Author Interview: June Webber – Publication: Never Too Late

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush.Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were photos of The Hayes, Swanwick as part of my CFT interview this week. Talking of which,  many thanks to June Webber for great author and book pictures for her interview with me on Chandler’s Ford Today.
Has been a cold week hre but Lady has got to have many “puppy parties” this week with her best friends over the local park so she’s happy at least.

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I am thrilled to welcome dear friend and fellow Swanwicker, June Webber, to Chandler’s Ford Today, to share her writing journey in Publication – Never Too Late. Her writing story is an encouraging one. I very much hope you enjoy the post and find it encouraging too.

Author Interview: June Webber – Publication: Never Too Late

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Hope you have had a good day. Another bitterly cold one here. Looking forward to chatting with June Webber on Chandler’s Ford Today – link up tomorrow. Her story is an inspiring one and I’m only too pleased to be sharing it. See above.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing from? As well as using the random generators to trigger ideas, the biggest inspiration comes from what I love reading.

I’ve always loved the classic fairytales so they are a huge influence on me. I love the humour of Austen, Pratchett, and Wodehouse, so those are huge influences on me.

This is why the more you read (in terms of numbers of books read and genres), the bigger and wider are the sources of inspiration for you to draw on. Other sources of inspiration can be topics on which you have strong feelings. I like to see justice done and the evil not to get away with it (again the fairytales have a definite influence on me there) so I will read crime stories which reflect this.

So having a broad reading diet then is a very good idea indeed!

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It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this time I’m talking about Flash NANO – A New Challenge In the Old Year. I look at what Flash NANO is and share what I found useful about it. It is good to be stretched, writing wise, every so often, and Flash NANO did that for me. Looking forward to the next one already.

Screenshot 2023-01-18 at 09-31-41 Flash NANO - A New Challenge in the Old Year by Allison Symes

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Delighted to share Reasons, my latest Friday Flash Fiction story. Many thanks for the great comments coming in on this one already.

Screenshot 2023-01-20 at 09-27-41 Reasons by Allison Symes

Looking forward to giving my flash fiction workshop this weekend and also the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group meeting next week. I like a mixture of in person and Zoom events – both kinds of event have their bonuses.

If you’re thinking of putting a collection together, remember the independent press is a great avenue to explore as they are much more open to approaches from non-agented writers. And having short stories/flash fiction published online or shortlisted in competitions makes for great material to put in your query letter.

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Many thanks to #ValPenny for sharing Writing Pitfalls, a recent blog I wrote for Chandler’s Ford Today on her blog today. A great way to spread the word! One writing pitfall I didn’t mention either here or earlier on CFT is not realising just how many kinds of writing there are out there and therefore to take your time working out which suits you best. I am so glad I discovered flash fiction for instance though I’d never heard of it when I started out.

Writing Pitfalls by Allison Symes

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical Seasons – Characters and Magic

How does your magical world have its seasons? Are they similar to Earth’s four and, if so, is magic more prominent in any one of them? If so, why? Does the winter, for example tend to dampen down magical activity? Does magic abound in the spring with longer days and brighter weather?

Do your characters have seasons in their life where their magical performances are significantly better or worse than others? Indeed, are waning powers a sign of illness/a character’s life coming to an end, again on the grounds everything has its season and it applies to characters too? Or does everyone experience a drop in performance at certain times and they’ve learned how to cope with that?

Do you have characters who cope with the down times better than others and how do they achieve this? Does the availability of light make a difference?

I also love characters who are older but with tonnes of useful magical experience behind them yet are still capable of “outgunning” those far younger than them because of that experience. How would their magical season progress?

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This World and Others – Climates

Does your world have one predominant climate or several? How does this/these affect the geography of your fictional world? Equally how does the geography affect the climate that can only exist because, for example, your world has a lot of water in it? Can your characters change the climate (for better or worse) and. If so, how?

Are there wars between different peoples because one has a better climate than the other? What pressures are there on food production etc which could lead to such conflicts and how are these things resolved?

What kind of climate do your characters prefer to be in? There will always be those who relish causing trouble so like a climate in which that is easily done. They would be bored senseless in a climate where peace prevails and nobody argues about anything. (Would make for a boring story too).

And how do shyer characters cope in a climate where people/other beings of choice are expected to be upfront and dominant? My thinking here is climate can be about social context and prevailing attitudes, as well as the geographic kind.

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MOM’S FAVORITE READS – CHECK OUT THE MAGAZINE INCLUDING MY FLASH FICTION COLUMN HERE

“Seconds”

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Val Penny for supplying book and author pics for her interview with me for Chandler’s Ford Today. Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Brr… it has got colder this week and even the dog noticed it. Hope you have had a good week. Am looking forward to Bridge House Publishing’s annual celebration event in London tomorrow (3rd December). Always good fun and it will be so nice to catch up with folk in person once again.

Feature Image - Interview - Val Penny - Seconds

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to welcome back Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, back to Chandler’s Ford Today. In her interview called Seconds, Val celebrates the second edition of Hunter’s Revenge, which is the second book in her DI Hunter Wilson series.

“Seconds” come into a writer’s life in many ways and Val and I explore some of these too here, including the issues of secondary rights and second person point of view. Hope you enjoy it.

Good luck to Val as well with the launch of Hunter’s Revenge.

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Cold today but given the date that is no surprise – welcome to December! Author newsletter went out today. Looking forward to chatting to Val Penny once again on Chandler’s Ford Today this week – link for that up tomorrow. See above.

Feeling a little bit at a loss given Flash NANO has now ended. Had such a good time taking part in that. Will now be taking my own advice to rest my stories for a while and then come back and edit them later. Giving myself some distance from what I’ve written is the single one way I’ve found helps me judge a tale objectively enough. I think it is because you come back to the stories and read them as a reader, almost as if someone else has written them, and you want that effect to see what works and what needs strengthening or deleting.

Had a lovely time on the ACW Flash Fiction Group last night. I shared some thoughts on using the positive and negative aspects to character traits such as honesty etc. Great way into knowing your character well enough to be able to write their stories up at all.

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady did – she got to play with her three favourite girl friends today – good time had by all. Nice mixture of sizes here – Lady as a collie, then her friends who were a Ridgeback, a Vizler and a Labradoodle.

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting later on – always good fun. Hope to have a go at the last prompt from Flash NANO after that meeting. Where has the month gone? I’ve loved the variety of prompts here. Kept me on my toes!

