Characters, Podcast, Interview, Summit and Talk News – Yes, it has been a busy week!

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of Wendy H Jones were kindly supplied by her.

Many thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for the images of me reading at Open Prose Mic Nights at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (pre-2020 obviously!).

Image of me signing Tripping the Flash Fantastic in front of a distinctly unimpressed Lady was taken by Adrian Symes.

And I think the above will be my longest blog post title ever! 

ANNOUNCEMENT:  I launch my author newsletter on Monday, 1st March 2021 and there is a giveaway with it (which you link to in the Welcome to my Newsletter email you receive on signing up). Sign up page here

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

After what has been a busy, fun, and especially creative week, I’m delighted to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post which shares some of what I’ve been up to (!) and looks ahead to what is to come.

I’m thrilled to share here the link to #WendyJJones’ podcast, the fabulous The Writing and Marketing Show, where I was her guest back in late January talking about writing a regular column.

I discussed with Wendy, amongst other things, how to find ideas and to keep on finding them. Naturally Chandler’s Ford Today was well plugged here and I should stress that though it is an online community magazine, many of the articles go beyond local.

My posts here are aimed, mainly, at writers and I specifically aim to write posts that will prove timeless and therefore useful to people for longer. So do go and have a look!

I also discuss a little about what is coming up including when my interview with #HannahKate will be broadcast, about the international writing summit I’m taking part in, and about a WI talk I’m currently working on for delivery in mid-March.

See https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/local-author-news-allison-symes-summits-talks-and-interviews/ for more.

And a big thanks to Wendy once again for hosting me on her podcast. Also thanks for her contribution, and to all of my other guests for theirs, to the recent CFT series Launches in Lockdown.

Feedback on that has been good (many thanks, folks!) and I hope it proves useful for anyone planning their launch this year. What was particularly positive about that series was the range of ideas people had for overcoming the obvious difficulties in trying to have launches during a pandemic. I was also encouraged to see though that, despite all the miseries of the last year, book sales went up considerably. Now that is always good news!

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When I first started out as a writer (the last T-Rex had just left the planet to give you a rough idea of time scales!), the thought of talking about my work or networking would have brought me out in a cold sweat (and did. Thank goodness for deodorant!). Now, it’s fine. Why the change?

I cheered up about the thought of networking when I realised it often meant chatting with another writer about my work over a cup or glass of something lovely. They’d ask me about my work. I’d ask them about theirs. Before I knew it, a good conversation was being had and I made new writing pals. So win-win.

(I’ve only ever come across the odd one or two who only wanted to talk about their work and I learned from that this is not the way to make writing pals. It is no coincidence the best writing pals are the ones who take an interest in what you do and of course you take an interest in what they do. I’ve learned something useful from every writer I’ve ever chatted to, regardless of their genre, and it is true that to have writing pals you need to be one yourself first and foremost.).

But I realised before going to my first writing conference all those eons ago that I would have to think of something to say to introduce myself and what I did then writing wise. So I drafted something. The old pen and paper came in handy here, I drafted something useful and it made sure I didn’t forget anything either and it gave me that little bit more confidence when I went to that first conference as I rehearsed it to myself too and I knew I at least had something to say!

I was very nervous but I quickly found writers are a friendly and welcoming bunch and before I knew it I was chatting away as if I’d known these good people for ages. And that’s the way it should be and one of the major things I love about the writing community.

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It was a joy to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM today. I look forward to sharing the links later but it was a real pleasure to talk about flash fiction and blogging. It is a funny thing I fell into both of those things by accident but the writing journey is unique to each writer. We all face our twists and turns but sometimes those twists turn out to be smashing ones!

In other news, my Chandler’s Ford Today post is going to be a summary of my recent news, including mention of the interview with Hannah, but also includes the link to #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show podcast where I was a guest a little while back talking about writing a regular column. (I didn’t want to interrupt the Launches in Lockdown series, otherwise I would have shared this sooner). I’ll also be sharing a little about what is happening in March as it is going to be a busy month with most of the prep work done for it this month!

It is often the way with the writing life things come in batches and then nothing for ages. You do get used to it!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve found mixing up the way I approach writing flash fiction interesting and useful. It keeps me on my toes for a start! I always start by knowing who my character is but I don’t necessarily write from A to B until I reach The End. Sometimes I write from B to A (and this is a specially good technique for twist in the tales. You know what the twist is and then work back logically to where the start should be).

Sometimes I know the mood of the story I want to write. For example, let’s say I feel like writing a funny story that will make people smile and, better still, laugh. I then think about the kind of character who would serve that kind of tale well.

And I do the same if I want to write a tale that makes you shudder. What kind of character could produce that kind of reaction?

I’m sure you can see from all of that why I think characters are what makes a great story (or not. A promising story can fail miserably if the star performers, your characters, are “not up to the job”. I’ve only ever abandoned a couple of stories in my time and both times it was for the same reason. Weak characters, a story that didn’t grip me precisely because those characters were weak. And my conclusion? It was all my own fault for not getting to know these characters well enough before writing them up. I try hard not to make that mistake now!).


One of the things I’ve found when talking to people about what flash fiction is all about is that demonstrating it by reading one or two of my 100-word stories goes down a treat and does the job nicely! In the days when we could still have live events (hopefully soon to come back again!), I made sales doing that!

And it shows the impact of the very short form in the best way imaginable too.

When taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights, such as the ones at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, it is a great way of finding out whether the impact you think the story has really does have that.

Gauging audience reaction is not just useful for the story you’ve read out but it can guide you as to how approach writing others, especially if the reaction is not quite what you thought it would be (and that happens). Mind you, it is wonderful and appreciated by me when a story does produce the reactions I’d hoped for and people do laugh when I wanted the story to produce that.


I write a mixture of flash tales – ghost stories, historical, crime, fantasy, humorous, slice of life etc – which is why I sometimes describe my collections as “mixed assortments”. They don’t just work for chocolates! But each type of flash I write has its own challenge in that I have to convey the type and setting without using too many words to do so.

With a historical piece, I use the character to take you back in time. That saves a wealth of description for one thing but I can also show you the world that character lives in through their eyes. And what they see tells you the story is set in the past.

With crime, I often show it is one with the last line as twist in the tale endings work so well for this. I also use an interesting first line sometimes to indicate a crime has either just happened or is about to happen.

For fantasy, I often show this via the character. For example in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my story Where The Wild Wind Blows starts with the two words “The Witch” so that shows you immediately this has to be a fantasy setting (as opposed to your local High Street, unless it is a very odd High Street!).

But I love mixing up the kind of flash tales I create and again it keeps me on my toes as I have to work out what is the right approach to them and no two stories are exactly the same here.

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Fairytales With Bite – Who are Your Minor Characters?

For longer works, I like spotting the minor characters who end up playing a major role in the overall story. I try to guess at the start of the tale which of these will end up with a kind of starring role.(For The Lord of the Rings for example, I would put Merry and Pippin in this category. They’re not so important as Sam but they will still play an important role that contributes to the overall plot).

The main thing to make sure of, naturally, is such minor characters really do serve a purpose and are not just there for decoration or to make up the numbers. (Writing flash fiction means I can’t do that. I have to focus only on what serves the story but it is a great technique to develop for all forms of writing, including non-fiction).

So who are your minor characters? What roles do they play? Do the major characters realise the contribution from the minor ones?

I also wouldn’t kill of a minor character for the sake of it. There has to be a good reason for them to go, otherwise the reader will see straight through it. Everything and everyone in the story has to serve a useful purpose, otherwise out they go!

I outline my characters so I know who they are before I write their story up (and I like to think of it as being their story and not mine. That also helps me make sure my author’s voice does not come into it). I do this by asking a series of questions.

For minor characters, you won’t need to know so much but you do have to be crystal clear that they are necessary to your tale and why.

