Welcome Back, Chameleons

Image Credit:-

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

A HUGE thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for arranging access to pictures for me for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. So good to see you all back!

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And I’m off to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School tomorrow (7th August) where I look to meet up in person with friends I’ve not seen for two years and to hopefully make new friends by the end of the week.

Thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for the two pictures of me reading at the Swanwick Open Prose Mic Night in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Images of the Swanwick grounds were taken by me, Allison Symes, in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with real pleasure I return to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group for Chandler’s Ford Today. I loved their show last week and my review gives a flavour of (a) their performance and (b) what the plays (Lockdown in Little Grimley and Bombshells) were about. It was a great evening out (and very well organised in relation to social distancing and so on).

Welcome Back, Chameleons – it is good to see you back.

Welcome Back, Chameleons

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Back to the walking books and lightweight mac for going out with Lady this evening… hmm… even she wasn’t that impressed.

Does music change what you write and, if so, how? I find listening to classical doesn’t. What it does do is relax me and when I am relaxed, I write more. So win-win there. I have listened to pop and rock in the past when writing but found that the mood of the song could affect the mood of what I was writing and I didn’t want that. (It’s difficult to write a killer scene, say, when you’ve got a sweetly sick love song playing!).

Talking of moods, I must say a huge thank you for the tremendous response to last week’s Chandler’s Ford Today on Wildflowers which celebrated the local wildflower meadow in the park where I exercise Lady. There have been some lovely comments in on this over the week (on my Facebook timeline) so that post clearly hit a chord.

Mind you, after what we have all gone through during the last year, a gentle post like that was probably overdue. And I am glad I wrote the post when I did. The rain has been pouring down today so I think I got the best of the pictures possible for that post. (I suspect when I take Lady out tomorrow that poor meadow is probably going to look a bit flattened).


Nice task today – packing for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School! One or two last minute bits to add but I’m basically good to go. Looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones (this is one of the great joys of Swanwick). Can’t wait to explore the Book Room too – trust me, it is legendary.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is another great joy as it is my first review of a production by The Chameleon Theatre Group since their pantomime back in 2019. It was fantastic to see them back on the stage last week and I look forward to sharing my review on Friday. They staged Lockdown in Little Grimley and Bombshells. The latter was a series of five monologues from very different women and made for fascinating character studies. More details in the review but I liked this as I sometimes write character studies as they work well in flash fiction.

And the great joy of writing blog posts is being able to schedule them. Looking a little further ahead, I will be sharing a fascinating two part interview with #FranHill and #RuthLeigh about writing humour. Watch this space, as they say, for more details nearer the time.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Story time once again. Am pleased to share Silence Is Less Damaging, my latest tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it. And if you ever wonder whether trying to understand nature could ever go too far, my story may well provide an answer to that!

Screenshot 2021-08-06 at 18-35-29 Silence is Less Damaging, by Allison Symes


It took me a while to find my voice for both my fiction and non-fiction work. And that’s fine. I think it does take time for a writer to realise what their voice is and run with it – I know it did with me. For my flash tales, I like a direct “take you into the mindset of the character immediately” approach.

This is one reason I do use a lot of first person narrative here (I see that as hitting the ground running!). It was when I realised I needed to focus on one major character, whether I was writing a flash tale or a longer short story, that my pace increased, the waffle was a thing of the past (most writers have been guilty of this at some point), and I suddenly found myself having acceptances. I say suddenly. The reality is I’d been working to that point for years (as most writers do).

It’s no coincidence that successful writers will often tell you they’ve been working away for years before anything of theirs saw the light of day. Also that stamina and the ability to keep going and going are essential. Building up flash stories and submitting them regularly is a good way of building up a track record as I mentioned yesterday.

In producing those stories all the time, you’re building up your own writing stamina too. I also find it a useful weapon against the dreaded Imposter Syndrome. Why? Because I can tell myself I have written a story once, I can do it again and again and again. Then I sit down and do so.