I’m looking forward also to welcoming back Val Penny to Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday as she celebrates the second edition of Hunter’s Revenge coming out. Now there are a number of “seconds” which can crop up in a writer’s life and Val and I will be looking at some of those too as part of her interview. Again see above. I was surprised when putting this interview together just how many writing seconds there are. I suspect I haven’t covered all but there is useful information in the post about ALCS and secondary rights.

My next newsletter goes out tomorrow. Hard to believe the next one will be on New Year’s Day!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s the end of the working week. It has been a really cold day. It’s getting dark far too early in the afternoon. At least it is in my part of the world! Time for a story then. This bit is always true regardless of where you are!

Hope you enjoy my latest on Friday Flash Fiction which is called Time To Move On. See what you make of the Judith in this story.

The eagle-eyed among you will recognize my YouTube story out this week (on Monday) also had a character called Judith. I will often use the same topic that comes up in a random generator for two different stories – one for my YouTube channel and the other for Friday Flash Fiction. I take the two stories in different directions/moods. Here I used a random name generator for my purposes and then thought what could I do with two different Judiths!

Screenshot 2022-12-02 at 09-59-08 Time To Move On by Allison Symes

Useful tip if you’re thinking about sharing flash stories via Open Prose Mic Nights and the like (also for broadcasting) – practice reading your story to yourself and record it via Zoom. As well as having an mp4 file to play back at the end of the meeting with yourself, you can get your timings right here too.

You can also hear where the story works well, where it may seem weak, and hear it as a reader would take it in – that’s useful because it will flag up what may grip the reader, and what may not. You’ve then got time to sort things out before submitting that piece or reading it out to a live audience.

Talking of broadcasting, I was sorry to hear of the death of Ron Clark, who was the owner of Chat and Spin Radio, which is now closed. I did a couple of author interviews on there. It was great fun to do and Ron will be much missed. It was a nice way of spreading the word about books and the joy of reading and a great experience to take part in a show like that.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Using Zoơm to record a meeting with yourself is useful way ofbeing able to play back a story as Zoom converts file to mp4 for you. You can then hear a story as reader would take it in."

I’ve loved taking part in Flash NANO. Will happily sign up for that again. Many thanks to Denise d’Souza and Dominic Barton for telling me about this. The mixture of prompts was great. Even ones I’ve done before, such as writing a story based around a number, made me think about new ways to do that.

It is good practice to write to prompts which is why I use the random generators a lot. It makes you come up with something and once you have that you can then work on it and after the right editing you have a story ready to submit somewhere. Mixing up the type of generators you use gives you good practice in coming up with stories in different ways. Always handy when you are then set prompts by someone else!

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Fairytales with Bite – Purpose of Fairytales

One of the purposes of fairytales was to act as warnings about behaviour – e.g. don’t go off with the Big Bad Wolf. It will end in tears. And it was done in an entertaining way to ensure people remembered the message. Jesus told parables because storytelling is a great way to get a message across. People remember the story, they remember the message.

For me, one of the great joys of reading fairytales as a child was knowing that somehow right would be seen to be done. This is why Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid where there isn’t the traditional happy ending as such did come as a surprise. But there was purpose there too – to show life isn’t all happy ever afters.

Now when I write my humorous flash pieces which are often fairytale/magical world related, I’m not looking to convey a purpose as such. I want my characters to show “their” stories and the purpose will be implied by what they say and do.

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This World and Others – The Entertainment Scene

In your fictional setting, what would pass for entertainment? Are there such things as theatre, radio, film etc? Is there a literary culture or tourism? What would the entertainment scene be like and is it accessible to all?

How have things changed over time? I am glad my country no longer has bear baiting for example, so entertainment scene changes can be for the better. Not that everyone welcomes changes so in your stories, could you show those resistant to change, even in something like entertainment? How would they keep their old ways going?

Are there those who oppose entertainment of any kind and what would they be prepared to do to stop others enjoying it?

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Seasonal Stories, Publication News, and a Lady With a Grudge

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. It is always great fun to come up with titles for my posts here. All of the above apparently unrelated topics are covered below! Hope you enjoy.BookBrushImage-2022-11-29-20-3957

Facebook – General

It’s my turn once again on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. Aptly, now we are in Advent, I talk about Seasonal Stories. I talk about writing festive flash fiction and also the importance of planning well ahead for writing for the seasonal markets. I also look at what I love to read over the Christmas period.

Hope you enjoy your seasonal writing and reading.

 

Has been a very busy Monday. Am hoping for a less hectic Tuesday!

One nice task today though was to put in my order for my copies of Evergreen, the latest Bridge House Publishing book. More news on this below. I’m going to be picking up my copies at their celebration event in London on Saturday and am so looking forward to that. These events are always great fun. The event will also be celebrating The Best of CafeLit 11 which was out a little earlier this year.

Looking forward also to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Wednesday this week.

And on Thursday, I send out my latest author newsletter.

Writing Tip: If you use the random generators to trigger story ideas, as I often do, make sure you mix up the ones you use. Firstly it’s not so much fun if you just stick to one or two. Secondly, other generators will stretch you. I didn’t think I could get stories out of the random number generator, for example, until I gave it a go.

 

Hope you have had a lovely Sunday. It’s Advent Sunday today and it was lovely to see the Christmas tree up in our church this morning.

Many thanks for the congratulations coming in on my story Never Old – Ever Green and Good To Go (a title which in many ways is my motto!) appearing in the new Bridge House Publishing anthology, Evergreen. Much appreciated, folks. Now you know what the publication news is in the title of this post!

Also thanks for the great response to my two part interview with Jenny Sanders on Chandler’s Ford Today recently.

Am glad to report I have another super author interview coming up this coming Friday, when I get to talk again to Scottish crime writer, Val Penny. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday. The theme will be “seconds” – it’s an interesting tag for this one.

Hope all who are taking part in Flash NANO are having a great time with it – I am. Can hardly believe we’re almost at the end of the month and the prompts.#

 

Am thrilled to say I am back in print again with a short story, Never Old – Ever Green and Good To Go, in the brand new anthology from Bridge House Publishing. This is called Evergreen – an Anthology and I am pleased to be between the covers again with familiar names and new authors. For more details see The Bridgetowncafe Bookshop link.

And well done, everyone, who has a story in here – the buzz of being published never diminishes. Nor should it!

Screenshot 2022-11-27 at 15-12-29 Evergreen eBook Multiple Hobbs-Wyatt Debz James Gill Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

Screenshot 2022-11-26 at 17-10-44 Evergreen

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views coming in on Judith, my latest YouTube story. It seems my lady with a grudge has some fans!

Don’t forget my author newsletter goes out on Thursday. My monthly newsletter is a great reminder of how quickly the year is flying.

