BRIDGE HOUSE/CHAPELTOWN/CAFELIT/RED TELEPHONE EVENT

Had a wonderful time at the Bridge House/Chapeltown/Cafelit/Red Telephone celebration in London on 2nd December.  It was fabulous to meet up with fellow writers again and to share news of what we were up to and to share some of our stories with each other too.

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It has been a busy but lovely weekend, especially with the Bridge House event yesterday. One great thing about talking with fellow writers about what you are working on is it DOES encourage you to get on and do it! Am now editing what I hope will be my second flash fiction collection (finally!).

I talk a little about this on my Goodreads blog as well tonight, but I really enjoyed hearing the stories being read out yesterday. There is something special about being read to, especially when many of us only get to do the reading, whether it is to children, or to help us with our own editing. The standard of stories was very high and I enjoyed reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again too.

Already looking forward to next year’s event! (Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for taking the picture of me reading yesterday. All other pictures were taken by me and show some of the many readers/writers at yesterday’s event. Check us out at Cafelit, Bridge House, Chapeltown and Red Telephone Books. You know it makes sense… last minute stocking fillers anyone?).

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Had a wonderful time in London at the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown/Red Telephone celebration event. (It was for the launch of the Best of Cafelit 6 and Bridge House’s Glit-er-ary anthologies. I have a story in Cafelit 6 this year). Fabulous to catch up with friends, especially Gill James, Dawn Kentish Knox and Paula Readman.

Loved the story readings (one image below is of Gill James reading from her Chapeltown collection, January Stones) and I read three of mine from From Light to Dark and Back Again. I will be writing more about this for a later Chandler’s Ford Today post but for those of you at the event who claimed to be “just readers” (and you know who you are!)… ahem! No such thing as “just”. Writers love readers! Indeed without being readers ourselves, we wouldn’t have become writers.

The image below is of Dawn Kentish Knox with The Great War and Extraordinary, Paula Readman with Glit-er-ary and The Best of Cafelit 6, and yours truly with From Light to Dark and Back Again. Thanks, Paula, for sending the fab photo. All other images by yours truly.

Oh, and I got to fulfil a vague ambition by accident on the way into town. I should’ve taken the Edgware tube to get to Chalk Farm, but managed to get the High Barnet one which stops at Camden Town and goes down another route. So I got off at another stop and caught the right tube which was behind the one I was on. I am a huge fan of Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and I really did have to take a picture of this particular tube station image! Fellow fans of the show will understand why I’m sure. Mornington Crescent! Nice to see the Christmas decorations up at Waterloo too. The chandelier was in the Ladies! They obviously believe in posh loos for pubs in Camden!

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The chandelier in the Ladies at the Princess of Wales pub! Image by Allison Symes

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BOOK SIGNINGS, LIBRARIES AND TECHNOLOGY

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My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is another one about book events. None for ages, then like buses, two on top of each other!

Following on from Anne Wan’s book launch report last week comes Richard Hardie’s news about his book signing at Eastleigh Library last Saturday. This signing was part of Uniform Day (encouraging Cubs and Brownies to complete their book reading badge) and the overall Love Your Library week. It was good to see a packed library. The event was great fun.

I talk about libraries and writers needing each other, Richard shares his thoughts on how the event went and what libraries really can do, and if you did miss Richard at last week’s event, he will be back with his books, Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords, at the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair on 28th October from 10 am to 12 noon. More details in the post tomorrow.

Meanwhile, for my part, there is plenty of writing and editing work to do so best press on then! (Though I may have a sneaky read of The Best of Cafelit 6 first. Love what I’ve read so far – well done all contributors!).

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The rather splendid rug at Eastleigh Library from which friend and fellow writer, Richard Hardie, talked about his Young Adult fantasy novels recently.  Image by me.

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Richard’s table at Eastleigh Library recently.  Image by me.

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Richard and I will be two of the authors taking part in the Book Fair coming up soon.  Image by Catherine Griffin of the Chandler’s Ford Writers’ Hub.