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This World and Others –

What I Like to see in a Fictional World

I could write chapter and verse (appropriately!) on this one so it is a question of working out what is the most important and I think of that in terms of what I think the reader will consider most important. So my suggestions?

Interesting Characters – no story without these. I want to see fully formed characters who intrigue me enough to make me want to find out what their story is going to be. (I also have a soft spot for quirky characters but there has to be a good reason for them to be quirky and in your story).

A Sense of Their World – I don’t need every detail. Nor do your readers, otherwise you run the risk of sending them to sleep with too much description etc. I do need to know where the characters live, how they provide for themselves, and what kind of government they live under (as that gives me a feel for what liberties they have, or don’t have, as the case may be). Even here a broad overview is fine. And you can build up what you “feed” readers, a bit at a time. Think about the “need to know” basis, it’s a good guideline. You as the writer will always need to know more than the reader but not all of that necessarily has to go into the story.

Level of Education – This can be shown by how the characters speak. Readers will deduce what is normal, what is not from context. Also references to books (or not) can indicate whether the society is a literate one or not. It can also be shown by how the characters communicate. If it is an oral tradition, there will be no written records, as we would know them for example.

Conflict – No conflict = no story. Even when the character struggles with themselves, there is conflict. And the conflict should be based on what readers find out about your fictional world from what you choose to show them. We should be able to see Country A hates Country B because…

Resolution – As ever with any kind of story, this doesn’t have to be a happy one but it should be appropriate for what has gone before.

Writing Challenge, Advice, Story Video and Interview News

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

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

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

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Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newsletter advert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot_2021-02-20 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Sells a Book to You

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

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

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

Twitter Corner

 

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Writing Joys, Podcast News, and Launches in Lockdown 2

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

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

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

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

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

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

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

PODCAST NEWS –

WENDY H JONES CHATS TO ALLISON SYMES

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fairytales with Bite – Magical Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twitter Corner

 

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An Electric Author and Podcast News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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

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

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

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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Wendy H Jones, author and podcaster

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Plenty going on so far this week (yes, I know it’s only Monday!).

Firstly, I now have an About the Author spot on the Authors Electric website. Many thanks to #DebbieBennett for ensuring this ended up in the right place. I use Blogger for a few things I write but I’m not an admin on it so am just used to posting on the posts “bit”.

Having said that, I am looking forward to sharing my first post here on 18th February. It’s also great to see some familiar faces on this site and I am relishing reading more of the posts. (Tip: to make sure you don’t miss any, subscribe to the blog itself. I know it sounds obvious but it is easy to forget to do this. Let’s just say it’s not a mistake I make now! Incidentally because I do blog, I like to keep up to date with what is out there in my field and while it is impossible to keep up with everything, I do follow as well as contribute to blogs. I see both the reading and writing of blogs as vital research).

Secondly, I am being interviewed by Wendy H Jones tomorrow afternoon for her podcast due “out” on Wednesday. I have two sides to my writing life (I know – as if one wasn’t enough but in fairness it often isn’t for writers!), and last time I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show I talked about flash fiction. This time I’ll be talking about my blogging work and generating ideas for a weekly column.

I’ve written a weekly column for online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, for some time now and one great thing about doing this is it keeps me on my toes. I have to write something every week and to a deadline. I’m looking forward to talking more about this with Wendy and to sharing the link on Wednesday.

And if you pop over to my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page in a moment, I have further news! Phew… I think it is going to be one of those fun but mightily busy weeks!  (See below for this!).

The snow did turn up! The view below is taken by yours truly from my back window and, before you ask, Lady does love the snow. It’s only the second time she has been able to play in some. On the plus side it did mean I didn’t have to take her water bottle out with me today – I knew she’d eat the snow. Is there any dog that doesn’t do that? (I will pretend I am not hearing all of my cat owning friends laughing at this point, given this is an issue they’re unlikely to face!).

News: I’ve been invited to take part in a monthly blog for Authors Electric. Excited about this and looking forward to sharing my first post on the 18th. Brief: blog has to be book/story/writing related in some way. Yes, I tick the boxes there well enough!

I prepare my blogs in advance (trust me, it pays!) and when I can I draft “spares” and save them for those times when I’m away or struck down with the dreaded lurgy (not that one, to date at least, thankfully) so I can just schedule these and that’s all done.

I love scheduling. Aside from Scrivener, it is probably one of the most useful things I’ve finally worked out how to do properly! I sometimes use it for Twitter too and I need to make more use of that. You may have noticed I often put a Twitter Corner spot in my twice weekly blog spot for my website. This is to encourage me to make more use of Twitter and the use of graphics with my tweets makes a nice addition to my blog round-up as well. I like a good balance of text and graphics and it seems to go down well with my followers here (thank you, everyone).

Snow View as at 24th January 2021

Brrr…. a cold one today. No snow where I am in Hampshire though some is forecast tomorrow. We’ll see. (I did – see above! Murphy’s Law is working well – had I not said anything, would there have been the teeniest, weeniest snowflake? Course not!).

At least I’m not going anywhere other than by foot (which in turn is powered by sturdy walking boot with a decent grip!)!

Many thanks for the great response to Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I learn so much from chatting to other authors and it always a pleasure to interview them here. Hopefully the series will prove to be encouraging to those who are wondering what they should do with their launches this year, given this will still be an issue for some time. Even when normality does return, it is highly unlikely to be “all at once” (and it wouldn’t be a good idea I think even if that did somehow prove possible).

Now on to another favourite topic. Story time! Did you have such a thing at school? I did at primary school (roughly aged 5 to 7 years). It was for about the last 15 or 20 minutes before going home and I found it then a great way to unwind and relax. I still do though my own story time these days tends to be at bedtime!

I much preferred school story time to the free milk we used to get in the third-of-a-pint bottles. I love milk, don’t get me wrong, but the bottles were either left by the radiators and I just can’t stand warm/hot milk or, especially at this time of year, the milk in the bottles had frozen and nobody was going to risk breaking their teeth trying to drink it! Oh and you can imagine what it was like during a hot summer… Funnily enough, I do love yogurt now!

At junior school level (roughly ages 8 to 11), we used to have something called SRA cards where there was a story on one side and questions about the story on the others. These were colour coded and you worked your way through the system. Adored that. (Often used when the English teacher wanted to catch up with marking. Excellent idea all around I think!).

At secondary school level (ages about 11 to 16), if you wanted to read a book, you did it on your own, unless in English Literature, but the school library was a good one so I spent a lot of time in there.

Encouraging people of all ages to read though remains a very good thing indeed. And great storytelling which draws people in is a great way to achieve that. No pressure then! Back off to the writing!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

Screenshot_2021-01-26 Allison Symes

 

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

Dress Sense Video Link

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading/Writing Guides

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

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

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

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

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

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Twitter Corner

 

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Introducing Dawn Knox – The Chronicles Continue.

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of Dawn Knox/The Macaroon and Basilwade Chronicles/The Great War/play photos were all supplied by Dawn Knox. Many thanks to her.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied for her.

And a big thanks to the organisers of the Facebook Group, Christmas Book Hub, for creating the wonderful bookshop image for their page, which currently features Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Very very happy to give them a shout out!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m delighted to welcome #DawnKnox to Chandler’s Ford Today for the next two weeks as we discuss her writing journey, celebrate her new book, the hilarious The Macaroon Chronicles, and look at her varied career which includes playwriting. Dawn will be sharing her thoughts about writing and also chats about the joys and pitfalls of writing humorous prose.

Feature Image - Dawn Knox interview Part 1

The Macaroon Chronicles

It is always a great joy to chat to a fellow flash fiction and CafeLit/Bridge House Publishing writer and I’m looking forward to catching up with Dawn and many other colleagues at the BHP celebration event (online) on 5th December.

