THE PHONE CONVERSATION

Image Credit:

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thank you signage

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

cup of aromatic cappuccino with thank you words on foam

Photo by wewe yang on Pexels.com

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

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

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

Thanks again, Val. It was fab to chat!

From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

This World and Others – What Readers Need to Know

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

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

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

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

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

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Character Conversations

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Pictures of Lady are by me, Allison Symes.

Image of Val Penny was kindly supplied by her.

Image of me signing a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again taken by Jennifer C Wilson.

Image of me reading at a Bridge House event was taken by Dawn Knox.

Image of me with Tripping The Flash Fantastic was taken by Adrian Symes (Lady would’ve helped but she has not yet managed cameras!).

And after all that, down to business!


Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers blog – Character Conversations

My turn on the ACW blog today. I talk the talk and ask if you know when your characters SHOULD shut up! See link above for my Character Conversations.

I must admit conversational ping-pong with your characters can be great fun but behind dialogue in fiction, there should be a purpose. There should be a sense of moving the story on.

So I say again, do your characters know when to shut up and talking of which….

Many thanks, everyone, for the great comments on my ACW blog post today about Character Conversations. It is always nice when positive tips are shared in the comments box too!

Am thrilled to say my copies of The Best of Cafelit 9 arrived today. I have two stories in there. Humourless is a flash piece and Green Door is a standard length short story. So good to be between the covers with friends old and new in this one.

Not a bad start to the week then and it is only Tuesday!

 

Appearing on the Christmas Book Hub Facebook Page

Note: I take part in a few selected Facebook groups. A time limited one is the Christmas Book Hub and I have posted about Tripping The Flash Fantastic on there. I thought I’d flag this particular post up for the obvious marketing reasons (!) and to share a little of what I love about writing flash fiction.

Hello, everyone. One thing I love about writing flash fiction is it has to be character led. That in turn means I can set my characters wherever and whenever I want and I do!

Are there Christmas stories in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, my new collection? Oh yes. Re-living The Past and Good To Go are two stories from Santa’s point of view and were great fun to write.

And one of my poetic stories, The Working Man, looks at the Christmas tableau from the viewpoint of a carpenter. Strangely appropriate that!

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Medium


Hope your Monday went well. It was full on puppy party at the park today with Lady having a riotous time with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, and other pals. All went home shattered. Job done!

I’ve written the odd flash tale around dogs (most notably The Magician in Tripping The Flash Fantastic) but mainly getting out and about with Lady is a chance for fresh air and exercise, rather than story inspiration. And that’s fine.

The break away from the desk in itself can help your imagination. Why? Because you are giving yourself time to recharge and that’s important.

Hope you have had a good weekend. As well as the Zoom event yesterday, which was great fun, my box of goodies from a well known print company arrived on the same day.

Now I must admit to still being a big kid when it comes to opening a parcel with my name on it. So what with my copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic arriving and this box of goodies, I have had a very good week. Whether the postie is pleased about it is another matter!

I’ve also been blogging away (as you do – 😊) and hope to share links to these in due course. Many thanks to all those who will be hosting me and those who’ve hosted me recently. I love hosting people on CFT via various mini-series I’ve written and will continue to write but it is also lovely being the guest. It’s good to be put on the spot with questions!

My main writing tasks for the next few days will be my CFT post, more blogs, and preparing for my cyberlaunch. Am so looking forward to that.
I try, with these things, to ensure they’re the kind of event I would want to go to if I was the guest.

Putting yourself in your readers’/potential readers’ shoes is always a good idea. That tip also helps me with my stories directly as I’m always thinking about what impact I want my characters to have on those who read about them and I write accordingly.

Write with your Ideal Reader in mind is always a good idea. Why? Because one of those Ideal Readers WILL be YOU. You have to like what you write. If you do, others will like it too. By also looking at what other Ideal Readers might like with your writing, it helps you to focus on what matters in your story and cuts the temptation to waffle. And that is always a good thing.

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Had a fabulous afternoon at the Zoom event with #GillJames and #DawnKnox. We talked about our work and shared stories. I read Enough is Enough and The Pink Rose from Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

I also talked about my love of flash fiction, how it can benefit all writers regardless of what they mainly write, and shared a Powerpoint presentation. All good fun!

And it was great to see friends, old and new, here too.

In other news, and thanks to a shared tip earlier today from #PatriciaMOsborne, I’ve now used Booklinker net to create shorter links for my two books, From Light to Dark and Back Again, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Mind you, I think for my next book, I will have to come up with a shorter book title given only 22 characters are allowed! 😆😆

Still this gives me a chance to show my nice new short link for TTFF off! See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Hope your Tuesday went okay. Not bad here. Am busy prepping for blogs I’ll be appearing on fairly soon and also for the launch of course. Plenty to do on my To Do list but am working my way through.

The positive thing about marketing is that it is ongoing and not everything has to be done at once. Not everything can be done at once anyway, which is why working out what you want to do here and “making a plan” so you get it done is a good idea. (Well, it works for me, and naturally I’ve learned from the launch of From Light to Dark and Back Again).