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Flash fiction, I think, is the ultimate proof that less can be more when it comes to storytelling! I am convinced technology (particularly smartphones) helped the form to take off, which is a nice side benefit.

Often when technology brings about changes, there are always fears it will be the death of something else. For example, the monks who wrote out all books by hand (and beautifully done too) didn’t exactly welcome Guttenberg and Caxton!

But things do need to move on. I don’t miss having to use carbon paper when I needed more than one copy of a typewritten letter. I don’t miss literally cutting and pasting stories to get them in the right order for yet another re-typing later on.

I want to see technology getting more people reading, albeit in different ways than previously. I like the way libraries have embraced e-books and I know in Hampshire the Library Service holds regular “Get to Know Your I-Pod” sessions. (You can even borrow one for the duration of the course though you do have to register for these). My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow also talks more about what libraries can do as Richard Hardie and I report on his most recent book signing at Eastleigh Library.

So however you read, enjoy! Ultimately, that is the most important thing.

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Traditional books will always have a place. My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

 

The Kindle. I read from it at bedtime and have a wide variety of non-fiction and fiction books on it. Image via Pixabay.

The Kindle. I read from it at bedtime and have a wide variety of non-fiction and fiction books on it. Image via Pixabay.

 

My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

FLASH FICTION/SHORT STORIES

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Am enjoying reading The Best of Cafelit 6 and looking forward to catching up with some of my fellow contributors at the Bridge House/Cafelit joint celebratory event in December. Nice mix of flash fiction and short stories. All that I’ve read so far conjure up powerful images within their first few words, a sure fire way to keep you reading. Not that I’m biased or anything… 😁😉

What do I like most about the short story (flash or longer)? I suppose it is because they are their own self-contained world. What is nice about a collection of them is you can enjoy visiting many different worlds by different writers and this is particularly good if your reading time is limited. Also, short stories are a fantastic way to try out an author’s work before going on to read their novels etc.

Keeping the short story alive is one of the great things about the independent presses. They want diverse voices. We as writers can let them have that. More short stories get out there. Okay, we still have to do the publicity but we would have to do that with a novel anyway. My own gut feel is that short stories (flash perhaps especially) can be a great way of tempting reluctant readers in so the more short stories there are out there available for people, the better.

Below are images of the books I’ve been published in to date.

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My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

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How do I like to start my flash fiction tales? Often it is with a name character carrying out some action, no matter how minor, as that immediately tells you the story is about X. (Also that the action is going to matter too, no matter how minor. Everything means something in flash fiction. There is literally no room for anything that doesn’t contribute to the story in some way).

Sometimes I go straight into my characters’ heads and show their thoughts. That will give the reader an immediate idea as to what this character is like (and from there you can make intelligent guesses as to what they might do/be capable of – for me, a lot of the fun in reading fiction by other writers is seeing if my guesses turn out to be right or not. While I’m always pleased when I guessed correctly, kudos must go to those writers who successfully wrongfoot me!).

My latest published story which is in The Best of Cafelit 6 sets a time and an immediate scene so I take the reader to where I want them to be. It also helps set the mood of the story.

So there are plenty of different ways to start your story but the common link is they are all designed to draw your reader in and keep them with you until they’ve finished reading your tale.

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My latest published story is in The Best of Cafelit 6.

 

Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

My last Bridge House story is in here. Naturally I hope there will be many more to come! Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BOOK LAUNCHES AND REALITY OF FAIRYTALES

A nice mix of posts tonight I think!

Facebook/Chandler’s Ford Today

I have to smile. I am being invited to add myself to the “Allison Symes” Team. Err… Facebook, I AM Allison Symes and I AM the team. Me and… well that’s it! Oh well, perhaps this is something I need to aspire to – to have people, other than me, to add on to the said team? This could take some time…

Meanwhile, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post shares my thoughts on why book launches are important to an author and Anne Wan’s report on her most recent one at Waterstones in Southampton. I suspect most writers, published or not, will identify with this but comments would be welcome via the CFT comments box.