Will so miss seeing everybody in person but at least Zoom gives us the chance to meet online. And I can’t wait to share Part 2 of Dawn’s fab interview next week.

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Brrr…. It’s getting chilly out there not that Lady noticed. She had a fab run with a lovely Saluki/whippet cross this morning. Lovely to see them both having a great time.

Have been having fun with Book Brush again. This is my latest effort.

Really looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my interview with Dawn Knox on Chandler’s Ford Today. Look out for this tomorrow. Dawn is a delight to chat to and I always learn something useful from interviews like this.

No two writers have the same writing journey and I find it endlessly fascinating what has worked for one, what has worked for another and so on.

Dawn will be discussing her latest book, The Macaroon Chronicles, which is hilarious. If you need a cheerful read, do check this out.

Am catching up with some non-fiction reading at the moment. I’m reading London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. It’s a hefty tome but a fascinating read and I just love the idea of writing a biography about a city. Interesting approach to take on it.

Whether what I learn from this fab book filters into my writing later on remains to be seen but I do know non-fiction can often spark ideas for story writers. An interesting fact here and there can trigger story ideas so don’t overlook reading non-fiction as part of your overall reading “diet”.

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Had the perfect dentist’s appointment today. No. It wasn’t at two-thirty (tooth hurty – veterans of the old gag circuit will easily recognise that one!). I got out with nothing having to be done! So win-win immediately there…

Looking forward to “going” to the Bridge House Celebration event on 5th December. Normally this would be in London but of course it will be a Zoom session only for this year. The event is FREE but you do need to register. See https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/launch-and-celebration-event-tickets-127841763155 for more details. Hope to see you “there”.

These events are always great fun and, if ever there was a year we could all do with some of that, this year is it.

Personally speaking, what is lovely is being able to celebrate The Best of Cafelit 9, where I have two stories published; Mulling It Over, the new Bridge House annual anthology where I have a standard length short story published; Transforming Communities, where I had a 1000 word story published (this was the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition book); and, of course, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

Despite everything else going on in 2020, publication wise it has been a good year. And there’s more to come. A little later on the three ebooks from the last three years of the Waterloo Arts Festival will be published in one single paperback. Am looking forward to sharing details about that in due course.

This year has been a good one for professional development too in terms of video making, setting up the Youtube channel, revamping the website, appearing on Chat and Spin Radio, appearing on #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show. And Book Brush has been a revelation too.

The flip side? I have so desperately missed meeting up with writer friends in person at Swanwick, Winchester, the Association of Christian Writer events, and the Bridge House/Waterloo Arts Festival celebration days.

Let’s hope for better things for 2021 but I guess if this year has shown anything, for me at least, it has been doing what you can when you can and making the most of things like Zoom.

Oh and keep on writing and submitting of course!

Happy writing!

Book Brush - Cafelit 9, Mulling It Over, TransformationsBookBrushImage-2020-11-16-21-040

From Light to Dark and Back Again

I enjoy being part of a number of writing groups etc on Facebook. These groups are a lovely way to meet other writers, albeit only online in some cases, and I always learn a lot from them.

I am part of the Christmas Book Hub – see https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookhub/permalink/1003208640189243/ for more.

#PatriciaMOsborne, one of the founders of this, is someone I know from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and I’ve had the pleasure of chatting to her for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts in the past too.

Now I mention this for two reasons:-

1. If you want to create a book buying list for Christmas, do start here!

2. There is a wonderful banner for this Facebook page – of books in a Christmassy shop window. The books on this change every so often and my Tripping the Flash Fantastic is on there at the moment.

The artwork for this is wonderful and it is a great pleasure and privilege to see my book on there. A huge thanks to the organisers behind this page on behalf of all of the authors on here. Online things like this are always useful but never more so than now during what has been such a strange year for us all.

And it is a timely reminder to say that do DM the authors on this page, including me, if you would like to know more about buying signed copies of our books.

We would be so pleased to hear from you!

TTFF in Christmas Book Hub shop windowScreenshot_2020-11-27 Facebook Groups

I’ve mentioned my love of mixing up the kind of flash fiction stories I write before. I do think one of the great strengths of flash fiction is because it needs to be character led, you can get to set that character anywhere you want in genre and time period, past, present, and future.

The crucial thing is to have a character who is worthy of being written up! Even if you don’t plan any other writing, I do think giving thought to what your lead character is going to be (or likely to be, I know things can change in the editing), is important.

If you want to write a story about a financially astute character but discover the way you’ve portrayed your lead, they’re more likely to be as astute as a chocolate teapot, then you have an issue (though it could make for a wonderfully funny or tragic piece, depending on how you wanted to “play” it).

But things like that should be a conscious decision by you as the writer. You can’t rely on “happy accidents”. You can rely on some forward planning though!

Many thanks to everyone for the wonderful reviews so far for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. They are much appreciated and I was delighted to see two new ones in today.

Appropriately for a flash fiction collection, I will stress reviews don’t have to be long and they are a great way of supporting authors. (This year we are even more grateful than we usually are for that kind of support. I have missed being able to go to writing events dreadfully. Fingers crossed for next year!).

Do I review books myself? Oh yes. One of the things I love about the writing world in general is there is a lot of give and take and that is only right. All of us know the pains and pleasures of bringing stories/books/articles to life etc. All of us appreciate the support from others but it is good when you can give support back. I like to see it as paying it forward and back.

Screenshot_2020-11-25 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic(1)Screenshot_2020-11-25 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

Fairytales With Bite – Twists and Turns

Fairytales are full of twists and turns, which is another reason to love them. You know, after you’ve read a few (and/or listened to them when you were a kid), that the underdog will somehow come out on top, usually with the aid of a friendly fairy godmother or talking cat or some such thing.

Fairytales are great because you accept that magic is part of the setting and it is a question of finding out who is going to use it, whether they’ll use it to do good or not, whether it backfires etc etc. But you also know the character being helped this way has somehow got to be worthy of it. Fairy godmothers don’t just turn up for anybody!

So when planning your own fairytales/magical realism/fantasy stories, think about what your twists and turns are going to be. Magic is going to be around but don’t overdo it.

I know as a reader I like to see characters who are trying to improve things for themselves, who are being thwarted or held back through no fault of theirs, and then hey presto the fairy godmother turns up. It is also not a bad thing to show the downside of magic.

As with any source of power it can be abused so think about how that might happen in your creations and what your characters could do to overcome this (assuming of course they want to and they’re not the ones abusing the magic! In the case of the latter, I would like to see some sort of “back fire” happen so said characters have to behave in a better way and/or don’t get away with what they’re doing and/or are thwarted by other characters).

Expect the unexpected is a good motto here but as the writer think about how this could play out in your stories. Plan what your twists will be and how they will be executed. What clues will readers have to look back on and think later “I should’ve spotted that”?

And just as life is full of ups and downs, so your stories should be. But the nice thing with stories is you can make them end on a good note! Stories can be arranged!

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This World and Others – What Is Normal?

Now there’s a leading question but it is a vital one. Whether your created world is a fantasy one or set here firmly on Earth, you do need to work out what is going to be normal/perceived as normal by your characters. (Readers of course may well think entirely differently!).

So what kind of setting are you using? If here on Earth, will be in an Earth we would recognize? You could of course set up an alternative based on certain aspects of history being changed.

If X happened instead of Y, what would Earth look like as a result? The series The Man In The High Castle was based on that. If you’re using a fantasy setting, what aspects would appeal to readers? Which wouldn’t? Which are necessary to the successful running of that setting?

For your characters themselves, would we recognise their behaviours as normal? If not, why are they different and in their setting, is their behaviour considered oddball or not?

Working out details like this early on can save you a lot of editing and rewriting later on so I think it is worth doing. Even if you don’t want to plan to the “nth” degree, wanting to see where the story and characters take you, I still think it pays to jot down a few basic notes.

