Writing Challenge, Advice, Story Video and Interview News

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. It has been a busy few days but fun!

Picture below gives you an idea of what is coming up (and I am glad to report my recording for the international writing summit last week went very well. Am looking forward to sharing more on that as soon as I can).

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Facebook – General

I had an interesting writing challenge today. Some of you may know I’m the Membership Secretary of The Association of Christian Writers and on our Facebook page today, I was “thrown the gauntlet” by #WendyHJones to come up with a flash fiction piece involving certain words. Those words were “gentle, throat, print, chairs, church”. Now I often use all kinds of random generators to come up with story idea triggers (e.g. random words, numbers, questions even).

So did I meet Wendy’s challenge? But of course… here is the result.

A gentle clear of the throat was all I needed as I looked at my work. The print run was done. The service sheets were on all of the chairs. I checked that three times. I can’t wait until I resume my old task and welcome people back to church.
Allison Symes – 23rd February 2021 – approximately 9.30 am!

I don’t often get to write a piece of flash fiction before I get to take the dog out for her big playtime/walk! Lovely creative and fun start to a Tuesday. Many thanks, Wendy.

Hope your Monday has gone okay. A huge thanks for the great response to my new Book Brush adverts yesterday (see images in next post down). I was pleased with how they turned out.

Finally nailed down a longer flash piece I’d been working on for a while, polished it, and submitted it. Sometimes it goes like that. I know I needed to tighten the piece up but didn’t see immediately how to do it. Time away from the piece worked wonders (so I do take my own advice, at least some of the time!).

Am looking forward to sending my first author newsletter on 1st March. I’ve gone for the 1st as it’s an easy date to remember. It would not surprise me at all if 99.9% of all authors with a newsletter have also gone for the 1st for their chosen date! If you want to know more do check out my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ – you go straight to the sign-up page here. (I’ve changed my original home page to this one as it makes more sense).

If you want to know more about my flash collections, do go to my website and then on to my Books page where you will find my trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will repeat below too.

The plan with the newsletter is to share writing tips, news, and flash stories before they are published anywhere else. Hope to see you aboard (and many thanks to those who have signed up so far).

Newsletter advert

I’ve been having fun with Book Brush again creating a couple of adverts for my website and books. See below! I love this kind of thing but have to make sure I “play” like this once and only once I’ve got my writing done for the day. It’s too easy to lose lots of time with this kind of marketing as it is so much fun.

Seriously though, given every writer has to market their books, you do need to find ways that you can enjoy (and therefore keep going for the long term). I haven’t engaged with Instagram or Pinterest at all but am loving creating the videos for my Youtube channel. So that gives me a visual medium to enjoy working with (and when I add free to use music tracks it’s an audio one too).

You also need to decide what you’re going to try marketing/social media wise, what works for you and what doesn’t, but I must admit I find the hardest thing to get right is apportioning time to writing new material/revising draft material and marketing. It’s not an easy balancing act and every writer I know faces this dilemma.

When you have a new or relatively new book out, you know you’ve got to concentrate on the marketing for some time to give that book its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world. What’s tricky is working out when to stop and back pedal a bit so you can get on and produce new writing that will make it into another book for marketing later on.

I try to make sure some of my writing sessions during the week are for purely writing (though this post counts as both writing and marketing!). Others are for purely marketing or developing materials to use for marketing, If I can look back over the week and see I have managed a good amount on both, I’m happy. I can’t claim any scientific method to this, far from it, but it works for me. I’ve also accepted nobody ever gets this totally right. It is working out what is right for you.

Delighted to share another fab review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks #MaggieFarran.

Reviews help authors more than non-writers, I think, might always realise. If you wonder whether it is worth doing, basically the answer to that is yes, it is! And Maggie’s great example shows a review does not have to be long (or take long).

In other news, I spent Friday night recording my presentation for the international writing summit I mentioned earlier this week. All went well. I loved doing it. Many thanks for all the support and prayers from writing friends. I was calmer than I thought I would be and that helped a lot. And I can really worry when I put my mind to it, trust me on that.

The ironic thing here is you do need a certain amount of adrenaline going here. It helps fuel your creativity funnily enough but if you have too much of it, it tips over into anxiety etc and that definitely does not help you come across well.

As for the summit itself, I hope to have links etc in early March and am looking forward to sharing those.

Next week, I’m due to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her North Manchester FM radio show so am busy getting ready for that. All great fun and I love to talk about writing, specifically flash fiction, so this will be huge fun to do. Will share links for that as and when I have them though it will be after the show goes out. The nice thing here is my publisher, Chapeltown Books, is Manchester based so a nice link there.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my A Bad Day for A Fairy Godmother story video yesterday. See below. The Youtube videos are proving to be a great way to share one and two line flash tales. Those one and two liners in turn make great vehicles for humorous/slightly off the wall/both kind of stories, which I adore writing.

And it’s a sad day indeed when there isn’t time for a short, sharp, funny flash tale.

Now it is thought that Cinders’ glass slipper was a mis-translation. It was meant to be a fur slipper (though these days I would hope it would be a fake fur slipper and that’s as “political” as I get, folks). Having said that, the idea of it being the fairy godmother’s spell going wrong was fun to run with so I did! (Oh and no glass or any other kind of slipper was needed for me to do that!).

Am looking forward to being interviewed tomorrow afternoon by #HannahKate for North Manchester FM. Will share links as and when I get them but it will be good to wave the flag for flash fiction.

If you want proof anyone can have a bad day, check our my latest Youtube flash fiction video (made using Book Brush, uploading to Youtube, and then adding a free to use audio clip from Youtube’s audio library. A big thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for putting me on to that. I’ve had a lot of fun picking music tracks for my stories – and music is wonderful for setting mood).

I’ve found over time (a lot of time!) my natural flash fiction “home” is the 100 to 500 words mark.

For the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition though, I had to write to 1000 words and for all three of my winning entries (Progressing, The Professional, and Books and the Barbarians), I came in at about the 990 mark.

Unless a competition or market says it has to be so many words, nothing more, nothing less, I always take off about ten words from the final count to allow for any changes to title and so on. There is always something at the last minute before you submit work that you need to change and you must factor that into your overall word count restriction and give yourself enough time to make any changes. No last minute submissions for me then. I like to know I am well within the date set for entries to be in by too.

Also bear in mind for the majority of these things, the word count is the maximum you write to and, unless the rules state otherwise, it is okay to come in at under that count. I like to do so to make absolutely sure there is no way I’m going over the limit. (In most competitions, going over by even one word is enough to instantly dismiss your entry because it is not fair to do otherwise on those who have stuck to the word count rules so it is worth making sure you do have this right).

For this competition, I felt an appropriate count for me, to give me word count room for changes etc., would be at about the 990 mark. I try to pitch these things so I am not far off the limit but am still under it. And it works!

A tip I’ve found useful is when you’re not sure what to write next, get some drafts done. In my case I draft flash fiction and blogs of course. When you haven’t got a lot of time but could draft something, do so (and the great thing with flash is with its short word count, this can be done in a relatively short period of time. I’ve drafted a 100 worder in 10 minutes for example). Why mention this?

It’s just that you get periods when you are busy marketing in some way so having the time to create something new can be difficult. You do run out of time but by having drafts to hand, I can pull one of those, work on it, ensure I’m happy with it and then get it out somewhere quite quickly. It means even when my main work has to be those other things, some new flash fiction is being created, based on those drafts written a few weeks back. It is worth having a stock of drafts like this.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Sells a Book to You

What would you say sells a book to you once you have read it? You’ve loved the cover, the blurb, and you’ve enjoyed the story but what was the stand out element for you?