Anne writes the children’s series Secrets of the Snow Globe and has just launched her second book, I had hoped to get to Anne’s launch but couldn’t in the end so this is a bit of a strange post in that I’m sharing a launch I didn’t go to! Anne’s report only made me wish I HAD been able to go (which is a sign of a good launch if ever there was one).

Anne is on the left in the image with her illustrator, Dawn Larder, on the right. Dawn came back from Spain to be at Anne’s launch. Now there’s commitment for you!

Image Credit:  All images in my CFT post tonight were kindly supplied by Anne Wan.

Shooting Star - Feature Image - Anne Wan Book Launch at Waterstones 2017

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I’ve discovered, thanks to the smartphone, there is no such thing as dead time.

I had to take my car into the main dealer today and while I was waiting for the necessary works to be carried out, I was happily writing away on the said phone (I’m becoming used to the stylus now!) and have drafted another story for my follow-up book to FLTDBA.

I didn’t manage to complete the story but I am almost there on it and I know where I’m going with it. (It will be one of my longer flash pieces too). This is where technology comes into its own. I was also pleased to be able to email what I’d written back to myself for an instant back-up. So even time waiting for a garage fix can be put to good use!

Stories can be created and read on just about any modern device - image via Pixabay

Stories can be created on almost any device.  Image via Pixabay

Goodreads Blog

I talk about the joys of non-fiction this week.

Much as I love reading a wide range of fiction, I must admit it has been my tastes in non-fiction that have expanded in recent years.I am reading more history now than before and loving it. Ironically perhaps, reading more straight history, so to speak, has made me appreciate historical fiction more.

I am reading more history now than before and loving it. Ironically perhaps, reading more straight history, so to speak, has made me appreciate historical fiction more.I think it makes it easier to see or guess at the depth of research a historical fiction author has to do to be able to set the scenes of their “world” properly and to carry their readers with them. Get one historical detail wrong and that whole world could crash.

I think it makes it easier to see or guess at the depth of research a historical fiction author has to do to be able to set the scenes of their “world” properly and to carry their readers with them. Get one historical detail wrong and that whole world could crash.This is the big advantage of fiction, of course. You can and do totally make it up! But set a story in a known historical setting or with known historical people, then the details must be authentic.

This is the big advantage of fiction, of course. You can and do totally make it up! But set a story in a known historical setting or with known historical people, then the details must be authentic.

I like the fact that non-fiction has been, in recent years, using more of the techniques in fiction to catch readers’ imaginations. Non-fiction should never be a deadly dull list of dates and facts.

Good non-fiction opens up the world it is written about and makes it real to the reader. This is very similar to a fiction writer portraying characters the ready can really identify with. Catching the imagination is vital whatever genre you write in then.

Personal history can often be found in things like old exercise books, which in turn reveal things about political history and how much people knew at the time. Image via Pixabay.

Personal history can often be found in things like old exercise books, which in turn reveal things about political history and how much people knew at the time. Image via Pixabay.

Fairytales with Bite

I look at the reality behind fairytales for this week’s post.

Can there be reality behind fairytales?  I think so.

Writers are always advised to write about what you know (which can be difficult for authors of sci-fi, horror and fantasy in particular when you stop and think about it!  We are inventing new worlds. How can we possibly “know” something that does not exist except on our pages?  I suppose the what we know here is knowing in good enough detail the world we’ve created and inventing characters readers can identify with.  Knowledge of human nature is crucial here).

But there is reality in fairytales.  Not just of character types.  Whatever world you write about, characteristics do not change much.  There will always be those who lust for power, the oppressed, those who fight back, those who go on seemingly impossible quests because they have to save something/someone and this is the only way to do it and so on.  (Great stories come from the last category alone, think The Lord of the Rings to name but one).

When I think of a realistic fairytale, my mind nearly always turns to Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Match Girl.  Definitely not one of his cheerier tales but, without giving too much away, to be able to write this as well as he did, he had to know something of poverty (which he did) and I strongly suspect he actually saw real match girls which inspired this tale.  To me this story is a barely disguised report on something he saw and his underlying jibe at people being allowed to suffer like this girl did is as hardhitting now as it would have been when he first wrote the tale.