Character A is capable of this because…. The setting is this because…. What you jot down here really is an aid for you and I am all for things that help make the writer’s life smoother!

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CYBERLAUNCH – TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC

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

A self explanatory post from me for CFT this week (well, you can’t get more self explanatory than Local Author Cyberlaunch News – Allison Symes – Tripping The Flash Fantastic – can you?!)

Having said that I do share in this post some thoughts on cyberlaunches, the joy of technology, and how good prep work helps SO much with this kind of event.

Hope you enjoy the post and hope to see you at the Tripping The Flash Fantastic event tomorrow.  See both the CFT post for details and the direct link here.

Screenshot_2020-10-02 Tripping The Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch Facebook

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Well, it has been quite a week but it is lovely to end it looking ahead to the cyberlaunch tomorrow.

I am also delighted to share a fantastic (appropriately!) review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic from Aly Rhodes which came in today. A huge thanks to her and to all of my lovely reviewers so far.

TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC
This is the author’s second collection of flash fiction i.e. where the stories are often very brief ( 100 words) up to maybe 1000 at most; maximum story with minimum wordage. Here in this collection witches play tricks, historic figures give their pov’s (Anne Boleyn), Santa Claus is revealed, dragons fly, and fairy godmothers run rampant.

Symes has enormous fun with these quirky, alternative mini-tales, which often make the reader laugh but sometimes cry too.

My favourites were The Pink Rose, (outstandingly touching), And Then There Are Tuesdays (I was born on a Tuesday so this had resonance for me) and Time To Be Off, the last line cracked me up.

Dip in, sample, taste and savour these short shorts.

And on behalf of ALL writers, I’ll take the chance to say reviews are always hugely appreciated by us all. They don’t have to be long but they help so much.

I use reviews myself as a consumer for everything from book purchases to new groceries to try! So if you’re thinking of reviewing but haven’t done so, perhaps you’re wondering if it’s worth it, then let me say it definitely IS worth it. Please do send them in!


Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
ONE DAY TO GO! Where has the week gone? Time for another story I think.
Look forward to seeing you on my Facebook event page from 7 pm tomorrow.

As well as celebrating the launch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (and it means so much to me to have a second book out), I would like to see the launch as a celebration of stories. They are always worth celebrating! Cheers!

Tonight I share one of my favourite tales from TTFF – Being Yourself. You may never look at librarians in quite the same way again…🙂😉


Delighted to share another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Many thanks to Gail Aldwin for the following.

TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC

The title sums up this collection exactly! These short stories contain characters including dragons, witches, fairies, ghosts, figures from history and contemporary life. Many stories include unusual observations and viewpoints. Some are funny, others pack a punch. If you enjoy a diverse collection of stories, this is the book for you!

When it comes to reading, as well as writing flash collections, I do love a variety of mood and characters. It is always the characters I want to discover and root for/boo hard at (depending on whether they’re the villain or not). Naturally that love of character comes out in my own writing.

And a little later, I’ll be sharing a brief reading of one of my stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic on my events page, which I hope you enjoy. (I’ve put one of the videos I’ve used up above and will share another here shortly). (Oh and below are three other images I did have in mind for the book cover for TTFF at some point).

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
It’s storytime as the flyer says. I’m reading Judgement Day from Tripping The Flash Fantastic and then share a little of what led me to writing this story. Hope you enjoy. Oh and before I forget, as if I could (!)… TWO DAYS TO GO! (When I put this on Facebook during the week of course. It has been a busy and exciting week as you can probably tell by now!).

Storytime - Judgement Day By Allison Symes


Such good fun to be on a mini blog tour at the moment. I was guest on #PatriciaMOsborne’s blog yesterday. Today I am on Jen Wilson’s blog (see my earlier post for the link). Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s one. And the two things the four of us have in common?

As well as being writers, we are all stalwarts of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. AND two of us are part of the renowned Prosecco Queens’ quiz team of said Summer School!

(Image below is of me taking part in the Open Prose Mic Night at the School in 2019. Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for the pic. The other image was taken by Cheryl Holland on my phone and features Val Penny and Jen Wilson and other lovely Swanwick friends. We all can’t wait for Swanwick to resume, hopefully, in 2021).

34889c89ed2c7f0164fbf25826dd9ac9.0Always time for a laugh with fellow writers-1

Many thanks to #JenniferCWilson for hosting me on her blog today. It is always great fun to talk about flash fiction. Knowing Jennifer’s own love for history, it was particularly nice to discuss this aspect of my flash fiction writing with her here.

Flash fiction has the huge advantage of being character led and I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want. Great fun! But with Tripping The Flash Fantastic, for the first time, I have written historically based flash fiction. See the article for more about this but it is something I hope to do more of at some point.

Just to confirm the link for my launch event on Saturday can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/1246876649024453

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
I’m on a mini blog tour at the moment with fellow stalwarts from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. It was a pleasure to chat yesterday with Patricia M Osborne on her blog.

Today I chat with Jen Wilson on her blog

Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s blog and it has been great having slots ahead of the cyberlaunch and again just after it.

As I know Jen writes historical paranormal (do check out her Kindred Spirits series), my focus for this blog spot was on my historical flash stories in TTFF.

I’ve mentioned on my posts before that one thing I love about flash fiction is it has to be character-led. That means I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want!

For the first time with TTFF, I have set stories back in time. There are stories in here which are from the viewpoint of Richard III and Elizabeth of York for example, as well as my trademark “fairytales with bite” fiction.

All good fun to do and, of course, history is full of wonderful and not-so wonderful characters. This is an aspect of flash writing I hope to do more of in future.


Time for a listen I think! I had the great joy of being a guest on #WendyHJones’ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this year. My first time on a podcast, great fun to do, and no prizes for guessing what I talked about (though there is a huge hint below!).

Do check out Wendy’s show every Wednesday. All of the episodes are jam packed with tips and advice.

See https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again –


One of the challenges of any form of fiction writing is ensuring readers can tell your characters apart by the way they speak etc.

Now with flash fiction where I often focus on one character per story, that isn’t a problem as such.

Where the challenge DOES come in is ensuring that in a collection like From Light to Dark and Back Again and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic as well, the characters in the books as a WHOLE are nicely varied. Readers should be able to distinguish between the stories (and thus the characters).

It’s another reason why I like a good variety of mood and tone in my books as that helps with this aspect enormously.


Sometimes when I write my flash tales, I have the character in mind clearly and I then need to think of something for them to do! At other times I have the ideas of a situation to write about but need the right person to “fill” the role, so to speak. So this is why I jot down ideas for stories but also for characters.

Let’s say a competition theme is one of honesty. I could go one of two ways here – use an honest character and highlight the theme via them directly. Or I can use a dishonest character and contrast them with the honest situation. Both would work. It’s then down to me to decide which of the two characters I think is the strongest and I will then write their story up.


This week is going to be focused on my launch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, of course, but I am looking forward to sharing a couple of readings from the new book. (See above!).

How do I choose stories for reading for things like this or for Open Prose Mic Nights and the like? I try to go for a balance of mood. If I read a funny tale, I will read a darker one too. I also go for a balance of lengths too. If I read a 100-worder, I will also read a 250 or something that is a little longer than the first tale I read.

Above all, I try not to go on for too long. Recordings are best kept fairly short (as it effects download time etc). Also a short recording or reading makes it easier to keep your listener’s interest.

Pic below is of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Open Prose Mic Night (and there’s a phrase you don’t want to say quickly!). A huge thanks to #GeoffParkes for the pic.

The Open Mic for Prose night

Fairytales With Bite – The Sting in The Tail


One of the joys of flash fiction writing, which is my big love, is it is a great form for twist in the tale endings. Also, as the form has to be character led, you can set those characters whenever and wherever you want. Your characters don’t have to be human either. I like all of that!