Will be tackling another interesting challenge from Flash NANO later on. Am so pleased with how things have worked out here.

While my stories need further editing and polishing, to have 30 new stories in a month is great. Would I take part in this again? Oh yes.

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28th November 2022 – Second post
Almost forgot to mention my new YouTube tale is now out there. See what you make of Judith – a lady with a grudge against… well I’ll leave you to find out! Hope you enjoy it!

28th November
Have selected the pieces I hope to read from From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic for my London trip on Saturday. This is always a fun task!

Am working on a flash piece I hope to enter for a competition (deadline is the end of the year. I will aim to have it sorted and submitted in the next week or two as I always take time off any official deadline to give me time to make sure I haven’t missed anything and still get the story in on good time.

Good rule of thumb to remember here is it is okay for them to be late. It isn’t all right for you to be late! This is probably a hangover from my pre-driving days when I took the same view with buses – and rightly so too!).

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Looking forward to a trip to London on Saturday when I go to the Bridge House Publishing event. Part of the celebrations here include reading stories and I hope to read two or three of my flash pieces here. The nice thing with flash is each story doesn’t take long and I like to mix up story length and mood. Also had fun packing my book bag ready for Saturday (well, I like to be ready for these things!).

Almost at the end of Flash NANO – hard to believe where the time has gone. I’ve got something for each of the challenges set and plenty of editing to do in December but that’s fine.

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Hope you have a good day. Am so pleased to have another publication credit (Never Old – Ever Green and Good To Go is my short story in Evergreen an Anthology published by Bridge House Publishing).

I am making good progress on the Flash NANO challenges – can’t believe the month has almost gone.

And am so looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event next Saturday. Will be good to see people again. Especially since this event has had to be cancelled due to Covid in the past, it will be so nice to meet up.

I’m getting my next author newsletter ready to go out on 1st December. I share flash information and tips here as well as my news. To sign up head over to the landing page at my website – https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have also spent time today preparing a certain wish list for a certain festive event – books are included – surprise, surprise, not!

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Goodreads Author Blog – ‘Tis The Season To Buy Books!

The 27th November 2022 is Advent Sunday, the day the Church begins the countdown to Christmas. Certainly it is at about this time of year I get present lists up together and books are very much included here! It is a joy to select books for others as well as giving my family a wish list for books I’d like to have.

Okay, you can always tell a book-shaped present for what it is under the Christmas tree but there is joy in spotting those there too!

I like a mixture of books as presents to me. This year I’ve opted for a couple of crime novels and a humorous book which is part of a series I love. Kindle books I tend to get as and when I want them and I often try out authors new to me by downloading their ebooks first. If I really like their work, I will often to go for the next book in paperback.

One thing the pandemic has changed for me is that I haven’t been in to the big shopping centres (and therefore the big bookshops) for a while. I don’t know yet if that will change for this year but I do, whenever possible, support a variety of online retailers, including those who support the independent bookshops. Do look out for those. I also support smaller bookshops when I can. They all have a lovely ambience to them and that’s reason enough to go in and support those!

I hope you have a lovely season buying books and then the great joy of having several to unwrap on Christmas Day!

Screenshot 2022-11-26 at 19-53-57 'Tis The Season To Buy Books!

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Remembering

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. It has been a busy week starting with a podcast appearance and ending with a solemn day of remembrance. Hope your week has been a good one. Weather has ranged from stormy to sunshine and sudden rain and back to sunshine again! It is very mild for the time of year too. Writing wise, Flash NANO continues to go well and I will have lots of lovely interviews to share on Chandler’s Ford Today over the next few weeks.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

11th November 2022 – Armistice Day

There could only be one topic for this week’s post on Chandler’s Ford Today and I have called my post Remembering. This is a tribute to the fallen and those who gave up loved ones so we don’t have to and I also look at why remembering is an act of will. It’s a phenomenally important one at that too.

Remembering

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Hope you have had a good day. It’s been a busy week so far but fun. Am looking forward to sharing interviews with some wonderful authors on Chandler’s Ford Today over the next few weeks.

But there could only be one topic for tomorrow’s post – I’ll share the link for Remembering tomorrow. See above.

On the fiction front, you could use the thought of what your characters think important enough to remember as a basis for stories. Why have they chosen to remember what they have and how does that bring them into conflict with others? (And there will be bound to be conflict given people can often remember the same event differently. Characters can do likewise). Also do your characters act on those memories and what are the consequences?

Will be working on the latest Flash NANO prompt shortly. Am so loving these. Got that prompt written up. Am already thinking of future homes for some of these.

9th November 2022 – two posts

FIRST POST

You know you get one of those days where lots is going on – well, today is one of mine. This is the first of two posts from me tonight.

First up, a huge thank you to the lovely #ValPenny for sharing my post about Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 on her website today.

Looking back is an apt topic for me because, not only is my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week about Remembering (linking in with Armistice Day on Friday), today is the seventh anniversary of my mother’s passing. Mum read widely and passed on her love of the written word to me. She did get to see my first short story in print (and my late Dad got to see my first book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, in print – there is a kind of symmetry here).

For the lifelong love of books and stories I’ve inherited from you, thanks Mum!

Screenshot 2022-11-09 at 09-04-41 Looking Back at The Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick 2022 by Allison Symes


9th November 2022

SECOND POST

SECOND post from me tonight and I’d like to say a huge thank you to #WendyHJones for hosting me on her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. We discuss Flash NANO, which I’m happily taking part in at the moment. And I always welcome a chance to celebrate the joys of flash fiction writing.

Hope you enjoy the podcast. I loved taking part in this and to my fellow Flash NANO writers, more power to your pens and laptops! I’ll be working on the latest challenge a little later on this evening. Hope all is going well for you.

https://wendyhjones.buzzsprout.com/807761/11656217-flash-nanowrimo

Screenshot 2022-11-10 at 20-07-38 Flash NaNoWriMo - The Writing and Marketing ShowScreenshot 2022-11-10 at 20-07-27 The Writing and Marketing Show

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction is called In The Blink of an Eye. Hope you enjoy it. Find out if my character’s story about an accident rings true for you as she thinks about what she is going to tell the police officer who has come to see her as a result of said “accident”.

Screenshot 2022-11-11 at 08-57-23 In The Blink Of An Eye by Allison Symes

Am starting work on some festive flash fiction (Flash NANO has helped here too!) and have an idea as to where it will go in due course. Festive flash is about the only seasonal writing I do and it is great fun. This kind of quirky humorous fiction, I think, works best when kept short so flash is the ideal form for it.