For me, it is always about the characters. They have to grip me so I want to follow their story through. They don’t necessarily have to be likeable. They do have to be memorable. I have to understand where they are coming from, even if I disagree with the route they’ve taken. And if a character makes me want to shout at them or what have you, then that’s a good sign. It means they’ve engaged me, even if they’ve annoyed me! I then look further at why they’ve annoyed me too.

What I really dislike are insipid characters because you think what is the point of their story. No writer wants that one!

Twitter Corner

 

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New Blogging Spot, Launches in Lockdown – The Finale, and Flash Talking

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Have had a great time on the blogs this week too. I share below my first post for Authors Electric and am looking forward to writing more for them.

Many thanks to all of my fabulous guests for my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown. Book cover and author pics provided tonight by #AmandaJones (aka Amanda Baber), #GailAldwin, and #Gill James.

And a very familiar sight here… I had better get on and add THIS post!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share the finale of my zeitgeist series, Launches in Lockdown. Many thanks to everyone for taking part. The feedback on this series has been stunning. Thanks, all.

Tonight I chat with #AmandaJones (aka Amanda Baber), #GailAldwin, and #GillJames.

Usually my CFT series are only three parters but there was such a wealth of information to share, I knew I had to expand this. And I could think of many excellent authors I would have loved to have added to this so the series could have been much longer!

In the meantime, I hope you continue to find the series useful and informative. And good luck to all who are launching books this year.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

Am delighted to now be blogging for Authors Electric on the 18th of each month. For my first post, I thought I’d share some of my life changing books. Have you any nominations?

Further to my earlier post about Authors Electric, I couldn’t resist the temptation to nominate some of my favourite and life changing books. So I didn’t! The trick here is limiting it to a few! And that is tough.

A while back for Chandler’s Ford Today, I wrote a post called Desert Island Books where I could take eight and that was also tough. Good fun to write though. Blogging stretches the little old grey cells and makes you think not just about content but how to present that in an entertaining way to readers.

So let’s hear it for the blog! A fabulous invention (and really the modern equivalent of writing a diary or journal I think but with capacity for more. Not many diaries or journals end up published. I’m not including the fictional ones here (I loved the Adrian Mole ones). Blog posts can inspire article ideas which might be published elsewhere. Besides which the blogs themselves are published and can be shared easily with a far wider audience than a private journal).

Talking of CFT, the finale of my series Launches in Lockdown is up on site tomorrow. A massive thank you to all of my guests for this series ranging from Authors Reach, the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit and, naturally, Chapeltown Books. Naturally as my flash fiction collections are published by them and appropriately for my post tomorrow, I shall be talking to the creative force behind the last three contributing places – Gill James.

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If you’re wondering who the handsome stone gentleman is, it is Richard III, picture from Pixabay. Go to my Authors Electric blog and see why he is relevant (after reading the rest of this of course!).

Every so often I will take time out to brain storm. Sometimes I set myself a task such as to brain storm ideas for future story titles. Sometimes I jot down character templates so I have “ready made” people good to go for future stories. Often when I do the latter, one of the characters takes my fancy and I start working out situations where they would shine (for good or for ill) and before I know it I have another flash story drafted.

So brain storming is a great idea! It’s also a fabulous way to use those pockets of time when you don’t have time to write much but you are itching to write something. And if you use a warm up writing exercise before you do your main writing work, well not why not look to brain storm as a form of exercise? It will encourage creative and lateral thinking and that is always a good thing, no matter what your main writing work might be.

(Oh and a good place to start with brain storming is to play a game of Word Association but just write down what you come up with. Links will start forming).

To quote that wonderful detective, Columbo, just one more thing – I’m looking forward to sharing my first blog for Authors Electric tomorrow. (See above!).

 

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The magnificent Columbo as played by the late Peter Falk. Pixabay image.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A little later this evening, I shall be recording my flash fiction presentation which will be part of an international writing summit that will be “out” in March. I’m looking forward to sharing links etc when I have them but meantime it is a privilege to speak about a form of writing I am passionate about.

Flash fiction is my big writing love. The impact of the very short form of story writing has impacted me a lot! I hope it continues to do so!

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My two flash collections – and to think I discovered flash fiction by accident!

Many thanks for the great response to my flash fiction and word count tip post yesterday. I guess I can speak from direct experience in saying that the more you write, the more you learn.

Using flash fiction as a warm up writing exercise is something writers in other fields might consider doing to “flex” the old creative muscles. The nice thing of course now is that those writing exercises when suitably polished up and edited could well find a market or competition now that flash has taken off as a genre.

One word of warning though. I have found flash fiction (and indeed blogging) incredibly addictive so once you’re in, you’re in, but that’s not a problem for me!

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When I first started writing flash fiction, I worked to specific word counts, especially the drabble at 100 words. I do still do that but more often these days, I will get the story down, rest it, edit it, and then decide on the word count. Why? Because I have found some tales simply work better with more depth at 200 words, than 100, say, and it is then a case of finding the right market/competition for the 200-worder. And that’s fine.

I have learned not to squeeze something to fit a word count. The story has to be the right length for what it is and not be made to fit something it really doesn’t quite suit. But it has taken me a while to learn how to judge when to leave well alone, I must admit!

Fairytales With Bite – Non-Magical Characters in a Magical World

Do you have any non-magical characters in your magical story worlds? If so, how do they manage? What have they got that perhaps the magical ones need and which helps guarantee survival?

This could be something as simple as the magical ones will lose some or all of their powers if they harm the others (and who is going to want to risk that?). Maybe food has to be grown and produced using normal agricultural techniques and those with magical powers aren’t going to dirty their hands doing that kind of work?!

You could also explore the frictions between the two different groups. Do the non-magicals resent those with powers (or vice versa – maybe the magicals see the others as a waste of space but cannot act against them?).

For me, I would have a lot of sympathy with a non-magical character using the skills and talents they have (and maybe some luck) to end up being the hero/heroine over and above those who are more obviously talented than they are. I think this is one reason I am so fond of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of The Rings. I like the characters who are under-estimated precisely because they don’t have powers.

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This World and Others – Codes

What role do codes play in your stories? I’m thinking of several different kinds of code here:-

Codes of conduct – (what happens when these are breached? You just know someone will breach them!).

Codes used in language – (maybe certain groups use terms which are meaningless to anyone but others from their groups and it would seem like code to those not in the know)

Mathematical codes – (are there machines which need coding? If so what are these, what codes are used, what are these machines used for? And the purpose could be anything from the simple to the sinister).

Codes used for spying – (who is being spied on and why? What encryptions are used in your fictional creation? Who is the spymaster and who do they work for?).

What happens when the codes are breached or broken? Would this threaten the security of your characters and/or their world? How can they overcome that and undo the damage done?

Plenty to think about there!

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Guest Blogging, Intelligent Life, and Books For the Professions

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

My author picture taken by my other half, Adrian Symes.

Hope the weather is as okay as possible where you are – it has been rather cold here. There is a beauty about snow and ice but I prefer to admire it from indoors!

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Facebook – General

Had some snow today but by mid-afternoon most had melted. Anyone else thinking no matter how many layers you do put on, it still isn’t enough? Okay, not just me then.

Looking forward to sharing Part 4 of Launches in Lockdown on Friday where I’ll be talking to the first batch of writers from CafeLit, Chapeltown Books, and Bridge House Publishing.

