Publication News and Starting a Story

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I’m thrilled to say two of my flash stories, Dignity and Injustice, and The Art Critic, will be in the Best of Cafelit 8, which will be launched in December. All of the stories included in this book have been voted on by readers too so that makes it even more special. Thank you, everyone.

And a huge congratulations to all my fellow authors, who are as eager to see their stories in this book as I am with mine!

A special thank you to PaulaReadman for putting up the following list on Facebook earlier today. Am cheerfully swiping it to include here. Well done all!

The Best of CafeLit 8
Salisbury Plain, February 1946 by Laura Gray
No Room for Them by Dawn Knox
She Says We’ll Get There Soon by Hannah Retallick
Jeopardy in Pink,by Penny Rogers
Marking Time by Janet Howson
Rose Tinted Glass by Linda Payne
Remembrance Day by Jim Bates
Yellowjackets by James Bates
God works in mysterious ways especially at Christmas by Robin Wrigley
Goodbye My Lush by Shawn Klimek
Losing Tony by Gill James
Self Assessment by Peppy Barlow
Years & Years by Kim Martins
Airport Sandwiches by Pat Jourdan
Budgies and Bingo by Alyson Faye
Dignity and Injustice by Allison Symes
The Lady in Red by Caroline S Kent
Untrodden Snow by Paula Readman
A Walk in the Woods by Jo Deardon
Father Van Der Bosch’s Last Christmas by Robin Wrigley
Gemini Rising by Paula Readman
The First Time by Patricia Gallagher
Bats Downunder by Mehreen Ahmed
Induction Day by Janet Howson
Life Begins at the 250 Bus Stop by Jacqueline Ewers
On Time by Lisa Williams
Redemption by Richard Hough
The Art Critic by Allison Symes

And in the meantime, if you like an ecletic mix of stories in terms of mood, word count, genre etc., do check out the rest of the Cafelit series.……/B01…/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til…

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How do you start a story? I have to know the voice of my character/narrator. Are they brusque? Are they feisty? Are they hard done by (or feel they are – of course it doesn’t mean they’re right!)?

I also have to know what their main trait is – are they brave? Selfish? Kind to animals but rotten to their fellow man?

With those two things firmly in place, I can then outline more about this character and as they come to life, I can work out the best situations to dump them in to bring out both the best and worst of their personalities.

I find the Scrivener outlining tool on their fiction template really useful for this but you can create your own. Decide on what you need to know about your character before you write them up and turn that into a template. Prep work pays!

Enjoyed the Fryern Funtasia today. Will be writing about that for CFT for Friday. Good to catch up with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams, too.

Other events I’m looking forward to are the Winchester Writers’ Festival and Swanwick and I hope to get along to the Waterloo Arts Festival as well. I had a piece in their writing competition ebook To Be…To Become last year.

Right at the end of the year will be the launch of The Best of Cafelit 8 in which I will have two stories. A great time is had by all who go to that!

Whatever writing events you are off to over the next few months, have a fab time!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture of me reading at last year’s Bridge House event.


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How do your characters handle disappointment? Are they of the “have it all out in one almighty tantrum” school of thought or do they prefer the quiet sulk? What drives them to react the way they do?

Do they use setbacks to find different ways of overcoming problems or do they give up? (If the latter, they’re not going to be of much interest as a character, unless the giving up is temporary, they start again and go on to find better ways of doing things, which can be a great story in itself).

Give some thought as to what really motivates your characters to react the way they do. Are they reacting the way their families have always done/expect them to or rebel against that?

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Two of my flash stories, The Art Critic, and Dignity and Injustice, will be appearing in The Best of Cafelit 8 in December. Am thrilled, naturally.

Dignity and Injustice is one of my favourite historical pieces. The Art Critic is very different!

Days like this are wonderful for all sorts of reasons, not least in that it encourages you to get back on and write more flash fiction!

Congratulations to all my fellow authors, who will be appearing in the book too. A special well done to those who are appearing in print for the first time. It is such a special moment!

I am looking forward to catching up with as many of my fellow contributors as possible for a very convivial time at the launch of the book in December! As for the second picture below, well I would say that, wouldn’t I?

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The best stories reveal something about ourselves. What flash fiction does is focus on one particular point and leave the reader to draw their own conclusions, both from what has been said, and what is inferred but not spelt out.

This was one thing I loved about the plays staged by the Chameleon Theatre Group I reviewed last week. Each play had plenty of inferences. I love filling in the gaps. I just need enough information to be able to do so.

So how do you decide what IS enough information? Well, this is where the restricted word count of flash fiction can be your friend as it imposes a limit. You really do have to work out what a reader has to know to be able to make inferences and leave anything not achieving that out. Best of all, you get to decide what the reader has to know!