I hope to so some more for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course too. I usually have a pre-Christmas post on this. It’s a nice way to sign off for a Christmas break too. The nice thing here is you can create these at any time and just save them up for the apt time of year. I have done that in the past. Not had the chance this year. Making up for it now though!

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It was a joy to talk to #WendyHJones about Flash NANO for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. I share what Flash NANO is about, look at the joys and challenges of it, and where it differs from the main NaNoWriMo event. Not least of which is hopefully by the end of November I’ll have 30 more flash fiction stories to polish and work on further – more than I would’ve done. I don’t usually write a flash fiction piece a day – I do write a few over the course of a week. And “hon mentions” go to members of the ACW Flash Fiction Group too for telling me about Flash NANO in the first place.

 

Fairytales with Bite – Memories

This is an apt topic given Friday, 11th November will be Armistice Day/Veterans Day. We cherish memories we rightly dare not forget.

In your fictional setting, what would be your community’s collective memories, the things everyone shares? How are these things remembered? Are there rituals people must follow? (I use the word people loosely here!). On an individual level, what memories does your character cherish or go out of their way to try and forget? What does that say about them? And can memories come back to haunt them?

Perspective is important too. People can be at an event and have differing views of what happened when despite being in the same place and the same time.

I once took part in an interesting writing exercise to prove this point. Fellow writers and I had to recall something that had happened after having just been shown the event in question. This was interesting, We recalled a lot of things in common but by no means everything. There were differences too. Yet all of us could’ve sworn we’d remembered “correctly”.

How could that play out for your characters and how would it affect the actions they then take?

Remembering helps us to be grateful for sacrifices made

This World and Others – Remembrance Ceremonies

The Armistice Day ceremonies are always deeply moving. For those of us in the UK this year’s ceremonies will have an added poignancy given one very familiar figure will not be laying the wreath at The Centoaph in London, as Her Late Majesty the Queen had done for so many years.

In your fictional setting, what is “officially” remembered and why? What ceremonies are used to commemorate these events/people? Does everyone join in with these things and, if so, is that by choice? Where it is, what would happen to those who disagree and refuse to take part?

Are there events in your world’s history which nobody remembers because they don’t want to do so? Where this reflects badly on them, what happens when someone uncovers this and exposes it?

Who leads any ceremonies and are these kept simple or is there a lot of pomp and circumstance? What are the traditions leading to the ceremonies being carried out the way they are? Do other countries (or equivalent) in your setting share the same ceremonies?

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Ruth Leigh Interview Part 2 – and Another Zebra Story

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Ruth Leigh for providing author and book cover photos for the second part of her fabulous interview for Chandler’s Ford Today. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. Went to see The Chameleons’ latest production (more on that next week) and I’ve written another zebra story, this time for Friday Flash Fiction. The writing life can throw up some strange but fun things at times given I never expected to write about zebras at all, yet alone twice in one week.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to welcome back Ruth Leigh to Chandler’s Ford Today for the concluding part of her two-part interview. Having recently released The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, Ruth and I discuss marketing, interviewing characters, and look at characters loved and loathed. Hope you enjoy the interview and good luck, Ruth, with your third book.

PART 2 – Ruth Leigh and The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge

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Posting early today as I’m off to watch The Chameleon Theatre Group perform The Mystery of Mallen Hall later on this evening. Should be good fun. Review to follow in due course. It WAS good fun. Looking forward to writing the review.

And don’t forget the second part of my interview with Ruth Leigh is up on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. As Ruth now launches her third book, The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, it is a good time to talk to her about her thoughts on marketing! Link up above (and you’ve got to do a hat salute or something for Ruth who wanted Jane Austen to be name checked. There is always time for that in my universe!).

Talking of which, my author newsletter goes out on the first of each month so if you’d like to sign up for tips, news, story links etc., do head over to the landing page of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – you would be most welcome! And many thanks to those who have signed up. Next edition our next week. Having a monthly author newsletter is another way of realising just how quickly time flies!

 

Many thanks to the lovely Val Penny for her shout out to yours truly in her latest blog. See link and screenshot. This conversation came about when Val and I were chatting about marketing a while back.

You do have to like your first book because one thing you can guarantee will come out in interviews etc will be questions about how you got into print. So it is far easier on you if your first book is something you love because you’ll then never mind talking about it (as well as plug the latest one of course).

Nor do you want people wondering why you seemingly won’t talk about your first one. Having said that, you can go on to talk about how your writing has moved on from your first book and that can open up an interesting vein of conversation too).

Screenshot 2022-10-26 at 16-11-58 Drafting a Novel before Submission

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thrilled to say the “other story” I referred to yesterday (see below) is up on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy The Caterpillar and the Zebra. Great fun to write and again this story came from another title idea I brainstormed during a session of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group which meets online once a month.

With a title like that, I just had to do something with it and this is the result. I hadn’t expected to write one story about zebras yet alone two (the other is on my YouTube channel). Writing really can take you in unexpected directions at times!

Screenshot 2022-10-28 at 09-38-08 The Caterpillar and the Zebra by Allison Symes

Posting early as off to the local theatre tonight which is always a fabulous experience. I’m hoping my other story which I wrote thanks to coming up with the title via the ACW Flash Fiction Group will be online tomorrow. (It was – see above!). Will keep you posted. This tale also involves animals!

Brainstorming title ideas has led (and continues to lead) to my coming up with stories I would not have thought off in any other way. I don’t usually write about zebras for example! But I’ve found brainstorming title ideas (and they can work for non-fiction too) is a great way to use those pockets of time where you can write something but not a lot. Well worth doing.

If you have a little more time, then one of those titles can be the beginning of a new flash story for you as well. When I have, say, 15 minutes, that’s enough time to look up one of my brainstormed titles, pick one, and then start to work out ideas for it.

 

You can never know for sure which of your flash pieces will really catch people. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised that The Zebra Who Lost Its Stripes has done so well on YouTube. Thank you, everyone.

What matters is writing a story you really care about. I could hear the voice of my little zebra and his gran immediately and knew this would work best in (mainly) dialogue format. Dialogue also has the advantage of giving the story a good pace which was ideal for this one.

But it does boil down to knowing the characters and knowing what it is about them that will appeal to potential readers. You can work out who the Ideal Reader is likely to be then and ensure you are pitching your work to appeal to them.

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Fairytales with Bite – Sources of Power

Where does your fantasy setting get its sources of power? Does it use what we would know as electricity, say, as well as magic? Or is it an all magic environment only? How does the magic develop?

