Trains and Wish Lists for Writers

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It was a joy to write about trains for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. It is one of my favourite inventions. I share how it has affected my writing (in terms of how I use a train journey and writing events I get to) and share some links to some great places to visit connected with the train. All of this just ahead of my going to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event tomorrow. Naturally I’m travelling by train!

Yes, I did have a train set as a kid, shared with my sister, but you can’t beat going on the real thing and I’ve loved trips on the Fort William to Mallaig line (think Harry Potter) and the Watercress Line amongst others. (The latter has a Permanent Way sign on one of their engineering sheds as a tribute to Terry Pratchett. They also have an old advert for Nosegay tobacco – make of that what you will – see the post for the picture proving it!).

One thing I didn’t mention in the post was I love stories connected to trains too. I’ve always loved Agatha Christie’s 4.50 from Paddington (a Miss Marple story) – and who could forget Murder on the Orient Express? And I’ll always have fond memories of my book signing at my local railway station. That was good fun. (Many thanks to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their help there and I’m pleased to advertise their Mulled Wine and Mince Pie event coming up on 13th December. See the post for more).

Oh and my favourite Terry Pratchett story? Very hard to say but I do adore Raising Steam.  Captions over on the CFT post, as always, but I will say a big thank you to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their poster for their Mulled Wine and Mince Pie event.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Had lovely day in Dorset celebrating wedding anniversary with other half and Lady. Plenty of walking and very fresh air! Hope both prove to be inspiring!

Many thanks to all who read my story Staying In on Cafelit earlier this is nice to know it did very well in the number of reads for the period. Things like this are so encouraging.

If there was a wish list for writers I would include:-

1. Encouragement to always come when most needed.

2. Time to somehow magically expand when the writing is going well and you are on a roll.

3. Inspiration to always come when most needed.

4. Always knowing not only have you found the right publisher before submitting work you have sent them the perfect pitch.

5. Never running out of paper, computer consumables, and good ideas!

And below is Lady having a fab time on West Bay beach!

Lady having a good time at West Bay

Lady having a good time at West Bay in Dorset. Image by Allison Symes.

What dates have special meaning for your characters and why? How do they celebrate key events/mark the more sombre ones? Do they live in an environment where commemorations/celebrations are enforced? If so, what led to that and do they toe the line or rebel? What are their reasons?

Questions like these are useful for fleshing out the characters you want to write about but also their setting (which can often be treated as a character in its own right).

In flash fiction, I have to hint at a setting but for standard short stories (1500 words +), there is more room for manoeuvre. I’ve found that the telling details (often only a line or two) are the ones that create the greatest impression of the world you’re trying to convey and so have the biggest impact on a reader.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event tomorrow and enjoying hearing fellow writers read their creations. I love being read to – doesn’t happen often enough (though this is where audio books are brilliant).

I’m planning to read some of my flash fiction stories too and this is where my favourite type – the 100 worders – come into their own. Short and with a sting in the tale. What’s not to like?! Looking forward to sharing new material and an old favourite or two.

I hope to write further stories on the train. I usually get a couple drafted, along with blog posts etc.

And one of the best ways of showing someone what flash fiction is simply to read them an example!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What do you like your characters to be? I like mine to show spirit, whether or not that stance is justified! I also have a very soft spot for the older hero/heroine.

All of that is fine but I have to watch out I don’t just write characters who are all like that.

It can be a challenge to write about characters I dislike. The even bigger challenge is ensuring I do that so a reader would never know!

It can be really satisfying though when a character you don’t particularly like wins you round by the end of the story you’ve put them in.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All fiction writers are given the advice to show, not tell in their stories. It’s even more crucial for flash fiction writers to do so. We have to imply so much and leave readers to fill in the gaps (which is just one very good reason why I love reading and writing flash. I’ve always loved filling in the gaps – and yes I was a huge dot to dot fan for much the same reason when I was a kid! I HAVE to fill the gaps in!).

All we can show you is this brief moment in a character’s life and its impact on them. You should be able to see the point of every flash fiction story and why this moment is important to that character. I’m particularly fond of those stories which leave me wondering at the end whether I would have made the same choices as the character. A story that encourages you to think is a very good thing indeed.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 3

O = Obscure Origins. Fairytales love their lead characters to have humble beginnings. Many a hero has sprung from there. So never despite anyone coming from such a background. In the fairytale world, they usually go on to greatness.