Again encouraging comments are coming in for this series so a big thanks for that. And I hope it does inspire writers who are wondering how on earth to hold their launches this year with ideas for just how they can!

There will be one part of this series on Friday week and after that I plan to write a round-up of what I’ve been doing as there have been developments over the last few weeks I’m longing to share. By the time this post is due, I should be able to share what I would like to share!

It is one of the oddities of the writing life that things tend to come in batches and often when you’re not expecting them. Still it all keeps me out of mischief and on my toes.

Most of my time at the moment is taken up with writing various non-fiction items which I’ll be sharing later in February and into March (and will be part of my round-up CFT post too). All good fun to do though.

I am enjoying making my short story videos for Youtube. They’re great adverts for my work and a fantastic way to share one and two line stories. (And all counts as part of my marketing of course!). See below for my most recent one, Intelligent Life.

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Facebook – General – Guest Blog Appearance

Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, #ElizabethDucie, for hosting me on her blog today. Great fun to take part and I will have to get around to having the T-shirt made up (see the post itself for why!). It’s also appropriate for me when I’m wearing my editor’s hat (again see the post for why – come on, no spoilers here!).

I hope to meet up with Elizabeth again in August when hopefully Swanwick will be running again. She carries out sterling service running the Swanwick Book Room, something I know is much appreciated by everyone. (And it will be so nice having more than one book of mine there next time!).

No snow as yet here in my part of the world but the wind is building up in strength and it is so cold out there. Still nothing better than to settle down to my writing for this evening with a big mug of Options Hot Chocolate in my favourite Creme Egg mug alongside! (The irony here – the hot chocolate has far less calories in it than the Creme Egg!).

Fiction writers, what would you say was your favourite thing to write? For me it is either dialogue or a character’s internal thoughts and for the same reason – these show something of your character to your reader. These help your readers form judgments about those characters (and of course the fun then starts as your reader carries on with the story to find out if those thoughts were right or not!).

Managed to submit my short story today. Followed my own advice to take off a couple of weeks from the official deadline. Just as well I did too as I spotted an error in the way I’d titled my story. It has to be one of those which are submitted anonymously and I had missed something here so that was sorted out pronto and story then submitted.

It always pays to double and even triple check you’ve got your submission right for the requirements of the publisher or competition. That is never wasted time!

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Hope Saturday has been okay. We actually had some sunshine today and Lady had a bonus surprise as she got to see her best buddie over at the park today. Both dogs thrilled to see each other. Never let anyone tell you dogs can’t feel emotions – they so do. (Still a right mudfest in the park, mind you).

Writing wise I’m preparing material which I can say more about in March. Yes, I know (!) though March will be here before we know it. Am champing at the bit to share the news but it will keep for now!

I’m hoping to submit a short story later this weekend (probably tomorrow I think). Very happy with my character – she makes me laugh and yes she is meant to so if she does this for me, hopefully she’ll do so for others though it will be a while before I know the result. Delighted to have two stories in CafeLit 10 for later this year too.

Am also preparing and editing future blog material.

Worst writing challenge? I think it is knowing when to say that’s it, get the story or article out there, and test the water. The way I gauge things here is looking to see if any other changes would really add anything to the story. If the answer is no, then it’s time to get the work out there.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the likes for my Intelligent Life short story video yesterday. Much appreciated.

And the videos are different ways of getting the stories across, which pleases me. They make me think laterally about what images would work best for the story. Sometimes there are direct links (as in the UFO in this one). Sometimes I find a plain landscape background works better especially if I haven’t set a story anywhere specific in time or space.

I use Book Brush to create the videos, I upload them to Youtube, and then edit that to include an audio track. Did I think I’d be doing things like this when I first started writing seriously? Absolutely not for the good reason the technology to do it simply wasn’t there! I am from the era where Pacman was the thing in computer graphics (younger readers, check out the picture! It really was like that).

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Is there intelligent life on earth? Well, my latest flash fiction story video gives two views on that. Which do you agree with?!

Oh and I think I found the perfect soundtrack for this one – many thanks, Youtube!

Online marketing and social media became even more important for writers and publishers in 2020


Flash tales work well across the genres, which is one of the things I love most about it, but I also feel humour comes across especially well here.

As you are looking to impact your reader with an emotional response with your story, why not go for the laugh? I often use twist endings in my stories but a good punchline is fabulous to end a story on and I love reading such as well as writing them. (Couldn’t we all do with stories that make you feel good right now? And a giggie is a fab way to go here!).

Also if you have a funny scene from a longer story that you can’t justify keeping in there because it interrupts the flow, doesn’t really add anything to the tale etc., instead of just binning the material, could you take another look at it and turn it into a self-contained flash piece? Would be worth a go I would have thought. If it works, you’ve got a piece you can submit elsewhere.

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For my author FB page tonight, I mentioned that one of the worst challenges for a writer is knowing when a work is finished and it really is time to get the work out there somewhere. I judge this by asking honestly if any further changes really would do anything more for the story. When the answer is no, the story gets sent out. Now this does apply to flash fiction obviously though there is one more check I do and it specifically relates to the flash fiction format.

Why? Because I am thinking of two things with my flash tales – impact and word count (and in that order too).

So my last edit on a flash story is to check certain phrases to make sure I have used the best, strongest words to conjure up the image I want readers to see and that the story does have the impact I want it to have.

An odd tweak here and there can make all the difference but when you have got to this point, you know this will be the final edit and after that the story gets sent out.

If I end up with a choice between two words and both have the same kind of impact, I go for the one that my character is most likely to think or say. If I have a pompous character, say, then whatever they come up with is going to reflect that pomposity (and hopefully in a humorous way too!).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books for the Professions

At the end (almost) of a busy week, I thought I’d share books for the professions. Some of these may have been edited a little!

Plumbers – Leak House, David Copperpipe.

Lawyers – Pride and (Without) Prejudice

Postmen – Going Postal (no editing there!) and any of the old penny dreadfuls though for these good people they would naturally become the old penny blacks!

Tree Surgeons – Wind in the Willows (also a good one for weather forecasters), The (tree) House on Pooh Corner.

Writers – The War of the Words, James and the Giant Pen

Interior Decorators – Curtain (Agatha Christie’s last Poirot novel).

Dentists – White Teeth (what else?!).

I’m very fond of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, which is on Radio 4, where the panellists will often have to come up with books or film titles for a specific profession. All good fun. Hope you enjoyed these and do send in your suggestions for suitable books for certain jobs.

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Titles,Writing Magazine, Publication News, and Part 3 of Launches in Lockdown (and Lady news update!)

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A huge thank you to Val Penny and Jen Wilson for their author pics and book cover images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

This post title should indicate what kind of week I’ve had – good but busy! Am just hoping the drink in the Pixabay picture below is a nice hot chocolate… I’m not a coffee fan. (I know, I know, writers are supposed to be but there you go).

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The advice and tips given in this series so far has been top-notch, not to be missed etc., (and the good news is there is more to come!). A huge thank you to #JenWilson and #ValPenny for their contributions this week.

Jen, Val, and I are huge fans of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is where we met and we are all hoping to meet up again there this year after last year’s event sadly had to be cancelled due to You Know What. We are also part of a team there called the Prosecco Queens (anyone fancy a guess at why we went for that name? Anybody? Anybody at all?!).

Last week’s post was from writers from the Association of Christian Writers. Now I mentioned earlier this week one of the joys of reading Writing Magazine is spotting how many of your writing pals you spot in between the covers, so to speak. I have to say it is usually a fairly even split between people I know from Swanwick and people I know from ACW. Keep going, folks!