I know marketing does not come naturally to many writers, including me, but working out what you would enjoy doing helps. I love blogging so that is a natural route for me to go. (And material you prep for these things, if it is not all used in the blogs, can always be recycled for use on your website etc).

Delighted to have my copies of The Best of Cafelit 9 reach me today. I have two stories in there. Humourless is a flash piece but Green Door is a standard length short story.

My longer term projects are on the back burner for the moment but I will return to those in due course. And I do have plans for further flash collections as well so plenty to keep the old imagination going for some time to come!

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Delighted to share part of a review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic from Scottish crime writer, Val Penny.

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The Review

Tripping the Light Fantastic is a special little book, the right size to keep in a pocket or a hand bag with stories and poems to entertain while on a bus trip, train journey or just relaxing with a cup of tea.

There are various examples of flash fiction. I had not realised that poems could be considered to be flash fiction until I read this book. The book contains some very short stories with good twists in the tales, longer pieces (still under 1000 words) including Symes’ trademark fairy tales and several neat poems. Tripping the Light Fantastic is varied, clever and entertaining. I highly recommend it to readers of all age groups.

See the full post at https://bookreviewstoday.info/2020/09/24/tripping-the-light-fantastic-by-allison-symes/ and many thanks, Val!


How do I flesh out a character for my flash fiction? Physical appearance doesn’t usually matter for me (though there is an exception in Tripping the Flash Fantastic where one of my characters can change into something very unusual indeed).

I’ve mentioned before that I look for the major traits. I should add I look for the positive and negative ones of these. I look at what these traits could lead to and often by the time I’ve finished doing that, story ideas are coming to me and it is then a question of working out which would be the strongest and most likely to work.

I then write the story! I guess I like a framework in place. I know that doesn’t work for everyone but when you find something that works for you, then play to the strengths of that.

 

It was great to see everyone at this afternoon’s Zoom author event with #GillJames and #dawnkentishknox. It was lovely reading stories from Tripping The Flash Fantastic for the first time too. I read The Pink Rose, also talking a little about how I came to write this one, and Enough is Enough (which I think anyone who has ever dieted would sympathise with!). All great fun.

I think the most important thing to remember when you’re reading work aloud is to slow yourself down. You’re less likely to trip over your own words doing that. (Oh and if you ever needed a reason not to give your characters complicated names, let the thought of reading them out loud be the reason! It is reason enough!).😆😆

Picture below of me reading at the Bridge House event late last year was taken by Dawn Knox and it was great to hear a story from her collection Extraordinary today too. I love being read to just as much as I love reading my own work! And that’s how it should be. The pleasure from stories is very much a two-way thing.

me-reading-from-fltdba-at-the-bridge-house-event-pic-by-dawn-kentish-knox

Dawn Knox

Dawn Kentish Knox. Image kindly supplied by Dawn.

Goodreads Author Blog Reading Aloud –

I had the great joy of reading two stories from my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, today. I chose The Pink Rose and Enough Is Enough. One is a moving tribute to someone special to me and the other is a wry tale about someone who changes her life and gets her own back on those who humilated her.

I love listening to stories and it was great to hear stories from Dawn Knox and Gill James too at this online event.

There is something so soothing, I think, in being read to like this. And, of course, from a writer’s viewpoint, you get to hear the rhythm of dialogue from other people’s stories and you can of course learn from that for your own work.

I loved being read to when I was a kid and later, on becoming a mum, loved reading to my son. The first novel I read to him was Kenneth Graeme’s The Wind in the Willows. Yes, it went down very well with all of us!

Do you remember which book you cherished having read to you when you were a kid? Equally, what was your favourite book to read out loud to your children?

I see storytime like this (and this afternoon’s event was kind of like a storytime for adults I thought) as so important. In our current situation with the pandemic, the joy of stories and books and being read to cannot be lauded loud enough I feel.

Walkies and Interviews!

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated. The ones of Hiltingbury Flower Meadow were taken by me!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is called Walkies and I look at the joys of local walking and living with collies. I am also pleased to share pictures taken by me this week of our beautiful wildflower meadow at the Hiltingbury Recreation Ground. It is absolutely stunning and it always cheers me to see such brightness. See if you can spot the poppy by the way!

I also look at how walking dogs has helped me. I did think I would get loads of ideas for stories and blog posts when I was out walking a dog. My sum total of ideas that have come to me doing this is precisely zero!

I’m too busy keeping an eye on the dog, particularly my young mischief, Lady, but walking her (and my previous two) relaxes me, gets me out into the fresh air, and I come back, refreshed, having had a break from the writing desk. That is important. Tiredness is the biggest factor, I think, in stifling any kind of creativity.

Hope you enjoy the post.

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Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, Val Penny, for hosting me on her blog today (9th July 2020). It was great fun to take part! Hope you enjoy.

Amongst other topics, I talk about my writing routine and share some tips I’ve found useful over the years. I also talk about how I got into flash fiction writing. It wasn’t something I anticipated when I first started out but it is easily my happiest “writing accident”!’

I also talk about what I like and dislike about marketing. See what you think – do you agree with my choices?

Transforming Communities Full

My CFT post this week will be called Walkies! I share the joys of walking with Lady during lockdown, the latest pics of our beautiful wildflower meadow, which is looking stunning right now, and share how walking has helped me. Link up on Friday.