Often with fairytales it is the message behind them that is the realistic bit.  I think this is why fairytales have always resonated with people and always will.

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There can be reality behind fairytales. Image via Pixabay (and image used as part of book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again)

 

This World and Others

I talk about being well prepared for this week’s post (and I was!).

The importance of good preparation is something that comes up in my Chandler’s Ford Today post tonight where I talk about book launches and share a report from a recent one by children’s author, Anne Wan.

Does this mean you should never write “off the cuff”?  Funnily enough, no.

I have brainstorming sessions every so often which I find incredibly useful for producing potential ideas for future stories and blog posts.  There is no planning or preparation for this whatsoever.

This is unlike everything else I write though. I do sketch out a structure for the articles I write. I have my beginning, middle and end in mind before I start writing.

I outline my stories (sometimes in lots of detail, others with “broad brush strokes” and yes I’ve done this for my flash fiction work too!).

I find this kind of preparation, whether it is for fiction or non-fiction, helps me produce more work, not less. I think it helps me write more efficiently when it comes to producing the actual piece.  This blog post, for instance, I knew I would share something of how I work as a “peg” to hang the rest the piece from.  And that to me seems a good place to end this other than to say comments on how you work, what preparation you find useful etc would be most welcome.

Have a good writing week!

 

Writing first, editing later but both needed - image via Pixabay

Writing first and editing later but good preparation makes an enormous difference to your progress on either.  Being prepared with a good beverage is ALWAYS a good idea!  Image via Pixabay.

 

Book Reviews – From Light to Dark and Back Again

May I take this chance to say a very big thanks to all who’ve reviewed my book so far in either paperback or Kindle format.  Whether it’s a one-line or a one paragraph review, they are all much appreciated! The link takes you to the Amazon page showing both formats.  I am also pleased I now have my copies of The Best of Cafelit 6 where I have a flash story but I’ll share more on this on my next post.  This week has been busy but enjoyable, writing wise.

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NEW ANTHOLOGY, A BOOK FAIR AND HOW I FELL INTO FLASH FICTION

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Delighted to say I received my copies of The Best of Cafelit 6 today. My flash fiction tale, Pressing the Flesh, is in there but there is a lovely range of short and long stories in the anthology. Highly recommend even if I wasn’t in it (though I admit that does give me an incentive!). Am also looking forward to the Bridge House/Cafelit celebration event in December. It is always good fun and it will be nice to meet other authors in the collections given we usually only get to meet on Facebook. Great and useful though that is, there is something nice about actually meeting the writer though.

The link takes you to the Amazon page for the book.  There’s a nice range of stories from flash fiction to standard length short stories and a good mix of styles.  Go on, have a look!

Looking forward to the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair in the Age Concern Centre in Brownhill Road on 28th October from 10 am to 12 noon. There is a nice range of authors taking part with different genres represented including YA, short stories, romantic comedy, my own flash fiction and many more besides. So there should be something to suit the book lovers in your life (which I hope would include you too!).

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My CFT post this week will be an update from Anne Wan about her book launch went for Secrets of the Snow Globe – Shooting Star. This is the second book in her Snow Globe series and these will also be at the Book Fair. Book launches are vital not just for the author but often for the bookshop or other venue in which they are held. Events do get people through the doors.

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Many thanks to Catherine Griffin for supplying the Book Fair poster, to Anne Wan for her poster and the last image shows Anne and I at Bay Leaves Larder in Chandler’s Ford. I had just interviewed Anne for a CFT post when this image was taken.

Anne Wan and Allison Symes at Bay Leaves Larder

Anne and I enjoyed a lovely chat at Bay Leaves Larder when I interviewed her for Chandler’s Ford Today.

 

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I thought I’d share a quick post I put up yesterday which looked at why we write.