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Hope Thursday has worked out okay for you. Glad to report Lady is now running again (and is very happy to be doing so, I can tell you). Mind you, it does look like she’s had a mud bath by the time I get her home. Thank goodness for my late mum’s old towels… perfect for dog cleaning duty! Also thanks goodness for an excellent washing machine!

Writing wise, I am looking forward to sharing part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up for that tomorrow.

This week I feature two fabulous guests and writing friends I’ve come to know thanks to the marvellous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (So not only have I learned from the wonderful courses there, I’ve made fantastic friends and they are the best support any writer can have. Who else but another writer knows the elation when things are going well and you have work out there? Equally who better to sympathise with when rejections are all that seem to appear in your inbox?).

Further news. I had a fab time appearing on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show last week. I’ll be writing a CFT piece about that and resharing the link once the Launches series has finished so that is my CFT diary full for February!

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One of joys of subscribing to Writing Magazine is opening it up and spotting your writer friends in there. This month it’s my turn! My February edition has just come in and I’m on the Subscribers’ News page, talking about my happy writing accident in discovering the joys of flash fiction writing. Naturally my website and Tripping the Flash Fantastic get a mention! (And It was fab my publishers Chapeltown Books had a good write-up last time).

Also delighted to see another 5 star rating come in for From Light to Dark and Back Again. A good day then!

Lady had her first proper but limited run today and loved it. Her paw is fine. The only thing we could have wished for was better weather but it is supposed to improve as the week goes on.

Looking forward to my first blog appearing on Authors Electric on the 18th. Meanwhile do check the excellent posts out there at https://authorselectric.blogspot.com/

Towards the end of this month is going to be a bit busy as I’ve lined an interview up amongst other things and I’m looking forward to all of that (and to being able to say more about the other things too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve discussed titles before here but it is an important topic and they carry more weight in flash fiction stories than in other types of fiction. Why?

Firstly, the right title will set the mood and tone of the story in and of itself and that will save you on the word count for the tale itself.

Secondly, some websites and competitions do include the title as part of the word count (so always watch for that) so you want the title to do some of the “heavy lifting” for you.

Some other thoughts:-

  • Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.
  • Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).
  • Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am fond of the latter as it gives so much flexibility but there are times I want to set the mood so I choose an appropriate title accordingly.
  • Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!
  • Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with isn’t working for you. I find I need a title to work “to” when drafting but have changed it when a better idea comes up.

I’ve had the privilege of judging a flash fiction competition, which was interesting to do, but I was surprised to find some stories didn’t have titles with them. The really important thing to remember about a title is it is your story’s first “advert” to hook the reader in with and you want to make the most of that.

Remember only the Ten Commandments were set in stone so my advice would be to go with a working title and then change it later if you think of better (and that often does happen as you write the story. A better idea will “just come to you”. Note it and then examine it later in the cold light of day to see if it is as good as you thought and/or better than your initial idea. If it is, go for it!).

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I’ve often discussed, especially on my author FB page, the joy of outlining. I find it helpful to outline my characters. Now can you do all of that for a 50 or 100 word piece of flash fiction? Of course you can!

Like the story itself, the outline won’t be a long one, that is all. Less than a short paragraph like this usually does the job nicely – and I then get straight into writing the tale. Prep helps a lot! I’ve found it saves me a lot of time later as the outline has stopped me from going off at a tangent etc. Tangents are fun but are often not relevant to the character or plot so they shouldn’t go in. Everything has to be relevant!

So for a flash fiction outline (and especially for those tales which will be under 500 words), I ask myself a couple of questions.

  • Why do I want to write about this character? (In many ways it is for this character, it is their story I’m telling).
  • What mood is the story going to be? (This does affect the type of character I’m going to produce for the tale. If I want a funny tale, you don’t necessarily need a funny character to service it. What you do want are characters full of their own importance who need taking down a peg or several. That’s where the humour is, not necessarily directly in the character. Often a character who thinks they are funny are not and can often be tragic.).

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Publication News

Many thanks for the great response yesterday to my plug for CafeLit now the list of those appearing in The Best of CafeLit 10 is now known. (And yes this is another crafty way of getting another mention in for CafeLit and the book!). Yes, it does include me – see next post down. Sometimes a date order blog round up goes against you!!

For me the success of any story, regardless of its length, depends on the character(s). If they grip me, I’m reading the rest of the story, book or what you. If they don’t…. Well, life is just too short to perservere with something that just isn’t engaging me.

And that is the continuing challenge for me as a writer. Just how can I make my characters appeal to a reader (and especially one who may well not have come across my work before. There is a certain truth in the saying you only have the one chance to make a first impression and with my stories, I want my characters to hook readers in right from the start. You have got to have that “must find out what happens next” moment and to keep that going until you do reach the end).

One way I try to achieve this is to come up with characters readers can understand. They don’t have to like them but they do have to get where the character is from (and ideally ask themselves if I was this character, would I be doing this? If not, what would I be doing instead? If a reader is asking questions like that from a character, you know what character has intrigued them to keep on reading).

This is where outlining the character helps. And the great thing is you can pick the kind of outline that suits you. I don’t particularly need to know what my character looks like (that can come later) but I do need to know what their major traits are and what their flaws are. Think about what you would want to know from your character if you could interview them “for real” and use that as a basis for a useful outline template you can use over and over again.


Fairytales With Bite – When the Wand Isn’t Enough….

Okay, we’re in a magical world in our stories. How can a wand ever not be enough?

Well, firstly, if a wave of the old wand solves every problem, you haven’t got any stories to write. Where is the conflict in that? Problem A arises. Problem A gets resolved with said wave of magic wand. There’s no character development. And just reading problems being resolved like that will become boring so quickly! Readers want to find out what the characters do and how they react and it takes more than a wave of the magic wand to really show readers what the characters are truly made of. Are they sterling stuff or treacherous rats etc?

Also when everyone has a reasonable amount of magical power, there has to be a way of distinguishing between them (and it helps your readers to tell them apart too).

It is also a reasonable assumption to work on that some species will have more powers than others either by learning or by inheritance or both so what do the weaker species do to ensure they can survive? They’ve got to find ways of beating “their betters” without the use of magic (and that’s when stories can become really interesting. Characters are having to think on their feet here though of course you as the writer have planned this all out!).

So just as writers we shouldn’t rely on magic or coincidences getting our characters out of trouble, the characters themselves need more than the old magic wand waving too.

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This World and Others – What do Characters think of their Environment?

The answer to this question will also tell readers a fair bit about what your characters are like.

Do they care about the environment or are they oblivious to it?

If your created world has different climates and regions, are the characters you’re writing about aware of all of this or is there a certain amount of Here Be Dragons about their attitudes?

Here Be Dragons was something written on old maps where a map maker had literally got to the limits of where they were prepared to go to make their maps so anything unknown had this slogan added to it! They could get away with it because it was highly unlikely anyone was going to challenge them (and I’m sure they worked on the theory, well there could be dragons!). (Never get away with it now due to Google etc!).

How characters treat the world around them is likely to flag up to readers how they are likely to treat other characters. One of my own favourite characters in Losing Myself from Tripping The Flash Fantastic appears to be one who cares much more about the environment and natural world than any other of her own kind. That was an interesting story to write because it made me think deeply about what would make a character be or become that way.

And then there will the opposite – those who do not see or care about the environment around them. How did they get to be that way? And is there a point where they have to change their attitude?

So my lead question here can be a great way into some interesting story ideas.