Can characters increase what they have naturally through study? Are they reliant on specific equipment to make their magic work and, if so, who controls the access to that equipment? You can bet someone will! If that equipment has to be bought, how do your characters pay for what they need or are they forced into doing nefarious deeds to get the equipment they need?

How is magic seen in your world – as a source of “green” energy or something darker? If you have non-magical characters, how can they survive in a magical world? What do the magical beings need them for?

Does your world as a whole look to improve and/or increase its sources of power, especially if it if dependent on supplies from somewhere else? The politics (including geopolitics) on our world can help you come up with story ideas for your settings. Where there is power, there is someone who wants to control it. That alone can be a source of story ideas!

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This World and Others – Ten Thoughts on Making a World Realistic

  1. Basic needs are the same everywhere so think about how your world would grow its food, ensure there was enough water etc.
  2. Think about human flaws and virtues – could your “alien“ characters have the same ones? How would these translate in your setting?
  3. Motivations have to be understandable so know why your characters are the way they are. Your world will be realistic with realistically drawn characters in it, no matter how alien they are in appearance etc.
  4. Think power sources (see Fairytales with Bite above). This can include everything from political power to the power needed to be able to grow food, light homes etc. Who runs all of this? Who are they answerable to?
  5. Think geography. Is your setting at odds with a neighbouring world? Are countries within the world at loggerheads with each other and, if so, why?
  6. Think history. What are the major stories your characters know? What are the important turning points in your setting’s history and how do these impact on the stories you want to tell? A world has to have some history behind it. That in turn will feed into politics. All of that will trigger ideas.
  7. Think culture. Is your setting a monoculture or are there several cultures? If the former, how would that be challenged (visitors from other worlds disturbing the peace etc)? If the latter, are there clashes between cultures? What triggers those and does anyone seek to exploit them? (Someone usually does!).
  8. Is magic part of your setting and is your society divided between the haves and the have nots? People understand the tensions that causes – using what we know here and reflecting it into your setting can give readers an instant short cut into your world. They’ll hit the ground running with your story as a result.
  9. Be consistent with rules – if certain characters can’t use magic, you’ll need to show why. There should be advantages as well as disadvantages to that. Magic can cause problems of its own so how does that play out in your setting?
  10. What fears exist in your setting/your characters? Do they, for example, fear monsters because they know they exist? How do characters cope with those fears? Are they expected to not show how they feel? How are the monsters dealt with if they are still an issue? What issues does you world have to deal with?

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Interview – Val Penny – and Swanwick Part 2

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Val Penny for supplying the book and author photos for my interview with her on Chandler’s Ford Today. Photos from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, including one of Val about to give her excellent Promoting Your Work talk (see CFT post), were all taken by me, Allison Symes. You do know who to blame! And a HUGE thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for taking the photos of me about to lead my session at Swanwick and of me signing my books. It is SO hard to take that kind of shot yourself!! Another lovely thing about Swanwick is we all happily do this for each other – the sharing and kindness here is amazing.

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Safely back home after a fabulous time at Swanwick, I hope to report more on that for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

Today though I share a great interview with Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, a fellow Swanwicker. Val shares news of her recent book release and we have a fab chat about blog tours, keeping notes about your characters’ main characteristics, marketing and other topics. Hope you enjoy it and it was lovely to catch up with Val again in person this last week. Until next year, Val!

Val Penny: The Hunter Wilson Series and Blog Tours

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Am pleased to share my latest blog on Authors Electric. Aptly I talk about Holiday Reading and Writing.

The four part course on Creative Non-Fiction ended today. So useful. I then went on to the Writing Comedy short course led by Rob Gee.

Later this afternoon, it will be time for the Swanwick Annual General Meeting. The main event on the last full day is the famous Swanwick Farewell and Awards evening which is always great fun. It was too!

Am I planning to be back next year? Oh yes!

Screenshot 2022-08-18 at 13-48-54 Holiday Reading and Writing by Allison Symes

Well, the temperature has cooled here in Derbyshire. We have had rain! Nobody sorry about that.
I resumed the Creative Non-Fiction specialist course led by Simon Whaley and then went on to the Historical Fiction course led by Jennifer C Wilson. I write some historical fiction flash stories and it is an area I would like to write more in – the scope is huge!

I’m planning to finish my afternoon by going to the Cracking the Cryptic Crossword one hour workshop led by Vivien Brown. I love crosswords. I can’t get cryptics so I thought this could be useful for when I want to unwind with word games, as I often do. It was great fun and an eye-opener.

There’s a fancy dress evening later. Am not really into that myself but it will be fun seeing what costumes people come up with for the theme of Another Night at the Movies.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So back at home and back to the writing routine. (I have to have one to get any writing done at all). I hope to resume writing for Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel from next week.

Swanwick set a competition for us while we’re there. I did send in a 150 word story. It didn’t get placed but I loved writing it, will look at it again and see where else I can submit it – I do know there will be somewhere!

I’ve sometimes gone on to have work published that way. And I’m fine with the sometimes by the way, simply because nobody hits a perfect 100% hit rate in writing/being published/being placed.

Delighted to sign Tripping the Flash Fantastic for fellow authors while at Swanwick. It is always a special thing. When I first started writing anything seriously, I knew nobody in the writing world. It is now a great joy to have many writing friends, some of whom I’ve met in person and others I’ve met just online.

I’ve learned so much chatting to other writers, including finding out about flash fiction and I’ve never regretted discovering that!

 

My week at the fantastic Swanwick Writers’ Summer School went by in a flash. It always does. Fabulous fun, caught up with old friends, got chatting to people new to Swanwick, learned so much from the courses and workshops, and enjoyed taking part.

I did take part again in the Open Prose Mic Night. Again fun to do and flash fiction works well for this. Loved listening to the Open Poetry Mic Night too.

For the prose night, I picked my linked flash tales – Mishaps and Jumping Time from Tripping the Flash Fantastic this time. Pleased to say they did get laugh but then my hapless time travelling alien in these stories does have that coming. Honest!

 

One thing I’ve learned over the years is to not rush a submission to a short story or flash competition. You always do need more editing time than you think. So I factor this in to my schedule and aim to submit my work about a fortnight before the deadline, having carried out all editing necessary including that important final check to ensure you have got all the typos out etc.

Can a judge tell if a competition entry has been rushed?
Oh yes.

What you want is for your work to be so polished the judge knows you haven’t rushed at all and you’ve given yourself plenty of time to ensure all is as good as you can make it. The little details matter here too.

