do you organise YOUR reading?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.