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Twitter Corner



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CafeLit Publication News and News of a Poorly Paw!

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And the great thing with books and stories? They can take you anywhere in space and time. You just need to enjoy the journey!

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Publication News

Delighted to receive the list of all who will be in The Best of Cafelit 10 later this year. It is a big list too! Always lovely to spot my name in said list!

Congratulations everyone and many thanks to all who voted for my two stories, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of the Day Job, to be included. It will be lovely to be “between the CafeLit covers” with friends, old and new. And don’t forget you can always check out the previous CafeLit anthologies. They are a wonderful mixture of styles and moods with something to suit most.

And if you want to know more, I can do no better than take you to my Amazon Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

I’ve had the joy of being published in several of these (the most recent being CafeLit 8 and 9). And they make perfect books for dipping into if you are between “big”reads and don’t know which will be your next one.

Give the short form collections a try!

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock up

Am not sorry to see the back of January. Goes on for far too long but in positive news, Lady is going from strength to strength (see poorly paw story further down!), and my snowdrops are in bloom in the garden. That’s a positive for any time but especially for a Monday I think.

Many thanks for the wonderful responses to the Launches in Lockdown series so far on Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll be sharing invaluable insights from two fab writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this Friday. What my guests and I all hope is that this series will be encouraging and helpful to those writers who are having their launches this year, when none of us can be certain about what will happen and when in terms of lockdown restrictions easing etc.

One thing I have learned as a writer of many years standing (and of course sitting!) is a little encouragement and good tips do go a very long way. I hope they do for you too.


Many thanks for your best wishes over Lady’s poorly paw. Am glad to report she is feeling much better and has cheered up considerably. The claw will grow back so the next time she might experience a little discomfort will be when that comes through again probably in a couple of weeks or so. (A bit like us with teeth really!).

Having said that, Lady is a young, highly active dog, and this is the kind of accident that does happen to dogs like her though Lady would be glad (as would I) if it didn’t happen again! The other good thing though is young active dogs do recover quickly which is a mercy.

Writing wise, I’m setting up interviews at the moment where I’m on the other side of the interview desk. Am looking forward to sharing more details as and when I can.

I’m also working on something else which will end up on my website right here (!) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and again I look forward to sharing more details when I can. It’s been something I’ve been toying with doing for a while and something has cropped up that has told me, yes go for it, so I am!

The writing life is often like this. You make some developments, then you need to build on that so you end up doing more! But this is a good thing. The writing life is not meant to be static. What is lovely is looking back every so often and seeing where you’ve come from while looking ahead to further developments and seeing where they take you. And, as ever, the best thing is to enjoy the journey.

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Hope your Saturday has gone well. Now in dog news, I have to report Lady is recovering from a poorly paw.

Apologies in advance if you’re eating but she managed to rip a claw. Vet removed claw and sealed the wound. Claw will grow back. Not a great day yesterday, Lady understandably feeling sorry for herself, but much better today and is coming on leaps and bounds.

I just need to stop her doing literal leaps and bounds for a couple of days to make sure all is as well as it should be. Huge thanks to Lady’s bestie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her human mum for the fuss and cuddles you gave Lady yesterday. It was the only bright spot in her day yesterday!

Okay that’s the kind of drama no dog owner ever wants to have (but inevitably gets every so often. It’s why you insure your pets!). How about the kind of drama writers want?

I must admit I don’t like melodrama. Never have. It’s always struck me as being over the top but what I do want to see is actions and reactions that arise naturally from the characters and the situation they’re in. (So no aliens landing at Mansfield Park for me. I don’t really get the mash-ups. I understand either genre – sci-fi and classic here – but not the pair together).

I want to be able to feel that yes, this character could do this because they have shown they can be silly so to be silly again is not unexpected and, as a result, the situation they find themselves in has the potential to become very silly indeed. But that all ties up and I guess that is the point.

Character = situation = one develops from the other. For me, the character always comes first. Get them set up correctly and the situations will arise naturally. Even in fantasy with magical elements, this applies. You’ve established your character is in a magical world and what abilities they have or lack so the situation will arise from that.

And the situation will always involve conflict. If a character wants more powers than they’ve got, what will they do to achieve more? Do it the proper way and learn their skills or try to cheat their way to the top? But get your character set up and you can take them where you want to and more importantly take your readers with you.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to say two of my flash tales, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of The Day Job, will be in The Best of CafeLit 10 later this year. Nice start to February! Don’t forget to check out the Cafelit site for a wide range of stories, short and long, at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/

You can find my page at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/Allison%20Symes

And of course it is CafeLit I have to thank for introducing me to the wonders of flash fiction so I am definitely going to plug them whenever I can!

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Hope you enjoy my new story video – The Dragon and The Clock. These shorts are great fun to do and a marvellous way to share one and two line flash tales!

 

I’ve always loved writing and reading dialogue and hearing characters speak. (Also in reading between the lines of what they’re saying so you get a sense of the real character behind what they say).

When I’m reviewing stories, I try to listen to my characters, that the words I’ve given them I can “hear” them saying, and nothing is inappropriate or out of kilter for them. I often speak work out loud, especially dialogue (and the great thing with flash is this is easy to do and doesn’t take long!).

Speaking dialogue out loud is the sure way to pick up any thing that does not ring true or if what looks right written down is tricky to say out loud. If you find it tricky, so will your readers. I try to stick to the Keep It Simple principle for writing (and especially for dialogue). It works.

Now with my flash fiction, I often have stories with only one character. So yes, I do get them to speak out loud. You can, of course, get them to speak into a phone. But much of what applies to dialogue writing can also apply to writing internal thoughts. After all that is the character talking to themselves so again the style of thought, what they’re coming up with, should be apt for the character you’ve created.


I approach writing a flash fiction story in several ways.

  • I have a prepared character I want to put in a situation and see what happens.
  • I have a theme I want to write to (or one I’m having a crack at for a competition, say) so I know what I’m writing about from the get go. It’s a question of picking the right character for this kind of story.
  • I brain storm ideas for titles, pick a few I like and then work out what kind of characters would work for these and then go with the ones I like the most.
  • I know the ending to a story (and this is almost always a twist tale) and it is just a question of working out how the story would get to that point. That almost inevitably leads to the kind of character who would end up in a twist like that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What I Like to See In A Book

Hmm… this is a good statement, isn’t it? I could give chapter and verse here, appropriately, but for me one thing only is key to whether a book is good or not.

It’s all down to the characters. Do they grip me? Do they get me rooting for them to succeed or fail? (Funnily enough, either is fine, and I do love to see a “good” villain get their comeuppance eventually. I blame my love of fairytales for that one).

If a character does not grip me, I switch off. I love Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett is a fabulous character and ahead of her time. She says what she thinks and I love that.

Conversely, I am not gripped by Mansfield Park as I think the heroine there is dull and, to my mind, not worth of being a heroine. Her happy ending does depend on the misfortunes of others, in my view, but Elizabeth had to work for hers and it was by no means certain it would happen until close to the end.

I wanted to see Miss Price do so much more to “earn” her happy ending but there you go. (I guess it’s a kind of warning to all writers that even the best can come up with characters who don’t engage with their readers and I know there are those who love Mansfield Park but it has never done anything for me because of this).

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Twitter Corner

 

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Writing Joys, Podcast News, and Launches in Lockdown 2

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Thanks to #RichardHardie, #FrancescaTyer, and #TeresaBassett for supplying images used below too.

A huge thank you to #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones for their images and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today Launches In Lockdown series this week.