The nice thing with flash is the potential is there to have the rewards (publication) in print and in online magazines more quickly than in many other forms. And if you can write short, you can write long. It is harder to write to 100 words than to 10,000 ironically.

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Will be happily waving the flag for flash fiction at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School from Saturday. So looking forward to that. Also looking forward to next Zoom meeting of the ACW Flash Fiction Group later this month. It’s always a good sign when meetings like that get everyone buzzing with ideas and people then get stories submitted. Win-win there. I like flash as it is a great way of building up a track record in being published too. It can be something to show a publisher or agent if you submit longer works to them later. All worth bearing in mind.

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fictionTime to Write

Fairytales With Bite – Magic – An Asset or a Pain?

Is magic an asset or a pain to your characters/your favourite characters to read about? Magic, as with any source of power, is open to misuse and abuse. The classic fairytales are full of examples of that.

Part of the reason I never understood all the fuss about Harry Potter was I saw the poor lad as someone suffering simply for who and what he is and that he needed to learn and use his skills to defend himself and others. Also, he was prepared to make sacrifices to help others. I had no problem whatsoever with any of that and I saw the stories as great examples of magic being misused, in the case of Voldemort and company, and that had to be stopped. Fire fighting fire and all that.

In the Discworld series from the late great Terry Pratchett, in Raising Steam, Moist von Lipwig wants the Patrician (Havelock, Lord Vetinari) to call in the wizards to help with building a railway in the time scale Lord Vetinari wants. The Patrician is having none of it, being all too aware of the damage caused to Ankh-Morpork before when magic ran riot. (See The Sorcerer for the full story of when magic alone did rule the city).

So I see a lot of the fairytales then as warning us of the misuse of power. Magic is something to be controlled and should be used for the greater good. So do your characters do this? Where magic is misused, who intervenes to stop that? Can the damage done be undone? There are classic and timeless stories to be had here because this is a great example of art imitating life. We have all known examples of abuses of power so stories reflecting that (and fantasy often does) will have great resonance.

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This World and Others – Who Lays Down The Rules?

Who does lay down the rules in your fictional world? Is it one universe with one ruler or a series of kingdoms and republics with monarchs and presidents/patricians/Lord Protectors etc? How long has your world been like this? Are the ruled over happy with the status quo or are they seeking change? If the latter, how will they do this and what do they want to see replace the old system?

If the rules are good (in a broad sense) and the government is accepted by most, then what challenges could your world face? Do threats come from another world or from malcontents who want to seize power for themselves? (They turn up anywhere!).

All great story ideas there.

If the rules are bad or have been misused, who would seek to change that? How? How would they garner popular support for change especially against a tyrant where most people would think at least twice about putting their own lives (and those of their families) at risk?

It is no coincidence that in past times, rebels would not only be executed by the king but their estates would be seized. The whole idea was to send out the message that not only would the rebel die, the family would be likely to do so as well (as there would be huge risks attached to helping the family of a proven rebel). With no estate or other support, the family at best would be likely to starve.

Looking into the history books to see how places were governed and how traitors were dealt with (one man’s traitor is another one’s freedom fighter) can also be a source of ideas for your own characters and stories.

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Wildflowers, Seasons in Writing, and Flash Moments

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. (I’m especially fond of the one I created below about the best lines, think the imagery works really well here).

All screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here and am looking forward to talking about flash fiction via Zoom to the Byre Writers on Saturday, 31st July.

The best lines conjure images

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I end the standard working week with a gentle post for Chandler’s Ford Today called Wildflowers. I am lucky to live near a nice recreation ground, where I exercise Lady, which has a stunning wildflower meadow as part of that. This post celebrates this year’s wildflower “blooming” and it is especially nice to do so as it has emerged late this year. Indeed, as you will see from my post, I had thought we weren’t going to have flowers out at all here this year.

Now the funny thing is the natural world does not inspire my writing at all. I know it can do for writers but not for me. What it does do is give me a refreshing break from my desk and it is that break which helps “fire” me up for writing on return to said desk.