I did think when I first became a dog owner 15 years ago, I would be able to think up ideas for stories while out walking Gracie, then Mabel, and now Lady. Not a bit of it! Haven’t thought of one story idea at all walking them!

Mind you, I have made many wonderful dog owner pals and Lady especially has made a few four-legged friends too.

What walking the dog does do though is enable me to unwind. Ideas for stories are far more likely to come to me when I’m in a relaxed state after getting back home again. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for practising observational skills. A particular colour of a front door might strike me as nice for Character A’s cloak in a flash fiction story – that kind of thing.

Never despise the little details! They may come in handy in a story one day.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been a good week with another flash piece up on Cafelit (Rotten Day) and my interview on Val Penny’s blog post (see next piece down for the link to this).

Oh and a bit of promotional news – From Light to Dark and Back Again is currently on offer on Amazon. So if you fancy quirky fiction at a discounted price, do check the link out. Reviews are always welcome too.

My favourite story in FLTDBA? Hmm… tricky one though I do have a very soft spot for Calling the Doctor which you can check out for free on the book trailer. (See below!).

Whatever you read or write this weekend, have a good one!


A big thanks to Val Penny for interviewing me on her blog today. (9th July 2020). See link for more but one of the topics I discuss here is how I got into flash fiction writing at all.

Let’s just say it wasn’t planned! Let’s also say I am very pleased with how it has turned out and hope to keep going with it for as long as possible!

On a side note, interviews like this really make you think about what you’re doing and why and where your writing journey has brought you to date. That’s no bad thing. And interviewing your characters can make you as their creator think about what they’re doing in your story and why. It’s a good way to see who is really necessary to your tale and who isn’t.


Much as I love listening to classical music when writing, I haven’t used it in my stories. The only time I use it is when trying to pick something what would work well in book trailers or when I am creating videos of flash tales to put on my website.

Music can set mood of course and I think I would rather my characters did that directly through what they say and do. (And isn’t it always more interesting when what they do goes against what they say?! Hypocrites are always good fun to write stories for!).

 

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Fantastic has to come into it somewhere, usually in the form of magic being performed, usually to help the deserving.
A = Animals often play a crucial role and sometimes at least prove to be more intelligent than the humans in the story.
I = Inventiveness can come into the stories – you wouldn’t usually think of turning a pumpkin into a coach would you?!
R = Realism? Well maybe. Fairytales can show a great deal of truth about human nature, not all of it is pleasant either, but it is accurate.
Y = Your fairy godmother awaIts… hmm… not necessarily. The character often doesn’t know they’ve got one until they show up. Best not to assume here!
T = Tension between the forces of good and evil is a given in this world.
A = Animated versions of the tale are generally good but some of them can’t be as originally written given the latter are often more violent!
L = Love and its importance is a key theme. Not just the romantic kind either. Think of Hansel and Gretel and their care for one another. Also I thought Gerta was a magnificent character in The Snow Queen with her commitment to rescuing Kay. (And I so loved the idea that the girl was rescuing the boy here).
E = Elephants! Have always had a very soft spot for Dumbo. Always will do. I see it as a classic film fairytale.
S = Stories. The classic fairytales have very strong storylines behind them. Wrong is righted. Evil is confronted. Good prevails. Not always a happy ending though. And I love fairytales for all of those reasons.

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This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying). So what to ask then as part of your outline?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).

Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).

Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

 

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Non-Fiction Journey and Author Interviews

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is always a huge pleasure to chat with fellow authors on Chandler’s Ford Today. There is always something interesting to learn. Every author’s writing journey is unique and I find that endlessly fascinating. Hope you do too.

This week I chat with Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, about her venture into non-fiction publishing with her recently released Let’s Get Published. Not that she has left her (writing) life of crime behind, I’m glad to say.

I love reading as well as writing author interviews. Every writer has their own insights into the business of writing, as well as thoughts on the ups and downs we all face, whether published or not. It is also good to know you are not alone on those ups and downs. (It is also reassuring to know that is normal!).

Hope you enjoy!

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The current hot weather is one of the few times I bless living in a north facing bungalow. It is relatively cool in here. The heat doesn’t affect my writing much in that I still get on and do it but I tend to finish earlier than normal knowing I’ll feel tired earlier than normal. Still I compensate by starting my writing session earlier so that’s okay.

Looking forward to sharing my interview with Val Penny on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. She talks about her venture into non-fiction with her recent publication, Let’s Get Published. I’m always fascinated by other authors’ writing journeys. Each is unique to the writer and you can always learn something useful and interesting.

Am happily editing a short story which I hope will end up being published at some point! As ever, having a bit of time away from it has proved useful. That time away makes it much easier to see where the weaknesses are and therefore do something about them!

Have also been busy drafting flash fiction pieces.

I’ve also recently revised my Linkedin profile.

So not a bad old week so far but I must admit I won’t be that sorry when it cools down a bit. (And neither will Lady!).

Screenshot_2020-06-26 Allison Symes LinkedIn

 

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes I will start a flash fiction story by writing the ending first and work backwards from there. It’s a useful technique but I do sometimes find that by the time I’ve finished, I’ve thought of a better last line. But that’s okay. I just change it.