And I am delighted to say I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show earlier this week. Will share link further down. I talk about writing regular columns for online magazines.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Launches in Lockdown Part 2

What a busy day it has been as there are two posts on here from me tonight!

For this post, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I think if I can make a claim to write a zeitgeist series, this one is it!

Part 2 tonight shares wonderful insights from three authors from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m the Membership Secretary). #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones have all had books out in the very recent past and have plenty of useful tips and thoughts to share in this week’s post.

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Next week I’ll be chatting to writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

It is very much an Association of Christian Writers weekend for me as I am at an online Committee meeting tonight and tomorrow. Much will be said. Much will be done. All thanks to Zoom!

And it is my turn on the ACW More Than Writers blog too. This month, I use my spot to talk about Writing Joys. I can’t stress enough how important it is to love what you write. (Okay you won’t all the time, nobody does, but you should be looking forward to your writing sessions and what you’re working on most of the time. It is that love for the work which drives you and can help keep you going during the tougher writing times which happen to us all).

Delighted to say my interview with Richard Hardie recently on Chandler’s Ford Today is now up on the Authors Reach website (very much with my blessing!). Authors Reach is Richard’s publishing company and I was chatting to him about the challenges he has faced as an author and publisher during the pandemic. The AR link is https://www.authorsreach.co.uk/post/richard-hardie-authors-reach-and-lockdown – well worth another read!

And tomorrow sees Part 2 of my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown, go live. This week I’ll be chatting to three lovely writers from the Association of Christian Writers – #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones. One of them has also come up with the funniest book title of 2020 in my view. You’ll have to wait for the post tomorrow to find out who the author is and whether you agree with me or not! (Trouble with doing a blog round up in reverse date order is you will already have spotted the answer to this one!!).

PODCAST NEWS –

WENDY H JONES CHATS TO ALLISON SYMES

Am thrilled to share the link to my interview by Wendy H Jones for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. I talk about writing a regular column (for Chandler’s Ford Today), how I find ideas (and keep coming up with them) and the joys of an online magazine.

With more of us using technology to read (smartphones, I-pads etc), it makes a huge amount of sense to have intelligent, interesting, and entertaining content available for that technology. And online magazines do need writers to provide it. Hope you enjoy. And many thanks, Wendy, for hosting me again. It was such fun to do!

Podcast News:  https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-writing-and-marketing-show/episode/writing-a-newspaper-column-81142120

Screenshot_2021-01-27 The Writing and Marketing Show - Writing a Newspaper Column on Stitcher

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A huge thanks to everyone for the great responses so far to my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown. Whether you’ve been launching flash fiction collections (as I have) or longer works, I think it is fair to say the last 12 months have been difficult. But social media and Zoom have helped.

And I think this all shows the importance of networking too. Thanks to networking over the last few years, I have a lovely wide range of people to approach for CFT interviews, but it does also mean that same pool can be invited to my launches.

Naturally this is two-way traffic. I get invited to theirs and I go to as many as I can. You learn from what other writers do and they learn from you too. I love the give and take of the writing world here.

I guess also writing flash is excellent practice for writing short, pithy pieces for your online book launches too!

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Am thrilled to see a great number of views for my recent story video, Dress Sense. The thought of Red Riding Hood giving the Big Bad Wolf fashion tips has obviously gone down well! Many thanks, everyone. (Oh and I think she’s right by the way – see the link and see what you think!).

Dress Sense Video Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVs_GEWh5To

Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer in paperback on Amazon at the moment. Go on, pick up a bargain! See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

F = Fun to write
L = Lively character(s)
A = Action immediately
S = Stories great for ending with a twist
H = Heroes/heroines are dropped right in it from the start

F = Finite story length but you do have some choice
I = Imagination intense to make an intense story work
C = Character(s) has/have to grip you immediately.
T = Tension, yes there’s plenty of that and not a lot of space to resolve it.
I = Intensity can vary. Reflective pieces can work well but the character has to be compelling to make that successful.
O = Oh my… what is your flash tale’s ‘oh my’ moment?
N = Narrative take? I often favour first person.

Thought I’d share another story video here – hope you enjoy.

Fairytales with Bite – Magical Reading

What kind of books would your magical characters read? Would they read about uses of magic or do they want to get away from all of that? Well, it would make sense if they did. I know when I read I want to escape the every day world and its cares. In a magical world, the magic is the everyday world and its cares! Same old, same old, and all that!

Having said that, maybe they would want to carry out research and use it to improve their skills.
Some suggestions for possible research reading material then though I accept the titles could do with some work (and abbreviating!):-

Fairies – 10001 Things To Do With Your Wand Not Involving Turning People Into Frogs

Witches – How to Sabotage Fairy Spells So They Produce Useless Things Like Glass Slippers – A Beginner’s Guide.

Wizards – How to Produce the Perfect Smoke Ring Without Appearing to Use Magic To Do It

Elves – How To Be A Right Cobbler (see the story of The Elves and the Shoemaker here).

Dwarves – Gold and How To Find It (always of interest)

Dragons – Wing Technique for the Bigger Flying Animal and How To Get It Right and Surprise Your Prey (and I am assuming dragons are very intelligent creatures who can read, so there!).

And talking of dragons, let’s hear another story from their viewpoint.

 

This World and Others – Education, Education…..Er…. What Does Your Fictional World Consider to be Education?

So what would your created world consider to be a good standard of education? Is it just the ability to read and write? Would there be topics like history, geography, any of the sciences etc? And is the education open to all but only a few?

In an uneducated world (judging by our standards only), how would news be communicated to those who cannot read? Does the lack of an education hold people back or have they not known anything else? Is there any sense of people wanting to improve their situation here?

And if so, what or whom is stopping them and for what purposes? (Usually it is a question of being able to control people who don’t enough to question things but what if the ruler has genuine reasons for fearing what education could do? Are they right? What are those fears? How can those fears be misproved and the ruler shown a good standard of education would be beneficial?).

If there are schools, colleges etc., do they resemble what we have here? What are the differences?

And if education has always been around, how has it progressed or is it progressing during the course of your story?

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Twitter Corner

 

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An Electric Author and Podcast News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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

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

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

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

Screenshot_2021-01-26 Allison Symes

 

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

Dress Sense Video Link

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading/Writing Guides

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

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

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

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

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

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Launches In Lockdown – New CFT Series

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. 

Author pics and book cover images kindly supplied by the authors themselves in my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown.

Tonight’s images here are supplied by me, Allison Symes, (!), #TeresaBassett, and #FrancescaTyer.

And whatever you write, being creative with stories, non-fiction etc, is always a good thing!

Whatever kind of writing you do, exercises help you improve what you do

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I have been so looking forward to writing and sharing this post. My new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown, starts now and will run for the next few weeks.

I talk to a wide variety of authors about their experiences launching a book in such trying conditions, what they did, what they felt worked well, what they learned from the kind of launch they were able to hold and so on.

Fascinating insights to come from writers from The Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books.

But first up tonight are:-

1. Me! I share my experiences from launching Tripping The Flash Fantastic in 2020.
2. Writers from Authors Reach, Richard Hardie’s publishing company. You may recall I interviewed him last week about the challenges he has faced as a writer and as a publisher. Tonight, firmly from the writing desk, I chat to #TeresaBassett and #Francesca Tyer about how they fared as they launched The Time Crystals and The Firestone respectively.

A huge thank you to all of my guests over the next few weeks for taking part in this. If ever I could be said to have written a zeitgeist series, I think this is it! And everyone shares wonderful tips and advice so plenty to take in here.