One great thing about using non-human characters is you can use them to reflect aspects of us. Animal Farm by George Orwell does that brilliantly. (Definitely not flattering either).

The most effective stings in the tail are for me where:-

1. The character is an aggravating one and deserves whatever is coming to them!

2. You think a character you’re rooting for has little chance of winning and things change at the very last moment so that they do win out. (The classic fairytales often work on this basis. Think of Cinderella when the Prince insists that all of the women in the household have to try the glass slipper. Had the Prince not been so persistent….)

So think about how and where in your story you are going to place your sting. In my Calling The Doctor from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my sting is in the very last word.

Both book trailers below. (For me it is lovely seeing them side by side).

Hope you enjoy the stories and do think about how you can make your sting have the maximum impact on a reader. Sometimes you can know the sting fairly early on. It is then a question of finding out whether the character deals with that sting in a good way or not and that can be fun too.

This World and Others – Conjuring Up Your World


What do you want readers to imagine when they read your stories? What aspects of your created world are the most important for them to read about and how can you convey that?

I’ve mentioned before it is often the telling detail placed in the right place in a story that has the maximum impact on a reader. I don’t necessarily need to know Character A lives in an “upside down” world.

I do need to know Character A walks on what we would consider to be the sky and a brief showing of how that is done. (For the characters that live in this world it would all be perfectly natural of course, but often a story changes dramatically when a stranger comes into the world and someone has to show them the ropes).

Readers need a sense that if your world were to exist somewhere, it could exist. That is your characters can find food, drink, shelter, there is some sort of government etc. You can unveil this a bit at a time and I can think of no better example to use than Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. You find out more about how Ankh-Morpork is “run” as the series goes on. What he gives you in each story is enough for you to make sense of that story.

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

A self explanatory post from me for CFT this week (well, you can’t get more self explanatory than Local Author Cyberlaunch News – Allison Symes – Tripping The Flash Fantastic – can you?!)

Having said that I do share in this post some thoughts on cyberlaunches, the joy of technology, and how good prep work helps SO much with this kind of event.

Hope you enjoy the post and hope to see you at the Tripping The Flash Fantastic event tomorrow.  See both the CFT post for details and the direct link here.

Screenshot_2020-10-02 Tripping The Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch Facebook

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Well, it has been quite a week but it is lovely to end it looking ahead to the cyberlaunch tomorrow.

I am also delighted to share a fantastic (appropriately!) review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic from Aly Rhodes which came in today. A huge thanks to her and to all of my lovely reviewers so far.

TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC
This is the author’s second collection of flash fiction i.e. where the stories are often very brief ( 100 words) up to maybe 1000 at most; maximum story with minimum wordage. Here in this collection witches play tricks, historic figures give their pov’s (Anne Boleyn), Santa Claus is revealed, dragons fly, and fairy godmothers run rampant.
Symes has enormous fun with these quirky, alternative mini-tales, which often make the reader laugh but sometimes cry too.
My favourites were The Pink Rose, (outstandingly touching), And Then There Are Tuesdays (I was born on a Tuesday so this had resonance for me) and Time To Be Off, the last line cracked me up.
Dip in, sample, taste and savour these short shorts.

And on behalf of ALL writers, I’ll take the chance to say reviews are always hugely appreciated by us all. They don’t have to be long but they help so much. I use reviews myself as a consumer for everything from book purchases to new groceries to try! So if you’re thinking of reviewing but haven’t done so, perhaps you’re wondering if it’s worth it, then let me say it definitely IS worth it. Please do send them in!

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
ONE DAY TO GO! Where has the week gone? Time for another story I think.
Look forward to seeing you here from 7 pm tomorrow. As well as celebrating the launch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (and it means so much to me to have a second book out), I would like to see the launch as a celebration of stories. They are always worth celebrating! Cheers!
Tonight I share one of my favourite tales from TTFF – Being Yourself. You may never look at librarians in quite the same way again…🙂😉
Smile and wink emojis. BY recording.

8th October

Delighted to share another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Many thanks to Gail Aldwin for the following.

The title sums up this collection exactly! These short stories contain characters including dragons, witches, fairies, ghosts, figures from history and contemporary life. Many stories include unusual observations and viewpoints. Some are funny, others pack a punch. If you enjoy a diverse collection of stories, this is the book for you!

When it comes to reading, as well as writing flash collections, I do love a variety of mood and characters. It is always the characters I want to discover and root for/boo hard at (depending on whether they’re the villain or not). Naturally that love of character comes out in my own writing.
And a little later this evening, I’ll be sharing a brief reading of one of my stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic on my events page, which I hope you enjoy. (Oh and below are three other images I did have in mind for the book cover for TTFF at some point). Use TTFF images 1, 2, 3. See TTFF folder.

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
It’s storytime as the flyer says. I’m reading Judgement Day from Tripping The Flash Fantastic and then share a little of what led me to writing this story. Hope you enjoy. Oh and before I forget, as if I could (!)… TWO DAYS TO GO! Use the jpg download of the flyer AND from my TTFF drive on E drive the Judgement Day story OR use Dropbox to create a link as I did for CFT. Might be better to do that though may be worth trying to import video directly.

 

7th October
Such good fun to be on a mini blog tour at the moment. I was guest on #PatriciaMOsborne’s blog yesterday. Today I am on Jen Wilson’s blog (see my earlier post for the link). Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s one. And the two things the four of us have in common?
As well as being writers, we are all stalwarts of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. AND two of us are part of the renowned Prosecco Queens’ quiz team of said Summer School! (Image below is of me taking part in the Open Prose Mic Night at the School in 2019. Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for the pic). Swanwick 2019 folder

Many thanks to #JenniferCWilson for hosting me on her blog today. It is always great fun to talk about flash fiction. Knowing Jennifer’s own love for history, it was particularly nice to discuss this aspect of my flash fiction writing with her here.
Flash fiction has the huge advantage of being character led and I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want. Great fun! But with Tripping The Flash Fantastic, for the first time, I have written historically based flash fiction. See the article for more about this but it is something I hope to do more of at some point.
Just to confirm the link for my launch event on Saturday can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/1246876649024453

https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/2020/10/07/spotlight-allison-symes-tripping-the-flash-fantastic/

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
I’m on a mini blog tour at the moment with fellow stalwarts from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. It was a pleasure to chat yesterday with Patricia M Osborne on her blog. Today I chat with Jen Wilson on her blog at https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/2020/10/07/spotlight-allison-symes-tripping-the-flash-fantastic/
Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s blog and it has been great having slots ahead of the cyberlaunch and again just after it.
As I know Jen writes historical paranormal (do check out her Kindred Spirits series), my focus for this blog spot was on my historical flash stories in TTFF.
I’ve mentioned on my posts before that one thing I love about flash fiction is it has to be character-led. That means I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want!
For the first time with TTFF, I have set stories back in time. There are stories in here which are from the viewpoint of Richard III and Elizabeth of York for example, as well as my trademark “fairytales with bite” fiction.
All good fun to do and, of course, history is full of wonderful and not-so wonderful characters. This is an aspect of flash writing I hope to do more of in future.

SECOND POST
Time for a listen I think! I had the great joy of being a guest on #WendyHJones’ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this year. My first time on a podcast, great fun to do, and no prizes for guessing what I talked about (though there is a huge hint below!).
Do check out Wendy’s show every Wednesday. All of the episodes are jam packed with tips and advice.
See https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

 

From Light to Dark and Back Again – General

 

9th October
One of the challenges of any form of fiction writing is ensuring readers can tell your characters apart by the way they speak etc.
Now with flash fiction where I often focus on one character per story, that isn’t a problem as such.
Where the challenge DOES come in is ensuring that in a collection like From Light to Dark and Back Again and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic as well, the characters in the books as a WHOLE are nicely varied. Readers should be able to distinguish between the stories (and thus the characters).
It’s another reason why I like a good variety of mood and tone in my books as that helps with this aspect enormously.

