Books, Acrostics, and Writing Regrets

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Hope you enjoy If It’s Too Good To Be True, my latest story on Cafelit. Loved writing it. (Oh and spot the typo! Made me laugh – and I hope the story does too…)

IMPACT - What impact does your story have - Pixabay

Do you have any writing regrets?

My main one is not starting to write seriously earlier than I did. Of course, on starting out, you have no idea how long it can take to get to publication standard. Knowing what I do now, I would’ve started at least five years earlier than I did!

My other regret is not discovering the joys of flash fiction sooner but the point is I have discovered them now!

Whatever writing regrets you might have, the important thing is to enjoy what you write. Go for writing opportunities that suit you. (The worst that can happen is your work is turned down. Then you can revise said work and submit it elsewhere).

B = Brilliant covers draw your attention
O = Original storylines
O = Opening lines entice you into the stories.
K = Kindle – so easy to carry – one device to hold them all!
S = Stunning plots keep you enthralled.

A = Action should keep you riveted to the tale.
R = Read, read, read. It’s what they’re there for!
E = Education? Yes, sometimes, but entertainment too.

F = Fiction or non-fiction? A world of choice!
A = Allegories and fantasies take you into other worlds.
B = Borrow from your library and support them too.
U = Underestimate the importance of characters? Never!
L = Live the lives of the characters through the narrative.
O = Oh my moments should keep you hooked.
U = Underneath the surface: how deep are the characters?
S = Story, story, story.

Well, I think that sums up what I love about books.

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When did you decide you had to write?

I can’t say there was one particular moment for me. It was just something I’d been building up to doing for a long time (and my only regret is not plucking up the courage to start sooner. Yes, courage, as there is the tendency to think “who am I to think that I can write?”).

What I would recommend for anyone starting out is give it a go. You’ve nothing to lose. Try flash fiction. Try articles. Try longer stories. Play with words and have fun. It’s really important to have fun!

Later, on finding yes this form is my niche, then develop with practice and time the skills to be as good as you can get in that niche.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to just write for your own sake. It’s a great way to start and it was years after I started writing before I decided yes, I would see if I could be published. (Oh and success can take many forms whether it is getting a first publication credit or having a book out).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve mentioned before I use well known phrases as a theme for a story. I also use them as titles. My latest example is If It’s Too Good to Be True on Cafelit. (I laughed at the typo. Conjures up some odd images but fun nonetheless!).  NB:  See link further up this page.

The great thing with this title is I will use it as a theme for another story at some point. It has a wide range of possibilities!

Playing with words - Pixabay image

Playing with words. Pixabay image.

Many thanks to #AlyRhodes for her six-word challenge earlier. Good fun. I do like these. Good for focusing the mind. And, of course, you can take that initial idea and expand it out to longer flash fiction or a standard short story.  My entry by the way was Tiny Dragon flees murderous girl.  A nice twist on how things usually go in tales involving dragons and young women!

I am very fond of flash fiction collections (not just mine, honestly!) because of the wide mixture of stories you can have in them. You have those collections which focus on theme, those like mine which have stories of differing moods in them, others which stick to a set word count etc. I am currently reading 365 Stories, which was given to me by a friend, and is a flash collection of stories of exactly 365 words with one for every day of the year. Good range of stories in there too.

I sometimes write acrostics (which I guess can be a kind of flash fiction as long as there is a story unfolding line by line). I’ve just written one for Books are Fabulous (and aren’t they just!) on my author page. So how would an acrostic flash fiction piece work then?

I’d keep it simple, short and sweet to maximise its impact. (I think a one word acrostic would be best. More than that I think would seem gimmicky but you can let your imagination run free with a one word acrostic well enough!). For example, what could be done for the word “stories”? Let’s see.