I remember I used to feel annoyed at that kind of thing. Why couldn’t I have thought of the better last line in the first place etc etc?

Now I know better than to waste time and energy fretting about that. Just change the line and move on. It’s a good sign the story has “go” to it when you can think of things to improve with it.

Yes, it would save a lot of time and effort if you could cut straight to the chase, but writing doesn’t work like that for me. I need to get some ideas down before I can come up with better ones.

What helped me to come to terms with that was on realising other writers find the same thing happens to them. It’s always good to know you’re not alone!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I’ve learned to watch out for when editing my stories is my pet phrases. Most of the time with my flash fiction, they are amongst the first things to be cut, along with my wasted words of very, actually, and that. (Very few examples of that are actually necessary! If the story works just as well without them, out they come).

Every writer has their pet phrases. Sometimes they’re useful BUT not each and every time! Pet phrases can act as a kind of shorthand for you but if they’re not useful to your readers, it is best said phrases come out. (Another meaning for the phrase “kill your darlings” perhaps).

 

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Finding ideas for flash fiction is generally not an issue for me. It is working out which are the really strong ones and worth pursuing that can be tricky at times.

But I find character outlining helps me with that. By the time I’ve fleshed out what I need to know about my lead character, I can tell whether they’re “up” to being in a story.

I can also tell the kind of trouble they’re likely to land themselves in (with help from yours truly of course as I love landing my people right in it!) and from that the story starts to take shape. Away I go and write it before resting it for a while before editing it.

I also find flash fiction writing to be a useful warm up or warm down writing exercise. From my viewpoint, it’s another piece of work produced which I can polish and hopefully find a home for in due time.

Whatever you’re working on at the moment, I hope the writing is going well and that you’re enjoying it. Enjoying your writing is so important. It helps to motivate you and to keep you going when all you seem to get are rejections or not hearing back from competitions etc.

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I’ve found it helpful to think of flash fiction as it being from the viewpoint of ONE main character getting across ONE vital point and there has to be transformation in it somewhere.

That’s why we read. We want to find out what happens to the character. Do they get their happy ever after ending? Do they muck it up big time but somehow manage to redeem the situation? (I LOVE those stories!).

One of the aspects of flash fiction I love the most and I think is one of the useful as well is that it does make you focus on what really matters to your character. You do have to work out what the story is so you can focus on it properly.

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Murphy’s Law of Fairytales

So how could Murphy’s Law relate to fairytales then? I offer the following thoughts.

1. Never be unkind to the wizened old crone or man etc. They are bound to be a powerful witch/wizard/fairy godmother in disguise. It will be just your luck to cross them and be turned into something unpleasant. These things happen in the fairytale world.

2. Never be rude to passers-by. You might be glad of their help later on, especially if you HAVE crossed the wizened old crone etc. You’ll need someone to tell you what it is you have been turned into. Then and only then can you scream.

3. You know that downtrodden kid everyone ignores or is rude to? Watch them. They’re either going to end up marrying Prince Charming or somehow do something heroic. In the fairytale world, that kind of character is always marked out for great things. They like humility here.

4. It is best to assume the animals you come across can talk, are intelligent etc., and a quick word to the wise – if you do come across bears who live in a house, never ever pinch their breakfast. It won’t end well.

5. Actively be kind. You may be rewarded. You may not. But you won’t end up crossing the aforementioned wizened old crone etc.

6. If you come across a sweet covered house, run the other way as fast you can. (Well, you don’t want to risk a huge weight gain thanks to gobbling all that sugar now, do you?).

7. Don’t try and eat the Gingerbread Man. He resents that kind of thing.

8. If you need to cross a bridge and you are not sure if there are trolls in the area, see if you can get some friendly neighbourhood goats to cross the bridge first. They are excellent at getting rid of unwanted trolls.

9. If you think Grandma has suddenly become very hairy, it is not a trick of the light. She has. Go and get the woodcutter NOW.

10. If something seems too good to be true, it is. Mind you, that applies to all universes so is a good general principle to go by.

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This World and Others – 

Creating Something Out of Nothing

I was listening to Classic FM when it was reported a well known composer still suffered nerves when coming up with a new composition. They were still made nervous by the blank page, despite their many years of successful composition. Ironically, this cheered me up somewhat. It’s the same for any creator and I know it’s true for me. That touch of nerves before you start writing is the worst bit. Once you get going, you’re absolutely okay.

I’ve learned over time to just get the words down any old how. Editing and polishing happen much later. Nobody writes a perfect draft. Shakespeare didn’t. Austen didn’t. Dickens didn’t. I’m certainly not going to but that’s fine! So how can you get over the nervous start bit or, at least, make it not so bad and easier to handle?

I’ve found having a range of ways to get started on stories or blog posts helpful. I also find having brainstorming sessions every so often useful to jot down ideas and when I am struggling, I can turn to these and find something to inspire me there. My range of ways to get started include:-

1. Using a random word generator, pick three, and put them into a story. Using random words like this makes me think deeper and if there is no obvious link between the three words, even better. It makes me think again!

2. Look back over my old blog posts and stories. Often there will a link there I didn’t follow up at the time but might prove useful now.