Planning does not have to kill spontaneity - just work out what you need to know, you don't need to plan everything

Fairytales with Bite – The Creative Arts

What kind of creative arts would your fairytale world have? Would it be an area where magic was banned? I can’t see how much fun it would be if you were allowed to whip out your magic wand, say a quick spell and, hey presto, you’ve produced a stunning picture or a brilliant book. I would want things to be created “properly”, else where is the joy of the creative process?

Naturally I think of stories and books first for the arts world, followed by music, especially classical, as my two big art interests are there. What are your arts interests and could you bring them in somehow to the world you’re creating in your stories? What would be different in your magical world in this sphere?

Often we think of fairytales as those stories we read as children/had read to us. What would your magical world’s equivalent be? Do they tell tales about dodgy humans getting their comeuppance thanks to a heroic magical character, say?

Life is made up of the basic necessity to survive naturally, but what about the other elements of a well rounded life, which include the creative arts? How are those represented in your stories?

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This World and Others – Values

What values does your fictional world have in common with this one? Which ones are literally alien and why have these values been established? (That may well shed a great deal of light on the characters of your aliens – do they agree with these values or not?).

Values get established over time so how long did it take your world to come up with the ones it has? Are there sections of the community which don’t hold with these values at all and what do they do about this? Passive resistance or something much more active? Are they right to take the view they do?

Bear in mind your characters, wherever they are set, do not need to share your values. I’ve written pieces where I am at odds with my characters and that’s fine. But you still do need to understand why your characters, of whatever species, hold the values they do. There will be reasons for this. Okay, they may not be great ones but they will make sense to your fictional world and characters.

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Reviews, Transformations, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I also took the images from inside CafeLit 10.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images relating to Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing were kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones, some were created by me in Book Brush, and the proud contributing author pics were taken by Adrian Symes. Always tricky trying to take those kind of photos yourself. If your other half needs to know how they can support the author in their life, taking their author pics (and doing a good job of it) is a great place to start!

Hope you have a good start to the working week. Not a bad start here with publication news for next week and reviews coming in for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing.

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Facebook – General

Pleased to say I’ll be having another story on CafeLit next week (found out today). Will share more details nearer the time but that kind of news cheers up any Tuesday!

I submitted another story about my hapless magical being, Sarah, to Friday Flash Fiction and hope that will appear later this week. I usually create a video for my Youtube channel on a Sunday and schedule it to appear on the Monday. If you would like to check out the videos I’ve created so far, see the link below which will take you to my YT “home page”.

Over the course of a week, I aim to have a good balance of fiction and non-fiction writing completed (or in the case of longer projects to have made progress on them). It keeps my writing life interesting and means I’m never short of things to do.

Youtube channel – Allison Symes

Youtube iconScreenshot 2021-09-14 at 20-33-09 Allison Symes

Busy old day as it usually is for me on a Monday. Was pleased with my productivity yesterday though. I wrote a couple of flash stories (one of which I’ll share on my book page in a moment as I turned that into a Youtube video). I used a random word generator to trigger ideas for one of them. The other story I’ve submitted to Friday Flash Fiction. And I’ve created a second, exclusive Youtube video with a new story, which will go out as part of my newsletter on 1st October.

I’ve also drafted various presentation materials too and am looking forward to delivering them in due course! Am looking forward to a nice break with better half and the dog later in the year and I plan to edit my non-fiction project during that time.

(I can’t NOT write. Sad muppet? Maybe but I am a productive one! And the dog, my better half and I will be getting in lots of lovely walking during the day so by the time we get back to where we’ll be staying, we’ll all be glad of a sit down. For me that’s a trigger to get the red editing pen out!). Am pleased with it generally but I know I can sharpen it up further so that will be my focus in the latter half of the autumn.

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Hope you have had a good weekend.

I look forward to sharing Part 2 of my interview with #MaressaMortimer on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. (And many thanks for the great responses to the share of Part 1 last Friday).

Busy preparing workshop and other material including blogs at the moment. All good fun.

And it was lovely to catch up with some Swanwick friends on Zoom yesterday.

Don’t forget if you want to sign up to my author newsletter (packed full of tips, flash stories, news etc), then please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

And Amazon have an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the moment. See link for more.

 

Delighted to see some wonderful reviews coming in for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. (There is a blog tour going on right now which Wendy H Jones organised). I am going to share the link for this one though – and a huge thanks to Val Penny for this. It’s the kind of post that will put a smile on any author’s face.

In separate news, I’m making good progress on workshop and other materials for events later in the year (the Brechin/Angus Book Fest) so am well pleased with that too!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Funny old weather today – started gloomy, rain threatening, thunder predicted. Ended up warm and sunny and no clouds in sight. A complete transformation in what was expected.

Now it is possible to get a character transformation across in a flash fiction piece but it has to be a convincing transformation. You also need to be specific about what kind of transformation is likely as you don’t have the word count room to let your readers guess too much. And there has to be clues early on that transformation of some sort is going to be possible and will happen.

In my Seeing Is Believing from Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I open with “When Ben was unwell, strange signs appeared in the sky above his house.”.

That tells you immediately there has to be something special about Ben to make those strange signs happen. You can also reasonably expect to see some of those signs in the course of his story (otherwise why mention it?) and you have an idea of location.

House indicates an ordinary every day setting yet something is unusual here and that is the hook to draw the reader in with. You have the sense that something is going to happen either because of Ben or to Ben because of those strange signs. And that is how it should be. There is the sense something or someone is going to be transformed and the likelihood is that it has to involve Ben. It will be a question then of finding out what happens and how he handles it.

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Story time again. Hope you enjoy Being Bettered. Who will come off best – the witch or the fairy godmother?


I’ve mentioned before I need to have a way into a story but those ways can vary. Sometimes I am responding to a set prompt. Sometimes I use a proverb or well known saying as a theme. Sometimes I use an issue that means something to me.

My story Enough is Enough in Tripping the Flash Fantastic is a good example of this as it shows my character’s response to being body-shamed. (Yet another form of bullying, which is something I’ve always loathed). What I do with this story is get my character doing something positive (though whether you would necessarily agree with her idea of positive is another matter). What she doesn’t do is feel sorry for herself. She does get up and do something.

Stories hinge on the “what happens” question and the role of the character/story is to answer that question in some way. Sometimes the answer will be a good one (e.g. the traditional fairytale happily ever after ending is an example of this). Sometimes it won’t be (e.g. the character doesn’t win through despite their best efforts) but the ending will be appropriate for the character and story. And we as readers find out what happens isn’t necessarily what we would have liked to have seen happen. But then that is another way fiction mirrors life.

 

Pleased to say a fab review has come in for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing on Amazon. See link for more. My chapter in the book is called Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Let’s just say I say (and in some depth!). The nice thing with this book as a whole is if you would like to write but don’t know where to start, Creativity Matters will give you plenty of ideas. It also shows you how much variety is out there too in terms of what to write.