Hope you enjoy the post – and the pictures. It is a joy to share pictures like this.

Wildflowers

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers

I’m posting early for once as I have the great delight of returning to watch live theatre this evening. My local amateur theatre company are exceptionally good and I am looking forward to tonight’s entertainment so much.

Meanwhile, I discuss Seasons in Writing for my More than Writers blog spot this time. Slower seasons may be just what we need at times to recover from intensive work and/or to develop ideas that need more time to come to fruition. I do know, whatever season of writing I am in, I need the support and encouragement of other writers. They in turn will appreciate that support and encouragement from you.

Hope you enjoy the post.


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Got a bit of a soaking out with Lady and my better half this evening. Changeable weather again but Lady did get to play with her best buddie, the Ridgeback, again today so all is right with their world.

Favourite writing tips of mine include:-

1. Get the story out, edit later.

2. Worry about word count (especially for flash) only when you know you have got the story down and there will not be major changes.

3. Fire up your imagination by reading widely, in and out of your genre, and don’t forget the non-fiction. Ideas for stories can come from there.

4. Get the story out, put it aside, then edit it. You need to come back and read the story as a reader would to see where it works and where it could do with work! Only time away gives you the necessary distance.

5. Draft other stories while you’re resting others. I like to see this as a writing – resting – editing – submitting – writing virtuous circle. The idea being you will always have a story to draft and, when not doing that, you will have another one to edit and get ready for submission somewhere.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was a joy to watch The Chameleons perform last night for the first time since their pantomime in December 2019. I was talking about flash moments in stories yesterday, including those stories produced for the stage. There were several in last night’s performance and I hope to write about some of those in my review for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

And talking of flash, I’m pleased to share my latest drabble from #FridayFlashFiction. This one is called Oddity and is my take on the Demon Barber of Fleet Street story (aka Sweeney Todd). Hope you enjoy. (And yes always go to a barber you know you can trust!).
Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Am off to the theatre this evening for the first time in over a year to see our excellent amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, perform once again. This is why I am posting early. I usually post at around 7.30 to 8 pm UK time. For an evening out, my posts were up by 5 pm! But it was worth it. The performances were great and I’ll talk more about what I went to see in my CFT post next week.

I like stories in whatever form they come in – books, audio, and for something like this getting to watch the stories being brought to life. And yes, flash can pop up here too. How? It will be those one liners here and there that strike a chord with me that perhaps are too easy to overlook. It will be those lines that resonate with me the most. I like to think of those as flash moments.

(And of course different people will get different things from the performances they go to watch so will have different flash moments. But maybe, just maybe I will get ideas for stories of my own from those flash moments. Even when that doesn’t happen, I still get to see an excellent performance and discover plays new to me so win-win!).

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I write mainly in the evenings listening to Classic FM. Does that put me off my stride for writing flash stories, blogs etc? Not a bit of it. I find I relax and when I relax, I write and write and write. You get the picture.

A useful way of working out who your characters are would be to decide what their favourite music would be and why. If your character loves, say, Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens above anything else, does that mean they themselves have a quirky nature given the music is quirky? (See my book trailer for FLTDBA above as I use Danse Macabre as the music here if you don’t know the track. I swear you can hear the quirkiness in it and it is why I chose this piece for this trailer. You might also remember the music from the old TV series, Jonathan Creek). Book trailers below.

Of course, you can use almost anything (and not just music) to work out who your character is but it is down to you to decide what you need to know before you write their stories up. I’ve found a bit of time spent working my characters out has saved me a great deal of time later on and I usually find depths to my characters as I explore their personalities more, which in turn adds depth to my story.

Fairytales with Bite – The (Magical) Arts

What role is there for the arts, as we know them, in your magical world? Is there a place for, say, portrait painting when a quick wave of the old wand could produce a stunning picture without any physical effort at all? Do your magical characters turn to “old-fashioned” ways of producing art as a means to unwind?