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Things flash fiction should not be:-

1. Too long! (You have up to 1K words).
2. Truncated prose. (The story must have a proper beginning, middle and end, same as with any other form of writing).
3. Too many characters. (You really don’t have the word count for them).
4. Sub plots. (As for 3 above!).
5. Too clever! (A story illuminates a moment of change, flash fiction focuses INTENSELY on one specific moment so you have to focus on what achieves that and nothing else).

Repeating a word to start consecutive sentences in story can be a great way to set a rhythm for the tale, as well as provide emphasis. I do this with Watching Myself.

I also like to use a character’s thoughts sometimes as a great way into the story. You get to see something of the character immediately that way. I do this in Rewards.

It is a good idea to mix up how you start your tales as it keeps things interesting for you (and as a result your reader) and you will get different things from varying the way you start.

Beginning with a character’s thoughts takes you right into their mindset and attitudes and a reader can begin to make conclusions from that.

Beginning with the same word in consecutive sentences sets up a “beat” and should trigger anticipation in the reader. What is important about this word? It must have some bearing on the story (and of course it will).

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Dangers of Reading

Reading is wonderful but it can also be dangerous. Why?

1. Reading widely will open your mind and challenge thoughts and ideas. That is why in repressive regimes writers and journalists have been amongst the first to suffer. It’s why I admire George Orwell. He got on the nerves of both the far left and far right! That’s the way to do it…

2. Reading widely is often the trigger for creative writing. Once the bug bites you, it doesn’t let go! The challenge of creating your own stories is a wonderful one. The challenge of trying to write better, whether it is for publication or not, makes you try to up your game. You WILL be stretched mentally and imaginatively. That is how it should be.

3. Reading across the genres will help you discover what you like and dislike or, more accurately, what you THINK you like and dislike. I’d never heard of flash fiction when I first started writing (and it wasn’t around as a form when I started reading independently!). But in coming across the form and trying it in terms of reading it as well as writing it, I’ve discovered a love of the very short story form I never anticipated developing.

Where will your reading journey take you?

How will it surprise you and are you ready to be surprised?

Have fun finding out!












A busy few days and I also have a new flash fiction story to share with you.

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My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post sees me resuming my series on 101 Things to Put into Room 101. This week’s post sees me reach No. 45! Do you agree with my choices? Comments welcome in the CFT comments box.

Feature Image - Part 3 Room 101 Post

My latest CFT post. Image via Pixabay.

Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions and a not terribly helpful signpost. Image via Pixabay.

Still this kind of board might raise a smile

This notice may make you smile though. Image via Pixabay.

Could Room 101 be behind here - image via Pixabay

The vault of doom aka Room 101. Image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and More Than Writers Blog (Association of Christian Writers)

Busy, busy. I have a short post up on Chandler’s Ford Today regarding Richard Hardie’s author events at the Winchester Discovery Centre on 3rd April. If you like YA fantasy and are in the area, why not pop along? Entry is free (though there are books to buy!). See…/

My usual Friday slot tomorrow sees me resuming my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series. I incorporate everything from snow to shoes that pinch your feet (though if they pinch anything else, you’re doing something very odd with your shoes!).

My monthly post for the Association of Christian Writers is online tonight. My spot is the 29th of each month. This means I get every three Februaries off!

My post is Real Writing = Real Characters and talks about the importance of honest portrayal of characters. If they’re right so-and-sos, then you portray them as such. (How you do that is up to you but there must be no doubt in the readers’ minds that the character IS a right so-and-so!).

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What are your characters’ favourite memories and why? How do they influence their actions in your story? Can showing some of their memories help you create a richer, more fully rounded character? I think so.

Now with flash fiction, there isn’t the room for a lot here so you have to pick the most important memory and focus sharply on that. Or you tell the story where the character is looking back on something.

For example, in my flash tales, My Life and Changing My Mind, I have my take on Pride and Prejudice told from the viewpoints of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, each with their own story. To combine them in one tale would have made the stories lose impact (though it would still have been well within the flash fiction word count limit). Mind, it did make it easy working out where they had to be in From Light to Dark and Back Again – right next to each other!

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What is the purpose of flash fiction? To create a miniature world a reader can literally dive in and out of in moments yet still leave an impact on them. To say in a few words (and with greater impact) something that would lose its power if put into a longer story.

I suppose one thing that really has drawn me to the form is the fact I’ve always loved working things out from clues the author gives and you do that a lot with flash fiction. I don’t want the writer telling me everything!