And don’t forget to check out Friday Flash Fiction for a wonderful batch of 100-word and other flash tales. My Almost Right is my contribution for this week.
Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-06-14 Almost Right, by Allison Symes


Goodreads Author Blog – Anthologies

Now I must put my hand up here and confess to being biased. I’ve had stories published in a number of anthologies over many years (mainly CafeLit and Bridge House Publishing). As well as the joy of being published, I love reading the other stories and discovering what my fellow writers have come out with for their contributions to the books.

As a reader, I love reading anthologies in between reading novels. Often an anthology will help me decide which novel is going to come off my To Be Read list next. A short story in an anthology might put me in the mood for a good crime novel or a fantasy one etc. I also like mixing up the kinds of things I read so I like to have anthologies in between the novels and novellas.

In celebrating the written word, I definitely want to include the short stories as well as the longer works.

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Balancing Fiction and Non-Fiction

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

More publication news this week and Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, chats to me on her blog. More below.

Storytelling shows us so much about ourselves

Facebook – General

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday where I’ll be chatting about Youtube for Authors. I’ll share how I use Youtube and why I am finding it useful, creative, and great fun. Going down this route was not something I anticipated doing even three years ago.

Don’t forget my author newsletter goes out on the first of the month so if would like to sign up please head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com (landing page) – and a big welcome to those already aboard. You receive a welcome email on sign-up along with a link to a giveaway where I share flash fiction stories, a brief piece about flash fiction, amongst other things.

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Hope you have had a good day. Thunder coming in here. Lady okay with it, especially now we’re back at home, but I cannot think of an odder July, weather wise. Glad the weather is supposed to get better from tomorrow but I am not holding my breath!

Glad to say I will be giving a couple of Zoom talks later on in the month so am getting ready for those.

Looking forward to going back to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Will be wonderful to catch up in person with lovely friends I’ve not seen for two years, though am deeply saddened by news of those Swanwickers lost since we last met. The support from other writers here is amazing. It will be nice to be out and about on the train again too (and yes, I have renewed my railcard. I renewed it last year not long before the first lockdown…oops!).

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Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on my No More Miss Mousy story which is up on #FridayFlashFiction. Great feedback – much appreciated.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about YouTube for Authors and the idea came from Part 2 of my interview with #HelenMatthews shared here on Friday.

Do you schedule your writing over the course of a week? I have a rough outline of what I want to see done by the end of the week but I can adjust this (and do) as and when the need arises. Friday of course is always CFT day, Sundays are usually when I prepare a flash tale to put up on YouTube and submit something to #FridayFlashFiction. For the rest of the week, I like to write a mixture of fiction and non-fiction and if I manage to do that, I feel it has been a week well spent.

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 18-40-02 No More Miss Mousy, by Allison Symes


Two posts today as lots to share. I’ll start by saying a huge thanks to the lovely #ValPenny for hosting me once again on her website. Back in March I was talking about my writing journey and today’s post is an update. A lot has happened since March, mainly involving Zoom.

Am also looking forward to catching up with Val in person when we get back to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later on in the summer. (I know – summer, she says laughingly but officially it is summer anyway). Will there be enough prosecco to go around I wonder… I’m sure we’ll manage!

Screenshot 2021-07-13 at 20-12-36 Zooming Around by Allison Symes


Secondly, I am delighted to say the July 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now up on Amazon. I talk about Patience in Flash Fiction Writing. I am their flasher queen after all! Hope you enjoy the magazine. It has a lovely combination of features. Best of all it is free – what’s not to like about that?

Screenshot 2021-07-10 at 16-53-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021 eBook Publishing, Goylake, Howe, Hannah , Smith,[...]

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I cover a wide range of emotions in my flash tales and I hope that range shows the depths flash can reach, even with its limited word count. I believe the limitation on word count encourages creativity rather than stifles it because I have to think of better ways of getting something across to a reader to make the most of whatever word count I have chosen to write to for that story. My usual word count range is between 100 and 500 for the shorter pieces and 500 to about 750 for the longer ones. I do write right up to the 1000 words maximum allowed but don’t do this often. The fun for me with flash is keeping the story as short as I can while still having the maximum impact on a reader.


I always enjoy preparing my videos on YouTube but this one gave me extra enjoyment and I hope it does for you too. My favourite form of writing is what I call fairytales with bite which are often humorous and/or come with a twist in the tale.

Hope you enjoy Getting The Workmen In.


E = Editing is something writing flash fiction has taught me not to fear.
D = Driving me on to make my flash story as perfect as I can make it at the time.
I = Imagination comes into play even here as I work out how to show a reader what they need to see in as few words as possible.
T = Time – allow plenty of it for this, a good edit is not something to be rushed even in a 100-word story.
I = Instincts will kick in as you realise over time what your wasted words are and you start spotting your repetitions quicker – you know to cut these immediately and will get better at doing so.
N = Naming your weaknesses helps you to spot them and overcome them – I have to watch myself for my wasted words and unnecessary punctuation (am a sucker for brackets – see!).
G = Great editing will strengthen your story and help your flash writing have more “oomph” to it which will go down well with readers.


It is a joy to be talking about flash again in the July 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. I set the theme for flash stories for them and write a post around the topic I’ve chosen. Do check the magazine out. It is free and there is a wide range of lovely articles in there.

This time I’m talking about patience. It has taken me time to learn different techniques for writing flash. Also I can get my characters to show just how patient or otherwise they are so it is a good open topic. And I like those – it means stories can be taken in any one of several different directions and I love the freedom of choice there.

And I’m getting to wave the flag for flash fiction. Am always glad to do that!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Balancing Fiction and Non-Fiction

I like to read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction though I suspect my reading “see-saw” is tilted more to the fiction side of things. I am reading more non-fiction than I ever have and hope to keep doing this, especially as I am now writing more non-fiction than before too.

My non-fiction reading side is tilted towards history where I’ve always had an interest and I’ve loved many of the Ben Macintyre books. I love the development where non-fiction is using some of the techinques used in fiction writing to grab the reader.

Gone are the days are boring old big reference books. In are non-fiction books which have speed and pace and make you wonder what will happen next. I hope that development encourages more people to read more non-fiction. I know it has worked for me!

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Judging Book Covers Part 2, Planning, and Openings

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. 

Many thanks to Val Penny, Jennifer C Wilson, and Teresa Bassett for their author and book images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for her image of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I adore Swanwick and am always happy to sneak in extra pictures if I get the chance and given Val and Jennifer are both Swanwick friends, I thought it was a good opportunity to do that again!