S = Sarah knew today would be different.
T = Today she would deal with Bob for good.
O = Organising a hitman proved easier than she thought.
R = Risking everything on a stranger’s act was not something Sarah anticipated she’d ever do.
I = Involuntary shudders ran through Sarah as she recalled Bob’s abuse and violence.
E = Enough was enough.
S = Sentence of death was pronounced and would be carried out at 12.30 precisely.

Allison Symes – 18th March 2019

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Am glad to share here a 100 word flash piece that appeared on the Association of Christian Writers’ Facebook page earlier today. The theme was worship.

‘Where the hell is that singing from, Sarge? The only thing for miles is rubble.’
‘It’s not from hell, lad. It’s that hymn my gran sang, How Great Thou Art.’
The sergeant cleared bricks, revealing tiles. ‘We’re on an old church. They were destroyed when religion was banned. Remember?’
‘Yes. What a fuss. The fuddy-duddies had nowhere to go on Sundays.’
‘Rumours say some meet in underground churches.’
The men looked down.The singing was coming up.
‘Nothing to report.’
‘Nothing here, lad. If we’re wrong, so what? Let them worship. They’re harmless. Shame our bosses aren’t.’


Allison Symes – 19th March 2019


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Goodreads Author Programme Blog –

The Role of Books/Stories

What is the role of books/stories?

For me, the primary role is to entertain and provide some escapism, especially when life is being particularly grim.

A good book will take you into its world and for a while that gives you a breathing space. Somewhere to just be for a bit before facing reality again. The benefits of that can’t be overstated.

I can understand real life stories and misery memoirs. I hope the writers found the writing of these to be enormously beneficial but this material is not something I can read.

I either want to escape into another world completely (via fairytales, The Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Discworld etc) OR, when I want to get my teeth into non-fiction, I want some good solid history. I love history when it is told as a story (which is why I adore Simon Schama’s History of Britain series).

A good story, and this includes non-fiction told as a tale, should have a point to it but I’d like to bang the drum for stories “just” being entertaining. To me there’s no “just” about it. A story doesn’t have to be “worthy” to be of benefit.

A story does just have to live up to the promise of its opening lines. And that’s challenging enough!






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Balancing Time and Reading Work Out Loud

Lots happening.  Have included links to Cafelit to two of my new stories now up on their website.  Hope you like them!

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week looks back at last weekend’s 10th-anniversary celebrations at the Winchester Discovery Centre. Regional authors took part (including me!) but there were other events happening such as the Winchester Fusion Choir singing from the top floor of the Centre. They were wonderful.

More details in the post but I should add that, despite working in Winchester for years, I had never been in the Centre before. It is a lovely building, I loved the clock decoration in the children’s section with quotes from children’s literature coming from it, and, as well as getting to talk to people and sell some books, I even managed to take in an art exhibition while there!

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Facebook – General

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week takes a look back at last weekend’s celebrations at Winchester Discovery Centre, as they commemorated their 10th anniversary. A number of regional authors took part, including yours truly. More tomorrow. Nice to get to go to the Centre. I’ve passed it countless times but had not visited before. Very nice building.

Also had my first swim at the new Fleming Park. Sorry everyone locally WILL call it that, not Places Leisure, Eastleigh. What kind of name is that? (Clue: unimaginative!). Must say though the pool and changing facilities are lovely though I’ll be glad when the car park is sorted out properly. Hopefully, this will happen soon.

Off to London (not to visit the Queen) but to go the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown Books/Red Telephone celebration.

And talking of Cafelit, another new story from me is now up on their website. (There’ll be another in December).

Yesterday’s story and today’s are two examples of where I’ve played with the flash format a bit by telling my tales in rhyme. This came about as a result of a question put at the flash fiction talk at Swanwick this year as to whether flash fiction counted as prose or poetry, given the person who asked had come across poems that could count as flash. They tell a story after all and briefly after all… Anyway, thought I’d give it a go. See what you think!

Image below is part of my book stand at the Winchester Discovery Centre but given it shows several of the anthologies my stories are in for Cafelit and Bridge House, I thought it would be appropriate to use it here!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope everyone coming to the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown/Red Telephone event in London tomorrow have good journeys and a great time at the said event! Look forward to seeing you there.