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I think humour lends itself well to flash fiction because the best gags (or at least the ones I remember best) are short and to the point. (Mind you, the Two Ronnies’ Four Candles is an honourable exception to this and such a fabulous play on words too. Should imagine that was a delight to write. Likewise Morecambe and Wise with Andre Preview in their Christmas special – sheer joy from beginning to end.).

The nice thing about flash fiction is I’ve found it opens up the genres you write in. After all in From Light to Dark and Back Again, I have crime stories, relationship stories, light horror stories and so on. A lot of my lighter tales play with humour too – I’ve used a lot of irony. So mix up your humour styles and see what flash fiction you can generate. Above all, have fun doing this!

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Why should any writer read well and widely in AND outside of their own genre?

The simple answer is you are feeding your imagination by reading. I’ve had ideas for stories by reading works by others, especially in non-fiction. Something I’ve read has just triggered that spark and away I go! So the more you read, the more likely you are to get that spark and you are “fishing from a bigger pool” too. You expand your own knowledge and therefore you can expand what you write about too.

With non-fiction, a story can emerge from reading, say, a historical fact, and wondering how that would affect characters from differing backgrounds.

So never feel guilty about “just” reading. It is the flip side of writing and a highly enjoyable one at that. After all, if you don’t want to read, why would you want to write? There has to be that love of books and stories inside you to trigger that desire to write. That love can only come through reading – whether your preferred format is Kindle, paperback or audio doesn’t matter. All that matters is you read!

Cafelit – The Art Critic

Am pleased to share my latest piece of flash fiction, The Art Critic.  Do check out Cafelit.  There is a wealth of fabulous stories on there and I am so pleased to be part of it.

A great way to relax - with a book and a cuppa - image via Pixabay

Great way to relax. Now where are those biscuits? Image via Pixabay

Fairytales with Bite – Publicity IN your stories

On my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week, I resume my series on 101 Things to Put into Room 101One of the things I mention is annoying adverts.  This led me to wonder how advertising, business, publicity etc could work in a fictional world.

How do your characters survive?  Presumably by working so what do they do?  What products are made in your world?  How are others persuaded to buy them?  Are there things your world does not allow to be made or sold and if so what and why?  Is there a black market (there usually is!)?

Also how do your characters find out what is going on?  Can they tell what is truth and what is propaganda?  Are adverts truthful?  Are there governing bodies regulating these things?  Or is your society a simpler, barter based one?

Talking of adverts, I will just share a flash fiction story of mine, The Art Critic, which is now up on Cafelit.  Do check out the website for some fabulous stories by a whole range of authors.  I’m delighted to have work on here.  Hope you like the story.

This World and Others – Your Character Likes and Dislikes

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week sees me resume my series on 101 Things to be Put Into Room 101So far I’m up to number 45!  I’ll have no trouble finding 101 things to banish…

What are your character likes and dislikes and why?  if your character loathes the colour brown, to name one example, what is the reason for it and does that loathing make them change their behaviour in any way?  Could that loathing change the way the story ends because the character’s actions change (and not necessarily for the better either)?

You almost certainly wouldn’t use all of this in one story but listing what your character likes and loathes is a great way of finding out all about them before you write the story properly.  You will write with a deeper knowledge of that character (and it does show through).

From the writers’ viewpoint, I dislike characters who have no reason to be in the story but are clearly making up the numbers and  I have come across this.  (Earlier in my writing life, I’ve been guilty of it but I think many of us have been.  The important thing is to realise the characters don’t have a role to play and cut them out). Each and every character has to have a very good reason to be in your story.  Each and every character has to be distinctive (even if it is, say, Character A loves flowers and Character B hates them because they have chronic hayfever.  Easy to tell those two apart!).

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Flash Fiction, Top Five Favourite Books, and Guest Blogging

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Good news – another of my flash fiction tales, The Art Critic, is now up on the Cafelit website. Anyone who has had a bad review or hated a piece of artwork will sympathize with my heroine in this one. Good fun to write. Hope you enjoy reading it.

I’m outlining ideas for another collection of flash fiction tales and I hope some of these will also end up on Cafelit in the meantime. Many of my stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again started life on Cafelit. A number of Chapeltown Books authors can say the same about their flash stories – and I’m willing to bet we’re all pleased about this!

I loved the old James Garner films, Support Your Local Gunfighter/Sheriff etc. Maybe we should have something called Support Your Cafelit! In all seriousness, online sites like this are an immense help to writers including me. They give us somewhere to put our work, it can (and in this case has) led to publication opportunities, and feedback is also possible via the comments section under each story put on the site.