What is the real reason you write? To express yourself through story? Because you absolutely have to write and could no more stop yourself doing so than hold the sea in a sieve? (I think you’re allowed one bit of colourful description and that’s mine for tonight!).

Deep down for me, there is a feeling I need to give back to the world of story for the great joy it has (and continues) to give me. The way to give back is to create stories of my own and to put them out there.

There is also the sheer love of the written word and a desire to preserve the printed word. (I don’t see the Kindle etc as a threat. It is merely another format for story. I also don’t think anything can ever stop the appeal of a paperback. It is a question of getting stories out there in different formats and leaving it to your audience as to which format they prefer).

Sometimes, especially when feeling bogged down, it can pay to take a little time out to focus on why you write. It can help re-invigorate the old creative spark. Going to see stories performed (by live reading, theatre productions etc) is also good for the literary soul.

The important thing is to love stories and to love writing them. I couldn’t tell you how many rejections I’ve had (I definitely could wallpaper the room of my house with them!) but onwards and upwards has to be the motto. Else you make no progress. It is also true the more you write the more you improve and increase your chances of being accepted.

Stunning place in which to read and review - image via Pixabay

What a place in which to read!  Image via Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was thrilled to be part of Jennifer C Wilson’s blog last Sunday with a piece called Falling into Flash Fiction. I talked about how I came into writing flash (it was a happy accident!) and shared two new stories, which I hope will make it into the follow-up to From Light to Dark and Back Again. (Many thanks to Jennifer for not only hosting me but for also linking to her lovely review of my book. Both are much appreciated!).

The real trigger point was my willingness to have a go at writing flash to see if I could meet Cafelit’s 100 Word Challenge. So do be prepared to try new forms of writing. You never know where it may lead you. I had never anticipated being published in flash format yet here I am!

What is also nice about flash fiction’s growing popularity is that a fair number of well respected competitions are now adding it as a category. For example, The Bridport Prize and the Winchester Writers’ Festival now have flash as specific competitions. There are several online competitions too and then there are the websites such as Cafelit where there is a standing invitation to submit stories.

I very much hope the growth in flash fiction continues. I would love it if people, perhaps reluctant to read, become avid readers, because they loved reading flash and then decided they wanted to read longer works of fiction.

 

Today, I have as a visitor the lovely Allison Symes, to tell us how she fell into flash fiction, and all about the writing form. You can read my review of Allison’s collection From Light to D…
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Books make wonderful gifts. Image via Pixabay.

WHAT YOUR CHARACTERS DON’T WANT TO HEAR

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

It’s the turn of the letters R, S and T in A to Z of Character Creation, Part 7.   R = Reading and I look at how literate your world/characters are.  S = Style and I discuss what style your writing is – is it easy to read?  Do your characters come across well?  T = Timing and I ask how punctual your characters are and if any of them obsess about time.  That kind of behaviour reveals a lot about a person (not least of which is their being a bit OCD!).

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

What Your Characters Don’t Want to Hear looks at characterisation from a different angle.  Your characters need to be needed.  If they’re not moving the story on or contributing to it positively in some way, they should be written out. Characters also need to be unique creations so no “lego” building of characters as this will also lead to cliche.

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I am delighted to say one of my flash fiction stories will appear in The Best of Cafelit 6 later in the year.  This came as a very nice surprise!  In my post, I also talk about my follow up book to From Light to Dark and Back Again and  how I’m planning to use my time better at Swanwick this year.

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FACEBOOK – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

Naturally I share my publication news again (!) but I also talk about getting back to resubmitting work more regularly once the summer is hope and I hopefully have sorted out my late father’s estate..  I also mention what the Chandler’s Ford Writer’s Hub will be up to in the next few months – I am now a member of this and there’s some very good events and ideas coming forward.

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Books help you wind down. Was glad of them after a stressful weekend. Pity this option is not available to my border collie. Still lots of cuddles did the trick there! Image via Pixabay.

Books help you wind down. Was glad of them after a stressful weekend. Pity this option is not available to my border collie. Still lots of cuddles did the trick there! Image via Pixabay.