3. Take a well known saying and use it as a theme or title (sometimes both) for a story or article.

4. Use a spider diagram or flowchart to flesh out basic ideas. That will soon show if ideas in the back of my head do have some “legs” to them or not. Naturally I go with the ones that do! This is especially useful when used in conjunction with a random word generator.

5. Look up writing competitions. Sometimes I’ll enter said competitions. Sometimes I’ll just write up a story to the theme and not submit it deliberately. I will go back to that story at a later date to polish it up further knowing it is not ready for a competition yet but I can still write to the theme. Who knows? The story might end up in an anthology later. Themes come up reasonably often so there will be other competitions the story the might fit.

However you get over the blank page nerves, happy writing and good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submissions, Reviews, and Publication News

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

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

Happy writing, everyone!❤️⭐️

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PUBLICATION NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 4 – How To Write Flash Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image supplied by Wendy H. Jones

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

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

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

 

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Goodreads Author BlogReading Piles

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you organise YOUR reading?

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Aspects of the Writing Life

Facebook – General

This post comes almost live from the Winchester Writers’ Festival. What do you mean by almost, I hear you cry? Well I started drafting this on Evernote just after a fab lunch with the lovely Val Penny (writer of the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries starring DI Hunter Wilson). I swear we stuck to orange juice… whether you believe me is another matter!

So what do I find most useful about coming to Winchester? Difficult to know where to start but here goes.

Information from the courses. You find out information you knew you needed and equally things you hadn’t known you needed to know. Both are useful.

Networking with writer friends, old and new.

The opportunity to hear first hand from published authors, agents, editors, and publishers in keynote speeches and the like. These can be real eye openers.

Coming to events like this can be a confidence booster especially when starting your own writing journey. You start to feel as if you are a real writer. Rejections can knock you back. Events like this help pick you up again.

Already looking forward to next year’s Festival.

Val Penny and I having a selfie moment at Winchester last Saturday

Crime writer Val Penny and I having a selfie moment at the Winchester Writers’ Festival

Amongst the Murphy’s Laws that exist purely for writers must be the following:-

1. Time drags until it is time to write, then it flies by, leaving you wondering where on earth it went. Naturally you have not achieved as much as you would have liked either.

Incidentally that is okay. The big thing to ask yourself here is have you made progress on what you’re writing? Progress can include getting a certain number of words down, of course, but equally valid are things like changing scene orders, re-reading through, and being happy with how you’ve changed things. That all takes time but is as much writing as actual writing, if you see my meaning.

Don’t belittle yourself if “all” you managed to get done was some editing. As long as that editing is tightening up your work, improving it etc., it is a valid part of your writing and you are still making progress.

2. You may be a writer but you are still afflicted by the curse that says you can’t find a pen when you need one.

In public, this is embarrassing. Guess who, whenever she is due out at an event, makes absolutely sure she has pens in bags, pockets etc so she knows she has at least TWO on her person. It has to be two to prevent Murphy’s Law kicking in again by ensuring your solitary pen doesn’t work and if you only take one, it WILL fail on you.

3. Your toner cartridge runs out part way through a print run. It is never anywhere useful such as on the test print you do before you run out a lengthy story.

I use a laser jet so I have no indication of when it’s going to run out. Having said that, my lovely printer, which I call Old Faithful because I’ve had it for YEARS, has seen come and go at least three “cleverer” printers my better half has had, which DO say when their cartridges will run out, print in colour etc. On balance, I think I’ll stick with Old Faithful until it finally bites the dust.

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There are similarities to writing and trying to lose weight.

1. You can be guaranteed frustrations along the way but it is best to face up to that from the start so that when they do come, you’re not surprised/thrown by them. It is important to pick yourself up and dust yourself down and then see how far along the road you can get before the next one hits.
2. Success in either never comes as quickly as you’d like.
3. Persistence pays. The determination not to give up is crucial.
4. You can’t know for sure you will get to your end goal. You can only give it your best shot but your end goal may genuinely change. You may discover your writing skills suit short stories rather than novels, for example, and that’s fine.
5. You need to accept the rough with the smooth and take some comfort from the fact everyone has to come to terms with rejections (set backs on the weight loss) and you are definitely not alone on this.
6. When going well, both writing and losing weight sensibly and successfully make you feel good about yourself!
7. Keeping going is the only way to get to the end destination at all.

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Why does any writer need a decent amount of stamina?

1. The determination to keep going will help a lot when the rejections come in – and they will. Okay you may need to look at revamping what you’ve written or try other markets for it etc, but the important thing here is accepting rejections are par for the course. Everyone gets them. It’s how you react to them that matters. Sometimes you have to accept something isn’t working and move on to new work too. It can be tough to move on from a project you’ve loved but which just isn’t working.

2. There will be wonderful high moments such as when you receive your first acceptance, when you see your story or article in print etc., but the lows come too. All that comes into your inbox are rejections or you don’t hear anything at all. Stamina helps you accept all of this is the normal lot of the writer’s life, regardless of what you write.

3. Seeking out the markets and competitions that are right for what you write takes time and effort.

4. Submitting work to the appropriate outlet also takes time and effort.

5. Being aware there are charlatans out there who will happily take your money for precious little in return and researching who you can genuinely turn to for self publishing or other services which are legitimate etc again takes time and effort.