So give online story websites like Cafelit a try. You may well come across a form of fiction you might like to try writing. Certainly, you’ll like the stories already up there. Happy reading and writing!

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Firstly, as mentioned above, my latest flash fiction piece, The Art Critic, is now up on Cafelit. See but do check out the other wonderful stories on site.

Secondly, I am guest blogging on Amanda Huggins’s Troutie McFish Tales blog tonight. I talk about why I love writing flash fiction and for Chandler’s Ford Today and share some writing tips that have stood me in very good stead.

Thirdly, I’ll be appearing at the Hursley Park Book Fair due to take place in June. I’ll share more details nearer the time but author pics and bios are now up on their website, including for yours truly. See


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My CFT post this week will be the resumption of my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series. Yes, I can find 101 things!

I’m using my diary more to plan out what writing work I do when and am finding that useful. It reminds me to block out time for specific tasks for one thing so I am hoping by the year’s end, I will have been more productive than I was in 2017. Not that I was lazy last year, far from it (!), but I’ve been aware for a while I could probably do more than I am and that will need scheduling if I’m going to make it (a) happen and (b) work!

I am making better use of dead time thanks to Evernote and a smartphone. I use time like this to draft out ideas for flash fiction stories and CFT posts. All useful stuff. It’s amazing (though not in a good way) just how easily time slips away and you find you haven’t achieved as much as you thought or would like.

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How can you tell if you have written flash fiction and not just a short story chopped down? Well, like any short story, a flash fiction tale must have a beginning, a middle and an end. Okay, a lot is implied, especially backstory, but everything in your flash tale must move the story onwards to what will seem like the inevitable conclusion (even if is a twist one).  If your story does that, then fine!

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What is the purpose of a story?

To entertain – definitely.
To sometimes convey truths in a more palatable way – yes.
To get a message across – yes.

To set puzzles for readers to solve – think Agatha Christie here especially.

To warn – yes (particularly true for horror I would have thought. If you decide you’re going to tackle Dracula, you’ve got to be prepared for the consequences!).

Flash fiction does all of this but concisely!

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Glad to report The Art Critic, my latest flash fiction piece, is now up on Cafelit. See

It was great fun appearing on Amanda Huggins’ Troutie McFish Tales blog. See…/guest-post-alli… Many thanks, Mandy!

I share why I love writing (and indeed reading) flash fiction and also what I love about writing for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Printers would have fun trying to print this - image via Pixabay

Let the ideas flow and let journeys encourage that! Image via Pixabay

Printing Press - image via Pixabay

The old method of printing. Image via Pixabay

Books can be one major key to knowledge - image via Pixabay

Books are the keys to knowledge. Image via Pixabay

The To Be Read pile - image via Pixabay

The To Be Read pile. Image via Pixabay

What new scenes will a book show you - image via Pixabay

What new worlds and scenes will books show you? Image via Pixabay

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What is the best thing about writing flash fiction? I always love that moment when I’ve come up with the “killer” last line that completes the story in such a way I know there couldn’t be an alternative ending.

Sometimes I do come up with a line I think will make a great ending and plot the story back from that. It’s an interesting challenge (and Agatha Christie was known to do it too).

Do last lines sometimes surprise me? Yes. I hope they surprise you too! I will think of a line I realize is better than the one I originally had in mind. For example, with Serving Up a Treat, the last line “He never got to take a second mouthful” not only sums up the story, (and you can get the genre from that line alone), but, taken with the rest of the tale, I realised later there was more than one way of this character meeting their fate. I had not originally plotted that but was glad it came about. (Yes, you will need to rest of the tale to find out!).

Maybe the art of being a better writer is in getting better at recognizing what works well and being open to changing your initial thoughts and ideas for better ones.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

What are your top five favourite books? They can be any genre, non-fiction or otherwise etc.

So often my favourite books do depend on my mood. If I want humorous fiction, I will read that. If I want crime, I will turn to that genre.

But I think for me the five that stand out overall are:-

1. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. This book is one of the few novels to ever change my mind about a historical character, in this case Richard III.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein. The sheer scale of Tolkein’s imagination is amazing and you won’t get a better good-v-evil battle in fiction, I think. Loved the film version too.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This was my first introduction to the use of irony in fiction and Elizabeth Bennett has long been one of my favourite heroines.

4. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett. It was hard to pick just one Discworld novel but I plumped for this one as, for me, it is where Sam Vimes really takes off as a character.

5. The Best of P.G. Wodehouse Am I cheating here by going for a best of collection? Maybe! But I’m not sorry. This wonderful book shows off PGW’s fabulous array of characters.

So what would your choices be? Do you think they would change, say, annually, or be permanent selections?