8th October
Sometimes when I write my flash tales, I have the character in mind clearly and I then need to think of something for them to do! At other times I have the ideas of a situation to write about but need the right person to “fill” the role, so to speak. So this is why I jot down ideas for stories but also for characters.
Let’s say a competition theme is one of honesty. I could go one of two ways here – use an honest character and highlight the theme via them directly. Or I can use a dishonest character and contrast them with the honest situation. Both would work. It’s then down to me to decide which of the two characters I think is the strongest and I will then write their story up.

 

7th October
This week is going to be focused on my launch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, of course, but I am looking forward to sharing a couple of readings from the new book.
How do I choose stories for reading for things like this or for Open Prose Mic Nights and the like? I try to go for a balance of mood. If I read a funny tale, I will read a darker one too. I also go for a balance of lengths too. If I read a 100-worder, I will also read a 250 or something that is a little longer than the first tale I read.
Above all, I try not to go on for too long. Recordings are best kept fairly short (as it effects download time etc). Also a short recording or reading makes it easier to keep your listener’s interest.
Pic below is of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Open Prose Mic Night (and there’s a phrase you don’t want to say quickly!). A huge thanks to #GeoffParkes for the pic. Swanwick 2018 folder

Fairytales With Bite – The Sting in The Tail
One of the joys of flash fiction writing, which is my big love, is it is a great form for twist in the tale endings. Also, as the form has to be character led, you can set those characters whenever and wherever you want. Your characters don’t have to be human either. I like all of that! One great thing about using non-human characters is you can use them to reflect aspects of us. Animal Farm by George Orwell does that brilliantly. (Definitely not flattering either).
The most effective stings in the tail are for me where:-
1. The character is an aggravating one and deserves whatever is coming to them!
2. You think a character you’re rooting for has little chance of winning and things change at the very last moment so that they do win out. (The classic fairytales often work on this basis. Think of Cinderella when the Prince insists that all of the women in the household have to try the glass slipper. Had the Prince not been so persistent….)
So think about how and where in your story you are going to place your sting. In my Calling The Doctor from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my sting is in the very last word. Do check it out on my book trailer for FLTDBA at https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes
I’ve also had fun with this technique for the trailer for my new book, Tripping The Flash Fantastic. See my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ for more (and the trailer for FLTDBA is here too). Hope you enjoy the stories and do think about how you can make your sting have the maximum impact on a reader. Sometimes you can know the sting fairly early on. It is then a question of finding out whether the character deals with that sting in a good way or not and that can be fun too.

This World and Others – Conjuring Up Your World
What do you want readers to imagine when they read your stories? What aspects of your created world are the most important for them to read about and how can you convey that?

I’ve mentioned before it is often the telling detail placed in the right place in a story that has the maximum impact on a reader. I don’t necessarily need to know Character A lives in an “upside down” world. I do need to know Character A walks on what we would consider to be the sky and a brief showing of how that is done.

(For the characters that live in this world it would all be perfectly natural of course, but often a story changes dramatically when a stranger comes into the world and someone has to show them the ropes).

Readers need a sense that if your world were to exist somewhere, it could exist. That is your characters can find food, drink, shelter, there is some sort of government etc. You can unveil this a bit at a time and I can think of no better example to use than Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. You find out more about how Ankh-Morpork is “run” as the series goes on. What he gives you in each story is enough for you to make sense of that story.

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A Novel Approach, Favourite Books and a Free Story

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for supplying many of the photos for her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I welcome #JenniferCWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today.

This time, we discuss her venture into non-fiction with her recently released book, A Novel Approach.

The theme for this summer on CFT has very much been one of changing direction and Jennifer’s interview continues that idea.

Do check out her thoughts on the benefits of finding a good writing group amongst many other gems here.

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but interviews, I think, are the most fun of all. Why?

Because I always learn something useful, interesting, entertaining, and often all three from my guests. (So thank you one and all!).

No one author can know it all and learning from other writers is a crucial part of how we all develop. Reading interviews and, in my case, hosting them as well, helps enormously here!😊

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We all have favourite books, many of which go back years. So what made you decide Book A was said favourite? Is it a question of working out what books you have you simply can’t manage without and favourite status is conferred upon them due to that?

In my case, one of my favourite books is definitely a nostalgic one as this was given to me by my late parents. Others, such as Josephine Tey’s wonderful The Daughter of Time I came across by accident and I was so happy to find it!

Still others are books written by friends and, not only do I love the stories, but every time I look at the books, I am reminded of happy times meeting up with said friends. (Usually at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing or Association of Christian Writer events it has to be said!).

So what are your favourite stories and why do you love them so much? Do you have room in your life for new favourites? (The answer to that should be of course!). Which book is your most recent addition to the favourites list?

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Am delighted to be welcoming #JenWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Jen will be talking about her change of direction into non-fiction writing with her recently released A Novel Approach. There has been a lot of this change of direction in the air this summer! It has definitely been my theme for this year for CFT.

Jen will be discussing how she came to write the book and shares her thoughts about what a good writing group can do for you amongst many other gems. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss especially if you are thinking about writing a novel.

Meanwhile if you want to check the book out do see the link.

 

JenniferCWilson-ANovelApproach-Cover

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Free Story!

I couldn’t resist having another go at the random noun generator. This time I opted for three random nouns and what came up were “shirt”, “marriage”, and “ladder”. Now there’s an interesting mix!

Hope you enjoy the following. A humorous end to the week is always welcome!

THE SPECIAL OFFER

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sign. “Buy a shirt and your dearest wish will come true”. I’ve seen plenty of dodgy advertising in my time. So I went over to the market trader and challenged him. How on earth could a shirt grant wishes? Especially such a bright one. Vivid purple was never my style fortunately.

‘You’ve heard of magical lamps and rings, why can’t a shirt be magical too?’ was his response.

I guess on logic alone, he had a point, but when I think of
shirts and magic, it is only in terms of being able to get leaky ink stains out of a shirt in one go in the washing machine. And that doesn’t happen often I can tell you. Unlike leaky ink stains going flaming everywhere.

‘Anyway,’ I told the guy, ‘how can a shirt know what my wish is to grant it?’

‘You tell the shirt when you get it home, silly.’

That was me told.

Now don’t judge me here. I did buy the shirt. I needed to get a present for my nephew so I thought a vivid purple shirt would be the thing. (You should see the colour of his trousers. You need sunglasses, I tell you, so a bright shirt would suit him beautifully. Okay, I didn’t envy his mother the task of washing the wretched thing. That purple would be bound to run but I’ve long told my sister she ought to get her boy helping around the house more so she can start by getting him to wash the wretched thing).

Did I make a wish? Yes. For a laugh. I know my sister is concerned about her lad’s prospects so I wished that his life would take off in a good way so she could stop worrying. Covers both of them and it’s a nice wish I think.

I didn’t tell my nephew, or my sister, where I got the shirt or about the advertising for it.

But I was taken aback when a week after I’d given the present, he and his mother came around with news. Robbie was to be married to the young lass who worked at the launderette and knew everything there was to be known about washing colours separately.

Apparently, he’d borrowed his father’s ladder, went around to the young lass’s house, and proposed at the top of the ladder on Valentine’s Day Night. He had meant to do so when he took her out for a meal but lost his nerve.

That is so like him. As was tumbling off the ladder but fortunately he landed in a huge shrub and no damage done. The shrub was all right as well apparently.

The marriage takes place next month and now I’m off to the market stall. If there are any more of those shirts, I’ll get him a load. I’ve made a list of wishes that will be of real help to a young, married couple.

It’s the least I can do.