Are those who do create works of art, as we would understand the process, looked down on or up to because they use “manual” rather than magical ways to do these things?

Also, what role is there for music? Is music created magically? Or does your created world import music it likes from other places, including from Earth?

Do you have characters who prize the arts and those who despise them? What kind of conflicts could that produce in your stories?

For me, our world would be a much poorer place without the arts. That could apply to a fictional world too. (I don’t like dystopian works much, especially after the last year or so with the Covid pandemic hitting us all so hard, but art would be looked down on in such settings at best I feel and that’s no coincidence. A world without art in some shape or form would always be pretty bleak to me).

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This World and Others – Fiction or Fact in Your World

Following on from my Fairytales with Bite post, what emphasis does your created world put on fiction and fact? Is one more heavily weighted than the other?

If, say, your world despises fiction (and the arts) and focuses on plain facts (the sciences, engineering etc as we would know them), what would happen if their “knowledge” is challenged by the discovery of something new? Or if a long cherished theory was debunked? Or if if was proven the world of the arts had health benefits science could not produce? Would your created world suppress these because of its disapproval of the arts rather than accept they got it wrong and there was place for fact and fiction?

There could be interesting character development here. If say Character A was a scientist open to new ideas, how would they react when Character B, their boss, who was anything but open, suppressed knowledge? Would Character A leak the knowledge somehow? What would the consequences be if they did?

If Character A was open to the arts but their boss wasn’t, again what would the consequences be if Character A was caught going to an exhibition or a concert?

Interesting story ideas to explore here I think.

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Favourite Characters and Misunderstandings

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Looking forward to giving a talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers later this week. Always good to share the joys of writing and reading flash fiction.

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Facebook – General

Hope your Tuesday has gone well. Glad to be swimming this afternoon. Refreshing and it is the only sport I do with any reasonable proficiency. I don’t use the time in the pool to think out stories or articles funnily enough. Again, as with being out and about in the natural world, it is the break away from the desk that helps the most. (Lady still doesn’t understand why she can’t go with me. She would cause chaos – no chance at all of her keeping to the proper lane!).

I’m a bit later at my desk tonight for various reasons (one of those days for a start!) but what matters is getting there at all and making the most of whatever writing time I have. I won’t be writing so much this Thursday for example as I will be back at our local Ritchie Hall watching The Chameleons in their come back production after the pandemic. Will be so good to see them back (and what with singing in church again on Sunday, it does seem some normality has returned).

But whether I have a long writing session or a short one, I aim to have something done by the end of said session I can either develop further when I have more time or I have flash stories ready for editing later.

I’ve learned to appreciate that if I only have ten minutes to write, say, then I will make the most of those ten minutes.

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Hope you have had a great start to the week. Lady did as she got to see and play with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Both dogs were so excited to see each other. Always nice to see that!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is going to be a bit different. I am celebrating the glorious wildflower meadow in our local park where the dogs play. It is a wonderful sight. The funny thing is the natural world in and of itself does not inspire my writing. What it does do is give me a much needed break so I can come back to my stories raring to go. Link up on Friday and I share some great pictures too.

Looking ahead a bit, I am relishing sharing a two part interview with two of the funniest writers I know – #FranHill and #RuthLeigh (and it is so appropriate I use a hashtag for Ruth as the interviews will make clear!). That’s coming in August and I am so looking forward to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, the first they have been able to put on since the pandemic began. That will go up in the first week of August, just before I head off to catch up with writing pals at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School after a two year gap. It will be so lovely to see people again (and not just their top halves thanks to Zoom!).

The working of the eye is amazing
Today has been lovely. I got to sing in church for the first time since March 2020 (and yes, I sang through a mask). It was wonderful. Really enjoyed that. Lovely to meet up with other congregation members, some of whom I haven’t seen since the first lockdown (as not everyone is into Zoom etc).