But for now I hope you enjoy Part 1.

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Nice to have sunshine today after yesterday’s storms. Lady appreciated it too (and playing with one of her other pals, Coco). The mud levels over the park are something else, mind you! Am so glad of my boots and suspect I shall be living in these until March at the earliest.

When is your best time to write? I mainly write in the late afternoons and evenings though if I can sneak in extra time to write, I’ll do so. I just need to start writing and away I go.

Best time for reading is bedtime though I love catching up with various writing magazines over lunch (and it was a real pleasure to discover a mention for Chapeltown Books in Writing Magazine yesterday).

Had a lovely time joining in with #writingchat yesterday. The topics are always interesting and make me thing. Learn a lot from it too. It is the main writing group I’m involved with on Twitter.

And last not but not least just a quick reminder my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow is Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown. (See above!). As well as sharing my experiences from last year, I talk to Authors Reach writers, Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking to authors from the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books. Plenty of insights and thoughtful tips tomorrow and in the other posts to come. Looking forward to sharing them all.

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Delighted to read a wonderful piece about my publishers, Chapeltown Books, in this month’s Writing Magazine. Check out the Writers’ News section at the back and the UK Book Market piece. I do like having a quick look through the magazine when it comes in so I can play the “spot the person I know” game on the letters page, the competition winners and runners-up etc. It is a bad month if I spot less than four! I then read the articles at lunch so I’ve only just come to this bit! (CafeLit and Bridge House get a mention too).

I was right on one thing today – Lady and I did get a soaking this morning though it has eased off a bit since. Winds are still high though.

Am still reading London – The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. It is a fascinating read (though it is a long one. Let’s just say you don’t want to drop the paperback on your foot, yet alone the hardback!). All sorts of stories tucked into a wonderful work of non-fiction. It’s easy to take in information when it’s presented in an entertaining way as it is here – and that’s something for all writers to aspire to, whether we write fiction, non-fiction or both.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I love about working with Chapeltown Books is being able to contribute to what appears on the book cover. That doesn’t always happen with publishers. I must admit I had a lot of fun picking suitable images from Pixabay for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic.

For FLTDBA I chose the rippling circles to indicate stories have impact. Even the smallest flash fiction tale has the impact to move a reader. Also many of my stories have characters who are not always are as they appear to be and the rippling circles to me indicated characters capable of being disturbing and causing ripples in life wherever they go.

For TTFF the castle with the lights on reflects the fact I have historical flash fiction pieces in this book. I also think there is a sense of mystery, the unknown, about that castle and who might live in it. Given I write a lot of fantasy/fairytale with bite type stories, that was an appropriate image for me to convey.

It did take me a while to work out a shortlist of suitable images but it is so worth taking time over. When your book finally reaches you and you take the first one out of your parcel, you want to be so proud of it. You want people to be drawn to and intrigued by your cover (and then hopefully by the contents too!).


Every so often I will write a flash tale in poetic form and some of these appeared in Tripping The Flash Fantastic. This is an interesting challenge as you need to get the story down and ensure it is a proper tale and then get the rhythm of the poem right. I am partial to rhyming poems (and even more so to a good limerick!) so I like that kind of pace in my verses, but I have learned that the language you use has to be natural to you and make sense to the story. Forced rhymes stand out.

But this kind of scrutinizing what you are writing and why and have I really chosen the best word to (a) suit the story and (b) suit the rhyming pattern I’ve set up does keep you on your toes and worth having a go at if you want to stretch yourself a bit.

The majority of my stories will always be in “straight” prose but a spot of variety every now and again does no harm! That is also why I sometimes write tales as acrostics. The nice thing with those is there is a visual element to them and so they work quite well for posts on Facebook, story videos and so on. Even better for the story videos are the one to two line flash stories as you don’t want anything to be too long here. Never give the reader/viewer a chance to lose interest!

Do I identify with my characters? Hmm… now there’s a leading question!

The answer is mostly! I know, I know, very helpful – not! So what do I mean by this?

Most of my characters I like. I can identify with them easily enough. But I don’t like all of them. I can think of a fair few I would not want to meet in life! So how I can write about characters like that convincingly?

I try to identify why my characters are the way they are and there is usually something I can latch on to there.

Understanding where your characters come from does not mean agreeing with their choices! Understanding where they come from means you will write their story with more conviction. I mean I can see how and why Gollum in The Lord of the Rings turned out the way he did. Do I agree with him? No!

Getting into your characters’ heads is not always a comfortable experience, indeed it often shouldn’t be (as my crime and horror writing colleagues would no doubt confirm!). Even with the characters you like, they can’t be goody-goody. You need to be able to see and understand what their flaws are and how those play out in your story.

You can have the most wonderful character but what will really make them come to life for your reader is when they fail or screw up in some way. Okay your character overcomes that and goes on to better things but it is that failure which drives that change to overcome and that is what fascinates a reader. I know it always fascinates me.

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Fairytales with Bite – The Problems with a Magical World

The major problem with a magical world is it is a magical world! Er… yes… but how come that is the issue? You want to write about a magical world after all!

True but the problems come in simply because if every character can just resolve problems by a wave of the old magic wand, either that world is going to come to a stalemate (as characters cancel other characters’ spells out) or it is going to blow itself apart with all that magic flying around. So there have to be some rules and that is where life gets more interesting. You as the author decide on what the rules will be and yes, that’s the fun bit! But you do need to be consistent with how you apply these.

If you decide certain species in your creation cannot do magic at all, that’s going to give them a major disadvantage against those you’ve decided can do magic. What’s to stop the latter from wiping the former out altogether? So every species then, whether magical or not, has to have something to ensure their survival.

Equally if everyone is going to be magical, what are the limits to ensure nobody can blow the world up by mistake?! Who sets the limits? Who polices them? Those with fewer powers will need to have some safeguards against those with much more (again to prevent them from being wiped out), so what will these be? Can magic, say, only be used in daylight hours? Can using magic drain people of energy so they have to be careful how much of it they use?

The other problem with a magical world is how is it going to treat neighbouring worlds/countries who are not magical? Will they treat them with contempt? Or will they ignore the non-magical kinds even when the latter could do with some assistance because they’re faced with, say, an illness devastating their people that they know the magical lot could help them overcome?

Plenty of food for thought there but I hope this highlights magic can cause as many problems as it seems to solve and that in turn can make for some interesting stories.

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This World and Others – Dilemmas to Solve when World Building

This post follows on from the Fairytales with Bite piece above. There are plenty of dilemmas to resolve when world building, including the use of magic as mentioned above. You also need to decide how much of the geography and history of the world your readers need to know to make sense of your story. Also how do you get that information across?

I like to get characters to show me things wherever possible so I make them look at things and show me what they think of what they are seeing. If I mention Character A takes a brief look at the ugly Civic Hall, you know they’re in a town, they don’t think much of the architecture, and are clearly looking for something of more interest to them and whatever their quest may be. All of that in one sentence too!

There will be certain things you need to spell out to a reader. For example, if your characters need oxygen masks to be able to go outside, you need to mention that early on (and the reason why – it might not be an obvious one!). As the story develops, readers will get used to “seeing” your characters with these masks on and you won’t need much if any description later.

But I think it is a question here of knowing broadly what your story is going to be and from that working out how much your readers need to know. From there you can work out how to dripfeed that information into the story so readers pick it up almost unconsciously. No need for reams of description which can put people off.

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The Interview Fence and Humorous Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And below – well books are such magical places to be, are they not?