Spot the theme emerging!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

If anyone tells you writing short fiction has to be easier than writing longer works, don’t believe them! Both have their challenges and joys. Both forms should be celebrated and treasured.

What flash fiction writing has taught me is how to pick words and phrases which will have the maximum impact on readers. The great thing with that is it is a transferable skill, useful for any and every form of writing.

 

I’m on a theme tonight – Murphy’s Law for writers (see my Allison Symes author page for more) – but let’s look at some specifically for flash fiction writers.

1. You’ve set your heart on entering a story for a 100-word comp. No matter what you do, your story stubbornly persists in coming in at 101 words.

Take out the additional word, I hear you say? Ha! It’ll either muck up your grammar (so spoiling your chances in the competition anyway) or it takes out something that adds depth to your character and is a crucial point in the story. Yes, one word can make a huge difference here. For example:-

She was dressed in velvet.
She was dressed in moth-eaten velvet.

2. You love writing flash fiction on a particular theme or in a certain genre say. Murphy’s Law will dictate the perfect competition with a short deadline will crop up when you’re away or ill. You will discover this when you are back at your desk. You will also discover you have missed that deadline or have a snowflake’s chances in hell of meeting it. You will not be a happy bunny. You will be a distinctly irritated bunny. No prizes for guessing how I know…

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There is something about writing that transforms writers. You can be the sweetest soul imaginable to all around you, but at the drop of a pen, be utterly ruthless as you dump your characters into absolute hell and see how they get out of it, if they do at all. And that’s how it should be!

Your characters sink or swim and it is the hook of finding out which way your characters go that will keep your readers with you. So go on, you know you want to, drop your characters right in the mire and see what happens!

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Flash fiction writers are living proof that great stories do not have to run to thousands of words and pages. A great story is one that keeps a reader gripped, whether it is a 50-word tale, or an epic saga like The Lord of the Rings.

Short writing takes effort. It is so easy to fill your writing with words you don’t really need – and really is one of those words that usually gets the automatic red pen through it when I write it. I wish I could stop myself writing words I know will only be cut later but the next best thing is to know what your weak words are and DO cut them later.

Can there be a genuine use for words such as really? Yes. The only time I use it is is in dialogue when I might want a character to be sarcastic. You can get a lot of emphasis into “really”!

Really!

Goodreads Author Blog – Planning Your Reading

Do you plan your reading time? Over a week, I like to make sure I’ve had a good balance of magazine, short story, flash fiction, non-fiction, and novel reading. I like to mix Kindle and paper reading too.

Whether it is better to read one thing before moving on to the next, or reading slices of different forms is best, is down to personal preference, of course. What is good is changing what you read whether you do this sequentially or not.

I’ve gone for the “slices” approach because some evenings I really do just want to read a novel. The next evening I’ll want to read short stories. I don’t want to feel obliged to finish one thing first.

Having said that, a fantastic book will keep me gripped as a reader so I have to complete it. The challenge for a writer is to produce that effect!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tried and Tested – and Book Offers!

A very busy night tonight and a special post about book offers too and I will start with those I think!  Also included this week is a link to my guest spot on crime writer Val Penny’s wonderful Book Review blog.  Many thanks to her for hosting me.

BOOK OFFERS!  ONE WEEK ONLY.  ENDS 18TH JANUARY 2019

Book news! I’m Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown’s author of the week and there are free books up for grabs AND special offers on others. What’s not to like?

I’ve had the great pleasure of being published by BHP/CB in various anthologies as well as with From Light To Dark and Back Again. These form the basis of the package below.

BOOK PACKAGE: There are SIX, count them SIX, publications where I have work on offer for £4.00, all as mobi-files. This includes To Be…To Become (the Waterloo Festival competition, anthology), Baubles (BH anthology), The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 AND 6 and From Light to Dark and Back Again, my first flash fiction collection.

And for those of you who would like print paperbacks there’s an offer for you too.

PAPERBACK OFFER: My first published story was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions. That isn’t available on Kindle BUT is in paperback and that along with From Light to Dark and Back Again is on offer at a mere £7.00 for the two!

FREE BOOKS! BUT YOU HAVE TO BE QUICK.

I’m giving away one signed copy of:-

From Light to Dark and Back Again AND
Alternative Renditions OR
Baubles OR
One of the Best of Cafelit books I’m in.

First come, first served, naturally. Also one book per customer.

If you’re interested email my lovely editor, Gill James, at editor@bridgehousepublishing.co.uk with your contact details. Also let her know which of the books you would like and Gill and I will take things from there. I’m looking forward to getting some books off in the post next week!

So two lucky people can be in for a free read! What are you waiting for? Gill is waiting to hear from you!

All of the above books are available on Amazon.

And if you would like to try some of my work out first, head over to Cafelit at http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/l…/Allison%20Symes

Do check out the other wonderful stories here. You’re in for a great read, I promise.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Busy night tonight but fun! Hope you saw the book offer posts earlier. Meanwhile back to CFT and I’m glad to share my Tried and Tested Writing Tips this week. Hope you find it useful.