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Later on in this post, I’ll be looking at openings for magical stories but you still can’t beat the one below!

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share Part 2 of my Judging a Book By Its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. This week I chat about book covers with guests from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Val Penny and Jennifer C Wilson, and from Authors Reach, Teresa Bassett.

Between them my guests have written crime mysteries, romantic historical fiction, ghostly historical fiction, non-fiction, and YA books! Not a bad checklist that!  And a wide range of cover experience to discuss and share with us. Hope you enjoy. I share the final part of this series next week and hope the entire series proves especially useful to those considering their cover designs now.

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Lovely day, despite a chilly breeze, and Lady had a smashing time playing with her friend, Coco.

Looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover. This week I chat to guests from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and Authors Reach about their most recent covers. They share their thoughts on what makes for a good cover. Link up tomorrow.

I don’t know about you but you do know a good cover when you see one. It can be hard to define exactly what it is that has drawn you in. What matters is that the cover has drawn you in to want to find out more. And once you’re drawn in, off you go for hopefully another wonderful read! No pressure then…!!


Lady had a smashing play time with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her “gentleman friend”, Bear, who is a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd. Lady generally prefers playing with her girlfriends but Bear is one of the exceptions and he is a gent of a dog, which is probably why Lady likes him. And she can play with his Chuckit ball while he plays with her Chuckit ball etc. Three tired but happy dogs went home again… Delightful to hear a lot of thundering galloping going on here. Three reasonably big dogs at full pelt is a sight to be seen and heard.

Talking of being heard, how well do your character voices come across? Can you picture your people (or other beings) when you read their stories? When you have more than one character in a story, can you tell them apart by the way they speak? This is where pet phrases or certain words used by certain characters can help. I’ve written stories in the past where one snobby character did not use contractions at all. Good way of telling them apart from everyone else.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I’ve mentioned the need to really know your characters before but how does that work for flash fiction with its word count restrictions? Simple! You have a simpler set of questions to ask your characters!

You’re not going to need to go into as much back story as you would if you were writing a novel but what I have found useful to know before writing that first draft of a flash tale can be summed up below.

 

Character Type – Not does not have to be human.
Character Mood – Doesn’t have to be a positive one!
Major Trait – Again doesn’t have to be a positive one.
Theme – And sometimes the theme can make a useful title as well.

I’ve outlined an idea for a mini-flash tale (50 words or under generally) as a quick line or two on a piece of paper as I realised I had two ways of taking that particular story and I needed to know which would work best.

Jotting things down on a piece of paper or in an Evernote file on the old phone still has much to commend it. I’ve always found an outline, no matter what its length, keeps me on track for my story and saves time and heartache later on.

The heartache can come if you find out no matter what you do the story isn’t going to work and you’ve written a load of it already and can’t see ways of salvaging it. That has only happened to me twice and for the same reason – I didn’t know my character well enough.

Lesson learned. A little forward planning pays dividends and if you’re not really a planner just jotting a note to yourself of where you think your character may take you is still useful.

Am currently preparing something to submit to The Bridport Prize in their flash category. (Wish me luck. I would love to be longlisted here!). Hope to sort out the final polish and submit over the weekend.

What is encouraging though is that flash, while now a regular part of this competition and many others, wasn’t always recognized. It is great to see opportunities like this and yes you do have to be in it to have any chance of winning it.
Incidentally my final polish will be to make sure I have followed the entry rules to the letter. I can’t stress how important that is.

I have judged competitions and you don’t want to have to disqualify entries because of that but it is unfair on those who have followed the rules to allow any to go through that have not done so. So don’t make the judge’s life easy. Follow everything to the letter so the judge doesn’t have “easy” reasons to turn your entry down. Much the same applies for submitting work to a publisher and/or agent of course.


There are many things I love about flash fiction but the chief one, I think, is being able to set my characters wherever and whenever I want. So I do! I’ve written historical flash, ghost mini-tales, crime ones, acrostics, and my trademark fairytales with bite (aka fantasy with a twist, often an ironic one).

But I also love using the first person for flash tales as I get to take you straight into the head of my lead character. You see what they do. You see why they think as they do. The immediacy of flash is what gives it its emotional impact I think.


Fairytales With Bite – Once Upon a Time – Opening a Magical Story

Once upon a time is the classic way to open a magical story, of course. Those four words immediately conjure up a world far, far away (in both distance and time) and encourage me to settle down for a good read. It also immediately sets up the magical environment in which the story is going to be set.

Those words are a good example of repetition (in so many stories) setting up a link that goes deep into our subconscious. Everyone who has read or heard a fairytale will know those words and have a good idea of what is come.

Anticipation of having a story delivered is also an important part of reading. After all, what draws you to a book? The thought of a good read? But that good read can only come from you taking in the opening and deciding you would like to buy or borrow said book.

So how to open a magical story? With my flash fiction, I often set a clue in the opening line or two that magic is likely to appear. For example, in my Seeing Is Believing from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I open with “When Ben was unwell, strange signs appeared in the sky above his house.”.

So I am upfront right at the start of the story magic has to turn up in this tale somewhere – what else could explain the strange signs? Doing this again gives readers a sense of what this story is likely to be and hopefully be intrigued enough to read on to find out whether or not they were right.

For flash fiction, I keep the level of details down to a minimum (as I need to due to the restricted word count of 1000 words maximum. The advantage of that restriction though is it makes you keep in the story only what really matters to the story. For an opening, it means I have to draw a reader in quickly so I want to make the most powerful impact I can with my opening lines).

For any kind of story, magical or otherwise, those opening lines are vital to the success of your story. I’ve found it helps to put myself in the reader’s shoes and ask myself what would I want to read here? What do I absolutely have to know? And those are good questions to ask yourself as you edit your story. They will help you make your opening lines as strong as possible.

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This World and Others – World History

Does your created world have much of a back story in its own right? If you needed to write a history of it could you do so and which aspect would you look at?

History covers a huge field from the traditional wars and battles that changed history to changing cultural history and so on. Most of this would not be directly relevant to your story but is phenomenally useful for you to know. Why? You need to be able to give your characters a sense of the world they belong to – they should know where they come from and that in turn will influence their attitudes and decisions. That will affect your story and rightly so!

So work out what you think you will need to know. If one of your characters is an artist, what kind are they? Does their culture encourage creativity or stifle it? If, say, they’re a painter in a world where only sculptures count for anything, how do they handle that?

History feeds into the lives we lead now and this is just as true for our fictional creations.

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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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