 

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Nice big walk with Lady today before the weather set in. Not looking forward to tomorrow. I suspect Lady and I are going to get a good soaking, no matter what time I take her out.

Have drafted answers to second set of interview questions so will be reviewing those and sending them off to the interviewer probably tomorrow.

Now I am on both sides of the interview fence of course. I love questions which draw a writer out of their shell a bit. So questions which always find favour with me will include things like:-

Why do you write what you do? What made you pick that genre?

This is a fab question as it makes you think well why did I pick that route and why am I still sticking with it? In my case with the flash fiction it is because I love the challenge and variety of it. But that sort of question makes you re-evaluate what you’re doing and that’s a good thing. It should confirm you really do love what you write and it is that love which keeps you going during the tougher times of the writing life.

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Hope Monday has been okay for you. Very busy with the old domestics today. Only too glad to get to my desk and write. Writing relaxes me and I always feel so much better for having got something down on the old laptop.

Looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT on Friday. As well as sharing my experiences with Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I’ll be talking to two Authors Reach writers – Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer. Plenty of useful tips and thoughts given “normal” writing events won’t be back with us for a while, even if everything does go well with controlling, and eventually beating, You Know What.

Still one lovely thing about writing is there is always plenty to be getting on with and it is something positive to focus on. My goal for this week is to return the other set of interview questions I’m working on and prepare material for something special I hope to talk more about in the next month or so.

Plus there are always stories to work on and the new idea I referred to yesterday for a draft I’ve got prepared is something else I hope to write up later this week. I always jot down ideas like this in fairly detailed notes when I know I can’t write something up immediately. I’ve found it’s the only way to make sure I don’t forget something important.

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It is great fun being on the receiving end of the interview questions. I’ve just sent one batch back and will be working on another set but what is great is these questions stretch me and make me think. They make me think about what I write but also how and why. That’s a good thing. It pays writers every so often to take a step back and remind yourself of why you do what you do here. I look forward to sharing the links on these interviews later on.

Have drafted a story for submission, rested it for a week, and as so often happens a better idea for how to end the story has occurred to me so that will be going in. That is the whole point of resting a piece of work (and it applies equally well to non-fiction). You need distance between when you first wrote the piece and then when you look at it again.

Time away does help you see things more clearly, including where the story might be strengthened (and that is always worth doing. Someone said you should try not to write the boring bits that people skip when they read. It’s equally true you should try not to write the “weak” bits as people skip those bits too and you want readers hanging on your every written word!).

Had a lovely couple of writing Zooms over the weekend. Great fun to catch up with everyone and a much appreciated morale boost for yours truly – these things always are.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glad I delayed taking Lady out as the weather went from grotty to cold but sunny. She liked that too.

Just to say the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer via Amazon. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more on that. Many thanks for all of the fabulous reviews so far on this. Would always welcome more of course!

Whether it is for my book(s) or those of any other author, well thought out reviews are always welcome. They don’t have to be long and can be as simple as I liked this book because…. Or my favourite story is …………. etc. A couple of minutes and you’re done and you’re supporting authors too. So what’s not to like?!

Of course one problem all writers have faced in the last 12 months has been the lack of our usual writing events to promote and sell our wares. This is why I wanted to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today.

That starts next week but my interview with Richard Hardie yesterday was insightful as to the challenges faced by publishers. I’ve found it pays to understand something about the way publishers operate as that helps me in turn to tailor my approaches in them in such a way it increases the chances of acceptances! It really does make sense, folks!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Is there anything about longer forms of writing I miss when it comes to focusing on flash ficton storytelling?
I suppose if there is anything, it is the lack of subplots. There simply isn’t the room for any in a sub-500 words flash story. (You can get a simple one in if you write up to the 1000 word limit and I have done this with my story Rewards from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Also this is a good story if you want to be wary of how you upset someone with the power to get their revenge in print!).

But then I do see the joys of novels with their twists and turns as something to savour separately from the flash tales where I do just focus on the one important moment. And the great thing?

Both have their place in storytelling.

Both have their place on my writing and reading lists!

And there’s nothing to stop you writing in more than one form.


Wow! Many thanks for the huge response to my most recent Book Brush adverts involving my flash fiction collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. That came as a very nice surprise after a tiring Monday. (I hadn’t twigged today is so-called Blue Monday. Mondays are tough days regardless of when in the year they are! I wonder if that is why Bank Holiday Mondays seem to be more of a holiday than they are. It’s not just a question of getting a day off, we’re getting a Monday off!).

I thought I’d reshare one of my most popular story videos from my Youtube channel. Last Request lives up to its title! Hope you enjoy. (I often create a new story over the weekend but did not have time to do so this time. Mind you, this story is a good example of the kind of quirky tale I love reading and writing).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXGNt9XndN8

F = Fun to Write
L = Language to be direct and specific
A = Action – conveyed in as few words as possible
S = Story complete in and of itself
H = Hero/heroine but room for only 1 or 2 characters.

F = Fairytales and fantasy work well in a flash format
I = Imagination – let it run riot and then hone what you come up with to produce a piece of hard hitting flash fiction
C = Characters. Have to make impact quickly as flash fiction has to be character led.
T = Truth – flash fiction is as capable of conveying truths about the human condition as an epic novel!
I = Intense. Has to be due to the word count restrictions (but that makes truth hit home quicker and harder)
O = Omnipresent narration can work well in flash.
N = No restrictions on what genre of story you use for flash.

TTFF - posh chairBookBrushImage-2021-1-3-16-443BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939


Have been having fun with Book Brush again re promoting for FLTDBA and TTFF. Easy to do too. (See above pics though the phone one I created a little while ago but is a favourite of mine).

One of the things I do enjoy on the promoting side is being able to share some of the stories. Flash doesn’t take long to read so it makes quite a good advert for itself!

A good advert is one you can remember years later so the ideal for book straplines is to try and do the same with those. This is where flash fiction writing can help, especially practising writing the one-liners. But it takes time, it is not always easy to judge if you’ve got it right so beta readers and the like can be an enormous help here.

Am looking forward to getting my third collection together too. That is one my tasks for this year. I’ve written a fair amount already but will be getting the rest up together while I rest my non-fiction project. These are the two major things I want to submit later this year. I like the balance of having a fiction and a non-fiction to work on and I did find using NaNoWriMo incredibly helpful so will be open to using that structure again.

Below is the video I created for the Waterloo Arts Festival back in the summer of 2020 as that had to go online. I share an extract from my story Books and the Barbarians here and talk a little about my work. Hope you enjoy.

Goodreads Author Blog – Humorous Books

If ever there was a time for humorous books, it is now isn’t it? Something to cheer people up with and I must admit I was pleased to see that sales of P.G. Wodehouse books have gone up during the pandemic. (I hope the same has happened with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books too).

And of course humour creeps into other genres too, including crime and horror. I do love a witty one-liner from a character where you know the character is capable of coming up with such things.

It is a bugbear of mind that humorous books aren’t taken more seriously. They are “proper” literature and shouldn’t be looked down on. If anything a writer capable of writing humour should be lauded simply because it is not the easiest thing to do. Humour is subjective after all.

Mind you, the written word has a huge advantage here. I love “seeing” puns come out, where appropriate to the storyline. Language, and playing with it to make stories, should be fun and I like to see fun in the final results.

I guess this may well be one reason that misery memoir really is not for me, no matter how well written it is. I’ve got to have some cheer somewhere and even a gripping crime novel, with the odd bit of humour in it, will always work better for me than that.

Have you any favourite funny books you turn to for literally light reading relief as and when you need it?

 

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