Had a lovely chat with Swanwick friends last night over Zoom. The next time I speak to one of them will be at Swanwick and that is a fabulous thought. So missed that and my writing chums there last year.

More comments coming in on Missing, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Thanks, everyone, the feedback is useful and appreciated.

Am busy getting my latest author newsletter ready to go out on 1st August so if you would like exclusive stories, news, hints and tips etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

Busy week ahead. Am looking forward to talking to Byre Writers via Zoom on Saturday morning about flash fiction.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Cooler today after last night’s thunderstorm.

Glad to share the link to my latest piece for Mom’s Favorite Reads. I talk about Patience in Flash Fiction Writing this time. I look at patience in characters (or the lack of it) and also at accepting the need it takes time and patience to hone your craft.

For example, I like to have a rough template to work to when writing a story and while that takes time (and patience) to begin with to get it set up so I know where I am going with my tale, I have found it saves me a lot more time later on. I also don’t go off at interesting tangents which are unhelpful to the story I am writing. (I would only have to cut these out later precisely because they don’t help the story along).

I also share my flash fiction story on the theme. Hope you enjoy and don’t forget the magazine is FREE to download from Amazon.

Screenshot 2021-07-10 at 16-53-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021 eBook Publishing, Goylake, Howe, Hannah , Smith,[...]Screenshot 2021-07-01 at 20-08-25 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the respond to my latest story video, Misunderstandings, yesterday. See link below. These are great fun to write. I also share exclusive videos on my author newsletter (the next is due out on 1st August), so if you would like to sign up for that, please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I like to write a variety of flash fiction lengths as (a) this keeps things interesting for me and (b) the story length has to be right for the character I’m writing. If they need more room to show me their story, that is what they get and that is when I tend to write the 750 to 1000 word flashes. Most of mine come in at between 100 and 600 and that’s fine too.

Time for another Youtube video. My latest story video is called Misunderstandings and looks at what might happen when a slightly absent-minded fairy comes across someone with peculiarly shaped teeth. Hope you enjoy it.

I’m giving another Zoom talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers on Saturday morning and am so looking forward to that. It is always a joy to talk about flash and to share how, despite the word count restriction, it is more flexible than you might think at first.

After all I have written across many genres thanks to it. I go where my characters take me and I can set them any time and any where and I do. It is such fun to do too! After all, thanks to a challenge by Scottish crime writer #WendyHJones, I wrote a story about The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball! I’ve also written stories about a very creepy ghost, a witch who didn’t cheat in her magical exams (disappointing her mother a bit), and historical tales from the viewpoints of Anne Boleyn and Richard III.

And I am loving getting back to the drabble, aka the 100-worder, for#FridayFlashFiction, but I also love writing across the whole spectrum of flash. My natural home is 500 words or under but it is good to experiment and find out what works best for me. Sometimes my characters do need the whole 1000 words and that’s fine too.

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A huge thanks for the response yesterday to my post about titles. Also thanks to those who have commented on Missing, my latest #FridayFlashFiction story. I like open titles such as Missing as it gives me so many possibilities to play with – what or whom is missing? Are they found again? If someone is missing something, do they get it back? All sorts of stories can come out of writing the answers to those questions.

For flash, where sometimes the title is part of your overall word count allowance, it is even more important to come up with a crisp, intriguing title that will draw readers in and keep them with you. Random word generators can be useful for playing with ideas here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Favourite Characters

Do you have an overall favourite character in fiction? I have too many to count! The characters that stand out the most for me are those who are unpromising at the start of the story and end up being heroes by the end of it. A hobbit is an unlikely adventurer but look what Tolkein did with his characters in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

I am also fond of characters who need redemption and find it. I also like stories where justice is seen to be done and in the right way. (I am not keen on the vengeance type of tale as you just know the character is likely to go too far with it).

I like characters I can understand even if I don’t agree with their attitudes and actions. One of my favourite characters is Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series as there is so much depth to his portrayal which is revealed over the seven novels.

So over to you then. Which are your favourite kinds of character and why?

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