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Will be a busy day tomorrow. As well as my usual CFT post (all about tried and tested writing tips), I’m Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books author of the week and will have news of book offers so stay tuned.

Re my CFT post: I’ve picked those tips I use most often and go into detail as to why they are useful.

Absolutely delighted to have been guest blogger on Val Penny‘s Book Reviews blog. Many thanks to her – it’s been a good week writing wise when it comes to getting the word out there!

And talking of words, the ones I’ve found most helpful are the ones that encourage when all that seem to come in are rejections etc. This is why you need writing friends. We know what it is like – both the joys and the down sides. It is a roller coaster ride but nobody says you have to be alone on the thing!

Am delighted to share the link to the great blog from crime writer Val Penny. The fact that I am her guest on it tonight is not at all coincidental!

Many thanks, Val, for the invite. The questions were great fun to answer. Val and I met at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (or more accurately just outside Derby Railway Station just ahead of us both going to Swanwick!) and we’ve been great friends ever since.

It is also lovely being on the receiving end of questions too!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m due to be Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books author of the week. News of book offers tomorrow.

Getting the balance right between writing new material, revising and improving material that has not yet found a home, and marketing has never been easy to get right. Has there ever been a writer who doesn’t feel there is always something they could be doing better in any of these departments? I don’t think so!

One advantage to flash fiction of course is it can be a great way of getting work done and “out there” while working on longer projects. (And if said work is published, you’re building up your writing CV too).

What questions would you put to your characters to get the best out of them before you write their story?

One of my favourites here is “what drives you?” I use it to dig deep into a character because there will be an answer that is something nobody would mind revealing – the public face, if you like.

However, it is the answer the character (and we as individuals) try to keep to ourselves that is the really interesting one to work with! It can also reveal things about our characters that make us realise we can do so much more with them. It IS worth digging that bit deeper to get to these points.

Your stories will be deeper and have more impact as a result – even the shortest of flash fiction stories will benefit. If I know my character thinks they’re capable of, say, robbery, but I dig deeper and find in certain situations, they could kill, guess which story I’m going with!

You DO want to dump your characters right in the mire and put them under as much stress as possible and really see what they’re made of. Let the drama play out. Have fun with this, I do! (Oh and nobody said writers have to be nice to their characters, often it’s the opposite in fact!).

 

Many thanks to #ValPenny for hosting me on her Book Reviews blog. It was great fun answering the questions.

Questions like these are really useful for making you evaluate why you write and whether the “how” could be improved. (The answer is almost certainly “yes” to that by the way!).

Fairytales with Bite – Storytelling

Storytelling is one of our oldest traditions of course. You can understand the appeal of fairytales especially when it comes to the oral storytelling tradition. A simple plot, a structure that works, a clear goodie and baddie, and a happy ever after ending. Perfect way to end the day!

Now, of course, we expect our characters to be more nuanced. There is no such thing as the perfect hero. Villains have to have good (and understandable) reasons for acting the way they are (and that can include the fact they simply enjoy being evil. To them, that is reason enough!).

What I love about stories is that there is no one perfect format. I love books in all their forms but totally understand why audiobooks work for some, whereas the print format doesn’t. Our focus as writers is to come up with stories that can work in several formats. Our focus is to entertain. I’ve never understood why some look down on escapism. The world is sad and bad enough to make a wish to escape understandable. After all why did our cavemen ancestors tell stories? To remember what was important. To bring the community closer together. To escape the cares of their day and the ones to come for a while.

So as a writer then I want my characters to appeal to readers. I also want to drop my characters right in it whenever I can. I want my books to engage people. It’s a good thing to aim for: to improve your storytelling as much as possible. You discover better ways of expressing things, learn what works and what doesn’t. Enjoy your storytelling and relish every moment of it.

 

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This World and Others – Tried and Tested

My latest CFT post is Tried and Tested Writing Tips, which I hope you find useful.

How are your characters tried and tested?  Do they pass the tests you set them?  In almost any story you can think of, it is only when the characters are put right through the emotional wringer, do you see what they are capable of and where their limits are.  That is also where sidekick characters are useful – to help see your leads through to the bitter end and to get them through that “about to give it all up” moment.

Testing doesn’t need to to be overly dramatic either.  It can be as simple as a character having their patience tested by a relative who is trying to goad them (deliberately or otherwise, it’s not always consciously done).  Your character is very patient to begin with, then they become slightly less patient as time and the goading continues, and so on before they snap or do something they would not ordinarily have done.  Your character may be aware of this process so what do they do to try and fight it?  To not give in to that urge to snap no matter what the provocation?

Think about what would stress your characters out.  Think about their coping mechanisms.  What would happen if they failed or weren’t available when needed?

Have fun finding out!

Music and Stories

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

One of the joys of writing my Chandler’s Ford Today posts is when I have a topic where I can go to town on finding music clips! The topic of books is one of them.

Many thanks to my wonderful panel – #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones, and #RichardHardie – for taking part in my mini-series The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels. Hope you enjoy their fantastic insights AND the music I’ve used to go with these!

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Had a great night out watching the Chameleon Theatre Group perform three episodes from Blackadder Goes Forth, including Goodbyeee. Review to follow on Chandler’s Ford Today in due course but I will say now it was superbly done and the set, made by the company themselves, was brilliant. Looking forward to sharing more on that.