P = Poverty. This is often an underlying theme. Look at Cinderella. She was made to live in poverty. The fairytale world generally looks kindly on such and will go out of its way to help. Good news if you are that person. Less good news if you’re the one forcing the character to live like this in the first place. There is a comeuppance in most fairytales and you will face it.

Q = Queens. Don’t always get a good press in the fairytale world. Just ask Snow White’s stepmother. Alternatively, there are those such as Sleeping Beauty’s mother, who struggles for a long time to conceive (there is a whole story there which would resonate), gives birth to the heroine, but is not even named (which I think is a great shame).

R = Royalty in general. There is a right royal mixed bag here. The fairytale world is full of princes who aggravate magical beings (Beauty and the Beast), kings who send their three sons out on missions (and it will always be the youngest one who succeeds), and those who try to prevent a bad spell from ever being activated by burning all the spinning wheels in the kingdom. Nice try that but the king concerned should have guessed it only needed one to escape that particular edict and for story purposes that was bound to happen, wasn’t it? Even kings are bound by the rules of story in the fairytale world.

S = Story. There has to be a beginning, a middle and, a lot of the time, a happy ending though The Little Mermaid and The Little Match Girl are notable exceptions to the latter. But it is also true in the fairytale world that the hero/heroine will overcome all obstacles in their way, sometimes with magical assistance. The story is usually a test of character for that hero/heroine and they have to pass it.

T = Time. Most fairytale stories play out over a relatively short period of time (Sleeping Beauty notwithstanding!). What always begs the question for me is why did Cinderella’s fairy godmother turn up so late to help her goddaughter, who clearly needed help much sooner?!

Final section next time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Visiting Fictional Worlds

A recent question which came up on my Goodreads page was which fictional worlds would you visit if you could and why? Well, my choice was Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings, as I’ve always loved its portrayal and the films just confirmed what I had already imagined this glorious place would be like. I also liked the hobbit holes and fancy one myself as they look lovely and cosy. Mind you, I’m under 5′ tall so I would probably fit in quite well! I must admit though I’d happily give Mordor a miss.

My second choice would be Narnia from The Chronicles of Narnia, though I would ensure I wrapped up well (see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for why!). I wouldn’t mind visiting Harry Potter’s Hogwarts either. I like the look of the school grounds! (And to tie in beautifully for this week, I would love to get to Hogwarts on their train!).

So where would you go if you could and why?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.













In A to Z of Character Creation Part 3 I tackle the letters F, G and H.  I look at Fiction, Genre and History and look at how these affect characters.


Getting the Word out looks briefly at publicity regarding your books/stories.  I suppose the thing I’ve taken most to heart since the publication of From Light to Dark and Back Again is the importance of not panicking!  I hope to write many more books and so will always be promoting whatever I have written.  Therefore I don’t/won’t be putting myself under an artificial deadline to get things done by. So do what you can publicity wise and do it well.  Nobody does all the different things you are “meant” to do in one hit anyway!


My latest CFT post, shared on Facebook and Twitter amongst others, is Why Have Book Signings? Report from the Station.  I look back at my first book signing at Chandler’s Ford Railway Station (last week!) and why such events are important and not just for the author.  I look at how signings can create community too.  I also take the chance to say a big thanks to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their support and without whom I would not have had my signing.

Feature Image - Why have book signings



All photos were taken by me, Allison Symes, on 8th July 2017, except the feature image.  That was taken by my lovely Chandler’s Ford Today editor, Janet Williams, at my first book signing event at our local railway station. And to all who bought From Light to Dark and Back Again and/or came over to discuss flash fiction with me, many thanks.  It was great to meet you.


When Fairytales Come True looks at how characters handle when things go right for them, they get to achieve long cherished dreams etc.  This post came about because I fulfilled a long held dream today.  I had my first ever book signing for From Light to Dark and Back Again at Chandler’s Ford Railway Station and it went well.  I plan to write more about that for next week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post – Adventures of a Newbie Author Part 1, perhaps!  But the thought of having a long held dream actually happen made me wonder how characters handle success, especially if they have had to wait a long time for it.  So how would your characters handle this?  There could be some good stories here.