Ends

Allison Symes – 21st August 2020

 

Flash fiction may be a quick read but it isn’t necessarily a fast write! I get a first draft down quickly but the work is in the editing (as it is with all forms of writing I think).

Honing a story to ensure every word justifies its place in the tale takes time. And I will often rewrite a section to maximise the impact of that part of the story.

I ask myself if the impact is strong enough? Will it affect the reader the way I want it to do? A change of word, sometimes where I place the word in a sentence, can make all the difference.

It is only when I know any further changes to a story would weaken it that I submit the story somewhere.

Was listening to #WendyHJones‘ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this evening and discovered a new term for what I call wasted words. The term was weasel words and I love that.

It is some comfort to know every writer has these literary pests (and mine are actually, very, and that, as I’ve mentioned before).

Still, when it comes to the edit, I know what’s coming out first and I find, with this done, it seems to get the rest of the edit off to a flying start. I find that helpful so maybe my wasted words have some use. They just don’t stay in!

Image of Wendy H Jones below kindly supplied by her. (Do check out her podcast. I was on episode 4 talking about flash fiction).

Fairytales With Bite – 

The Influence of Fairytales on Literature in General

The obvious influence is that fairytales are a genre in their own right, correctly so too. The next biggest influence I think is given most children’s introduction to literature is via fairytales, said stories act as a gateway into the wonderful world of books per se. That has to be a good thing! This was the case for me and I’ve never regretted having a lifelong love of stories and books as a result.

With that comes the influence on those children who go on to become writers. The marvellous Roald Dahl with his works aimed at children was, to my mind, clearly the successor to Hans Christen Andersen (especially as he knew children liked to read about characters who were not goody goody. Know your market always!).

Fairytales for children can lead to fairytales for adults and I would say A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a prime example of that. What an influence that particular story has had on so many of us!

The idea of wrongs being put right isn’t just for crime writing! There’s a good case for saying fairytales were well ahead of the game there.

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This World and Others – Fascinating Facts

When it comes to creating your own fictional world, and thinking of how it is all going to come together, do some research. This is where non-fiction reference books can be so useful to fiction writers. A lot can be done online of course but do go for a variety of books. This will help in ensuring you get facts right but almost inevitably you won’t find all you want in one book.

You want to create a new planet for your characters to live on. Okay. What are they going to breathe? What are they going to eat and drink? What will their climate be like? All of those things you can research based on what you know/can find out here on good old Planet Earth and then adapt for your own purposes.

If you want your creations breathing something other than oxygen, what do they breathe instead and how do their bodies manage this? Think about fish breathing through their gills. What would your people do?

Have fun working this all out and then show readers what they need to know to make sense of it all.

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Why

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A huge thank you to Wendy H Jones for supplying images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is a real pleasure to welcome Scottish crime writer, Wendy H. Jones, back to Chandler’s Ford Today and for something very special indeed.

Wendy is the only UK author involved with The Power of Why, an inspirational book featuring 23 women who started their own businesses.

G capital

Wendy shares why the question of why matters. Below is a short extract from the blurb for The Power of Why.

The Power of Why

If you are not starting your business by asking yourself “Why?”, then you are starting in the wrong place.

Five main questions should be answered when contemplating starting a business – What, Why, How, When and Where? Often women entrepreneurs do not give thought to the order of these, yet research by top universities shows the most important is Why?

Compiled by Purvi Tantia, this book tells the stories of 23 powerful women from around the world, who share the fears and aspirations which led to their Why. This book should be the starting point for any woman wanting to understand the Power of Why in her life.

Wow! Now that is quite a statement but check out the interview for much, much more. You won’t look at “Why” in quite the same way again, I think.

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Despite not being at Swanwick as I should’ve been, today has been nice.

Firstly, I had my first swim since the lockdown. It was lovely and, yes, I was slow! Second question – correct, I don’t care! I will improve…! But it was so nice to be back and the centre I go to had laid everything out perfectly and the one-way system was easy to use.

Secondly, I was delighted at #PaulaReadman‘s post earlier about her excitement at discovering her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow, is on Waterstones website. Huge congratulations to her. I thought I’d put my own name in the search bar and see below for what emerged!

SCREENSHOT - Allison Books on Waterstones online

Absolutely thrilled at this. Many thanks to Paula as, without her post, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to look. So this came as a nice surprise. Alternative Renditions, the other book shown, is where I had my first story in print published – A Helping Hand. I will always have a very soft spot for that particular tale!

I know that Paula and I would want to give a huge shout-out to our fantastic publisher, #GillJames, for all of her support at Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books.

Oh and finally the temperature has come down a bit in Hampshire. Thunder and rain this afternoon though it looks like there is more to come.

And I’ll be meeting up with some fab Swanwick ladies online shortly so, all in all, a great Thursday! Hope yours was a good one too. (It was so good to chat online with #ValPenny, #BeatriceFishback, #JenWilson,#JuneWebber, and #PennyBlackburn. See you good ladies another time!).

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My CFT post this week will be a wonderful interview with Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. She’ll be talking about a very special anthology called The Power of Why and showing why matters, especially to women. Very much looking forward to sharing the link for that on Friday.

(Oh and kudos alert: Wendy is the ONLY UK author featured in this book. Find out more about her involvement with this later in the week).

One of the joys of interviews is being able to set questions in such a way they encourage a discussion. The best author interviews I love reading always do that. What you want to avoid are the straight Yes/No answers so I try to never ask questions where that could be given as a response.

Now here’s a thought for the fiction writers. I outline my characters and work out what I need to know about them before I write “their” story.

So when quizzing your characters to find out more about them and what drives them, use some techniques from non-fiction interviews here.

Again avoid having a character be able to tell you a simple yes/no answer. You want to know why! The answer to why is where you’ll get the “gold” to work with in your story. That is what will show you what makes your characters “tick”.

I said why was important. And Wendy will confirm this on Friday! (Images of The Power of Why and Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by Wendy, all others from Pixabay).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Publication News – Cafelit – Flash Fiction

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

chocolate-2202151_640

An appropriate image to go with my flash fiction tale, Sweet Dreams, on Cafelit. Pixabay image.

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Delighted to discover FLTDBA is on the Waterstones website. See the link. Nice to say you can get my book at Waterstones. Most authors dream of being able to say that… I know I have.

I found this out thanks to #PaulaReadman spotting her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow (Chapeltown Books), was on there and I thought I’d just put my name in the search bar and see what happened. So glad I did.

I guess it shows another aspect to making writing friends. They can and do show you aspects to this business you might not have thought of. No one author can know it all after all. And that is something I learned a long time ago!

Mind you, the upside to that and it is a HUGE upside, is that there is always something to learn in writing, whether it is on the creative and/or marketing sides. This in turn keeps you on your toes and that is good.

Well, you wouldn’t want to become stale now, would you?

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too!

Alternative Renditions Small

A very special book in my memory! My first printed story, A Helping Hand, was in here!

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

What I love to see in flash fiction:-

1. Characters that intrigue me.

2. Characters I could see working well in other flash tales.

3. A punchy funny ending which makes me laugh (where appropriate of course).

4. A “killer” finishing line which wraps up the story and you just know it was the perfect ending for that tale.

5. An equally “killer” opening line which means you just HAVE to read on and until you’ve finished the story (which at least with flash is not going to take too long!).

6. A fabulous twist which I can either see coming (but I am looking for it to be delivered WELL here) OR one where I am wrongfooted by the author. (Always a good hat tip to anyone who can do that to me!).

7. A moment of illumination and reflection in quieter stories which have an impact long after that initial first reading. It is often this type of story I come back to again later when I want reading to soothe or reassure me.

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Fairytales With Bite – Fantastic Settings

No matter where your story is set, or how outlandish your fictional world is, it still has to be populated by characters whom we can understand and either root for, or love to hate. They must generate an emotional reaction in us. Their motives must be ones we can understand.