Adaptations I’m generally happy with if they are faithful to the book/series etc. This is why I loved the Miss Marple series with Joan Hickson – they were faithful to the Christie canon – but the Marple series. No. Didn’t watch it. Just couldn’t bring myself to do so when it emerged they were altering the stories and bringing in characters that didn’t belong in the originals. Really don’t like that.

My CFT post this week will be the final part of my series on the joys and challenges of writing the series novel. As ever, my thanks to to #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones, and #RichardHardie. Nice range of genres between them too – from children’s to crime (and Wendy writes both!) to fantasy to historical crossed with ghost stories. Link up on Friday.

Glad to report I’ll be having more work on Cafelit later this week and again in November. Will share links as and when.

From what I’ve seen of the set the Chameleons have produced for the stage version of Blackadder Goes Forth, I anticipate a packed house and a wonderful and thoughtful evening of entertainment. Will review for CFT in due course. Do check their FB page out.

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Pexels image.  There are times when words are inadequate.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So more on my alphabetical list then.

J = Juicy Storylines! Not just for soap operas, honestly, but something every character wants. Now “juicy” can be taken literally of course, but I see it as the storyline being appropriate for the character and taking them and stretching them to see what they are really made of. There’s nothing like a crisis for bringing out the best or worst in someone and that applies just as well to fiction!

K = Kicker. Must admit I needed to look this one up. (It’ll be interesting to find out what I can research for Q!). In journalism it apparently means a sudden unexpected change of events. In fiction we’d usually refer to it as a twist in the tale. I like kicker though. Has bite. And your stories must too, whether they have a twist/kicker in them or not.

L = Lines. Who is getting the best lines in your story? Your hero or your villain? A great story will have this split between the two to prevent either becoming a stereotype or, worse still, boring! Also a villain capable of humour etc means while your reader will not want them to win (possibly SHOULD not!), they will sympathise and identify with the villain to a certain extent. There should be something about each character a reader can identify with. (My inspiration here is Alan Rickman’s masterly portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves!).

About halfway through the alphabetical listing now. So then:-

M = Muse. The best way to feed said muse is to read widely and often (and do include non-fiction and poetry in this too. Different sources of writing are good for you and inspire your own thoughts and ideas in various ways). I’ve also found writing regularly feeds it too. Never worry about what you come out with at first being awful and needing work. That would’ve happened to Shakespeare too! It can and will be put right in the edits!

N = Narrative. Whose story is it? Whose viewpoint is going to dominate? What can that character see and know that the others cannot? Why have you chosen that character to lead the narrative? Answer those questions and your story will be off to a good start!

O = Originality. Reading widely feeds your originality. Partly this is due to what you read, but sometimes it can be because you read something you really don’t like or feel you can do better and that can be the trigger point for your own writing. Also, your voice is unique to you and will come through in your writing, especially if you write often. Regular writing (even if it is short bouts at a time) really does encourage your imaginative “muscle” to start working.

Pressing on with my alphabet topic then, we reach P, Q and R. (Great letters if you can get them out in Scrabble incidentally!).

P = Performance. Do your characters perform well in your stories? Do they live up to what you outlined them to be or have they gone beyond that? Read your stories out loud. Perhaps record them and play them back. Hear how your characters perform. Are they having the impact on you that you want them to have on your reader?

Q = Quizzing. I’ve found quizzing my characters to be a very useful part of my outlining. I don’t need to know the minute details. Nor do I put everything I outline in a story. However, I take my character’s basic traits and quiz them from there. If I decide a character is going to be brave, I will quiz them to find out if there are limits to that courage. I try to find out where that courage comes from. Does their “tribe” prize bravery? Or is it noticeably absent and your character is rebelling against that? What are the outcomes? (There WILL be some and that’s where the drama and your stories are to be found!).

R = Right Word Count for your Flash Fiction. I sometimes write a piece deliberately to a word count and that’s it. Sometimes I think a story will come to 100 words but discover it can be done in 75 or needs to run to 250, say. Be flexible on this. The story is the right length when the lead character has done and said all they have to do/say for the situation you’ve put them in. The great thing with flash fiction is there are so many different categories, that even if your treasured 100 word piece comes in at 500 words, there will be markets and competitions for that out there.

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Goodreads Author Programme – Blog –

After the End, What’s Next?

If you’ve enjoyed a really good book, what do you do when you finish it? Go on to read more books by the same author, or read more in the same genre, or do you go for something that is completely different in mood and style?

I have done all three of these (though obviously not at the same time!) and it very much depends on my mood at the end of the story. If I’ve loved a gory crime thriller, I may well want something humorous to show the lighter side of life, albeit a fictional one!

With short stories especially, I tend to read a few by the same author before moving on. With novels, if the book has really gripped me, I’ve got to check out what else the author has done, even if I decide I’ll come back to those later.

The important thing though is that whatever you read, you enjoy it so much, you keep on reading, no matter what author, genre, style etc you choose next. Happy reading!

Image Credit:  many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for taking the photo of me reading as guest speaker and for kind permission to use the photo.  Both much appreciated!