Overcoming the Nerves also ties in with my book signing!  Well they do say, authors should write about what they know!  For me, characters who overcome nervousness, fear etc and go on to do something great are real heroes.  They are also far more believable (and readable) than “fully fledged” heroes who never seem to feel or show emotion, who never question themselves so to what they are doing and why.  So what do your characters need to overcome in terms of their personality to be able to go on the adventure you’re planning for them?


Naturally I focus on the book signing but also take the chance to thank those who supported me, especially the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership.



Stories (and indeed most books of any kind) are magical. Image via Pixabay.


Busy night tonight.


I share news of my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post (link to follow) and my book signing for From Light to Dark and Back Again at the local railway station tomorrow (8th July).  Many thanks to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their support here.  I hope it will be fun!

My main post here tonight is Fairytale Marketing and looks at the downside of magical marketing.  Since when has exchanging a good cow for a handful of beans ever been a good deal?  Loved writing this.  I like ironic pieces.   Hope you do too.


My post Ready or Not looks at being ready for book signings (so I definitely wrote this one for me tonight as an aide memoir!) but also being ready for doing your own marketing work, co-operating with your publisher and so on.  I also look at whether your characters are ready for the tasks you have set them and whether the story is in their failure or whether it is in them rising to the occasion and doing far better than anyone expects.


A long post from me tonight highlighting my book signing and also next weekend (15th July).  I’ll be going, hopefully, to this year’s Medieval Weekend supported by The Road to Agincourt Project.  They are launching a Virtual Museum and I’m looking forward to finding out much more about it.


Again I highlight the book signing – but no real surprises there!


Tonight’s post is all about the Medieval Weekend coming up soon.


The tools of the medieval writer's trade

The tools of the medieval writer’s trade



Sorry for the big gap in posting.  This has been due to having my father’s funeral, then having a much needed holiday and, for writing reasons at least, I’ve been setting up my first book signing for From Light to Dark and Back Again.  This will be at Chandler’s Ford Railway Station on Saturday 8th July between 9.20 am and 12 noon.  Many thanks to the Three Rivers Rail Community Parrtnership for their support.  Given you can never know how these events will go in advance, I am both looking forward to it and feeling nervous all at the same time!

I m hoping later in the year to revamp my websites and how I blog but in the meantime I am planning to get back to more regular blogging.  I also hope to finally get a newsletter up and running but I will post news on that I hope as and when ready.


I recently interviewed local children’s author, Anne Wan., for Chandler’s Ford Today and one thing that came out from this was her love and loathing of editing.  What do you think of editing? I love the editing process and I share my thoughts in Why Love Editing?


In Updates, due to the big gap in posting, I thought it would be useful to write a “round robin” of a blog post and here I share my interview with Anne Wan (Parts 1 and 2).  I also share my most recent Chandler’s Ford Today post about my upcoming book signing.




I share some examples of Fairytale Mismatches tonight.  What might happen when the Three Bears, just having had their house vandalized, meet a crone never before seen in the area selling suspiciously shiny food?  Hmm…  What might happen if Cinderella is confronted by the elves who helped the shoemaker for being careless enough to lose her glass slipper?  I think there could be some very unhappy ever after endings here!


I met Mark Miller of the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership unexpectedly today and this was lovely as they are supporting my book signing session at Chandler’s Ford Railway Station on 8th July. It was great to meet him.  I like surprises like that.  Talking of which, in Surprises – Nice or Otherwise, I ask how do your characters react to surprises?  If you write twist in the tale stories as I do, is there a twist and one that is reasonable based on the premise of your story?  Life is full of surprises, many of which are life changing.  How do your bring those into your story and how do your characters handle them?


I love interviewing other writers for Chandler’s Ford Today and I particularly relish finding out what inspired them to write in the first place.   I talk more about this in tonight’s post.  (Oh and yes I do love pictures of beautiful libraries incidentally!).


Two posts here tonight.  I talk again about meeting Mark Miller but also share a link to my review on Chandler’s Ford Today a while ago of the wonderful guide book, Station Walks, which is fully supported by the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership.  I recommend both the book and the Salisbury walks in it, though I’d like to find time to try out the other walks listed.

My second post lists some of the advantages of flash fiction.  This includes being easy to read both in terms of mobile devices (the stories look great on here and scrolling down is a doddle) but also, with print books, being easy to dip into as and when.  (Yes, I know I’m biased!).  Also there are more flash fiction competitions these days and you can even use flash as a way to draft a blurb for a book.  See my post for more.