The setting should also be one we can get behind. After all, we know how our planet works/is run. How is this done in your fictional setting? Are there corrupt politicians for example? (I refuse to believe that could just be on Earth!).

Especially in a fantasy world, some ideas of what it looks like, how the species live, what kind of wildlife is there etc deepen your characterisation of the setting itself. (Setting can often be a character in its own right and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to treat it as one. It means you think it out for a start!).

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This World and Others – 

What Matters to Your Character(s) and Why

Answering that one phrase gives you THE reason for writing the character’s story! From a world building viewpoint, what matters to your character is not the same as what the reader needs to know.

For example, if your character lives on a world where they don’t breathe oxygen but something else entirely, early on in the story the reader will need to know that.

The trick here is not to “tell” the reader this but to show them so they draw their own conclusions.

Yes, you can use description to show the point but an even better way is to have someone else observe it. The main character will not mention they’re breathing Gas X because they do it all the time, obviously, and so why would they draw attention to it?

An outside observer could do so. Say your character is being visited by someone who lives on a different part of the planet. Maybe the quality of their Gas X at home is not as good as it is here. They could comment on that to your main character. Job done. You can also show something of your character’s attitude by how they respond to their visitor.

Regardless of how strange the created world is, what matters to your character is something we should all be able to identify with and sympathise over. All species will need the basics – food, shelter, etc – but think beyond that too.

What is driving your character? Why does their story matter? Why should a reader want to find out? Don’t be afraid to dig deep. Your character has to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the story for your reader to care.

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Books On The Radio

Image Credit:  As ever, images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about the links between books and radio. I also share the radio interview links for YA author #RichardHardie and myself when we were on #ChatandSpin radio recently.

(I also share the link with Wendy H. Jones‘ marvellous podcast The Writing and Marketing Show where I discussed, well what else, flash fiction!). This is a post you can read AND listen to! Hope you enjoy.

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It was good fun to take part in the Chat and Spin radio interview, as well as being a guest on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show.

(For more see my CFT post this week called Books on the Radio – https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/books-on-the-radio-local-a…).

Now I’ve mentioned before that preparation is key and it is. I prepared too much material for both shows but (a) I know I can use that material at some point and (b) it settled my nerves a bit knowing I had material to hand. I can’t overstate the importance of (b) there!

I hope to put some of that material on my website at some point (but you can still check out my website anyway meantime!!). See https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/

I also hope after the Waterloo Arts Festival event I’ll be involved in on 12th June to put the video I made for that on my website too.

And yes preparing material for future website usage is also a good idea and helps to keep that fresh and keep followers interested.

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Am at the very happy stage of the second edit on my Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due out later this year. Also planning my blurb and cover material. All good fun to do!

(Will be following my own advice on a recent CFT post in that I hope to have a cyberlaunch in due course and I will be preparing material for that too. It is always better to have too much material and not use all of it than be in a panic on the night because you haven’t got enough!).

Have also selected another writing competition to have a crack at. Deadline is not until July but that gives me plenty of thinking time. (I will set my own deadline for this to be the end of June so I make sure the story is in well ahead of time and I have time for that extra polish which can make all the difference beween a piece being accepted or not).

When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I draft blog pieces and build up a stock of these. It means I’ve got something ready to edit and send off where appropriate as I blog for the Association of Christian Writers and sometimes have pieces appear in their journal, Christian Writer.

I also like to have pieces to hand that I can adjust and turn into articles for Chandler’s Ford Today.

So always something to do then and that’s just how I like it!

 

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How do you feel when you get to the end of a first draft?

Relieved that part is over?
Sorry that part is over?
Dreading the edit(s) (especially as you know there’ll be more than one!)?
Wishing it hadn’t taken so long?

For me, it is a combination of the first and last ones! So over to you then. What is your reaction the moment you write The End for the first time?

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Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

Honest Writing

A busy night for me this evening as it is my turn on the More than Writers blog spot. This is the Association of Christian Writers’ blog and my piece this time is called Honest Writing. Hope you enjoy.

 

Twitter News – @AllisonSymes1

I’m slowly learning to use Twitter more and I thought I’d share something here which is also a good piece of marketing (and great fun to take part in!).

The only book I couldn’t get into the above tweet was Magnetism where I have a short story. This book was produced by Gill James and features the work of Cafelit and Bridge House authors.  It is very much meant to give a flavour of what we do. To get a FREE COPY of this book, you just need to sign up to Books, Books, Books.

Magnetism Small

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale.

The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story.

In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!

My CFT post this week is about Books on the Radio and I’ll be sharing links to radio interviews on Chat and Spin Radio which YA author, #RichardHardie, and I took part in recently. I’ll also be looking at the general role of books on the airwaves. Link up on Friday.

Naturally for the radio interview I was waving the flag for flash fiction and books being a perfect form of escapism. And whether you write them or read them or do both, that escapism is so welcome right now!

My favourite flash stories are the ones that make me smile or laugh though. I do like the emotional ones where you really want the character to do well and they can’t/don’t but, for me, you can’t beat a good laugh.

Flash lends itself well to humorous stories because they often work so well when kept short. Flash helps a lot there!

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Fairytales With Bite – Making Space

I believe fairytales and fantasy fills the spaces between reality and chaos. Why? Because so many tales in these genres reflect what we can be like, while others give strong moral messages. Why do we need such things?

  • To guide us as to what our behaviour should/should not be;
  • To show us what life could be like without kindness, gratitude etc. Would you really not want things to come right for Cinderella, for example?

As writers, we also need to give our characters space to develop in themselves and as part of the plot development. A character who doesn’t change will be of little interest to readers.

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This World and Others –

How Do You Know When A World Is Going To Work?

I would say that a fictional world has worked for me when I can:-

  • Spot connections between the fictional world and the real one we know here.
  • See what is better on the fictional world and wish we had it here. (Flying carpets anyone? No emissions but I’ve always thought the landing on those things must be on the rough side and there is definitely no in flight entertainment. You’d be hanging on for grim life, yes?).
  • See what is worse on the fictional world and be glad it’s not coming here.
  • Can understand what the lead character has to contend with and how the setting helps/hinders them.
  • Can see further stories being set in that world, even if it is not with the same characters. That is always a good sign. For me, the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett really took off when it could “host” the Rincewind stories, the Vimes ones, the witches ones and so on. I also liked looking for the connections between the different series. For example a character would refer to another one not appearing in the story. It wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t read the other story. Referring to other characters like that implies a life above and beyond the immediate world of the story you are reading and that is great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind The Scenes

Image Credit:   As ever, unless stated, most of the images were from Pixabay or Pexels. A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for their images. Also thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying images related to his and Francesca Tyer’s events for World Book Day.  (And yes it has been a busy few days!).

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

Yes, count them, not one but two CFT posts this week.

First up, the start of a new mini-series.

I’m delighted to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The #ChameleonTheatreGroupChandlerFord share interviews showing what life is like behind the stage. They share some fabulous insights into directing amongst other things in Part 1 (see link).

This series will run at intervals over the next few weeks. Many thanks to The Chameleons for wonderful material and the photos, as ever.

I’m looking forward to their next production, Spring Quartet, in April.

 

I’m always interested in behind the scenes looks at life, whether it is to do with creative writing or amateur theatre. So it is a joy to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today where The Chameleon Theatre share their insights into life behind the stage.

Why the interest on my part? Well, partly it IS because I’m nosey (!) but that’s a good thing. Why? Writers have to be interested in what makes people tick. Knowing that helps us to develop convincing motivations for our characters and make their portrayal that much more believeable.

I’m also interested in behind the scenes looks because it opens up worlds that are new to me. That’s a good thing for increasing knowledge and understanding, I think. Understanding is also crucial in creative writing. You also get to understand yourself better I think.