I’m hoping to read from From Light to Dark and Back Again and I’ve selected a couple of pieces I hope will “hit the spot”. Glad to say am now on to editing my second book. Do second books always take longer than first ones or is that just me?!

Good to have more work up again on Cafelit too. Hope to do better on that front in the New Year. This year has been a strange one in that I’ve not submitted nearly as much work as in previous ones, but have had the book published, been involved in marketing it (and still am obviously), and taken part in events etc. All good fun. Think I’ve learned a lot from it all. I’ll know for sure if I have if, next year, I manage to balance writing time with marketing time better!

Fairytales with Bite – Reading Out Loud

One thing that came out of the Winchester Discovery Centre celebratory event last weekend was a lovely comment from a lady who really enjoyed my reading some of my flash fiction from From Light to Dark and Back Again to her.  She said how lovely it was to be read to.

It occurred to me after this to wonder how often are we read to?  Regular listeners of audiobooks do have this joy but isn’t there something nice about being read to specifically (and live by an author too)?  So this is another very good reason to support a writing event.  You can hear what the author has written, pick up the tone directly and that will be a good indication for whether you are going to like the style or not.

I find reading work out loud a really useful part of the editing process.  I tend to save doing this until I’m almost ready to submit the work.  If all has gone well with the editing to date, I will be able to read the work smoothly (and almost as if someone else had written it).  If not, I will stumble over the words and it’s back for another rewrite!  But it is best I pick that up rather than a potential publisher!

This World and Others – Balancing Time

To quote the old phrase, “It’s a good trick if you can do it!”.

I don’t know about you but I find it difficult to get the right balance between marketing current work and getting on with the next book.  I’m sure this is something I will get better at with succeeding books to From Light to Dark and Back Again.

I’ve loved taking part in the various events and signings I’ve been involved with this year (including last weekend’s celebrations at the Winchester Discovery Centre), and obviously hope to do more in 2018, but I would’ve liked to have finished the draft of my second book a lot earlier than I have done.  (I’m now editing that second book.  I love editing.  The work is going to get better!).

I am hoping to increase the number of hours writing I do as from early next year, which will help, but the one consolation I think is knowing every writer has this dilemma.  We all find our own ways of getting the balance right so I’ll get there.  Goodness knows when but I will get there!  (Famous last words I know…)

In the meantime, I’m off to another event in London tomorrow – the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown/Red Telephone celebratory “do”, it will be fantastic to meet up with my fellow authors again and the writing?  I might get some done thanks to the marvels of the smartphone on the train.  I am getting better at using “dead” time.  When I had to take my car in for a service recently, I was almost annoyed they finished quicker than I expected as I really wanted to finish the story I was working on!!  I balanced time there well enough!

The literary clock in the children's section

The children’s clock decoration in Winchester’s Discovery Centre


Celebrations at Winchester Discovery Centre today for its tenth anniversary. Okay no fireworks but there WERE balloons and cake! Image via Pixabay


Fantasy may look at other worlds but often reflects on our own. Time is different too. Image via Pixabay.


Books can make you lose time but what a way to lose it! Image via Pixabay

Social Media Tree. Image via Pixabay.

Social Media Tree. Image via Pixabay.

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers blog spot

My monthly blog spot this time looks at the joys in the Christian life and how others’ joys can strengthen you and yours can do the same for them.

Appreciating Books

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Was at the Winchester Discovery Centre for their 10th-anniversary celebrations as part of a group of local writers. Chatted with people, sold some books, other people took postcards of the book, and I hopefully raised the profile of flash fiction. After all, what is the most common question asked of any flash fiction writer? Basically, what IS flash fiction?!

Funnily enough, I wasn’t asked that today and I’ve found the best answer is to read an example or two out to people. Loveliest comment of the day was from one person who bought From Light to Dark and Back Again as she absolutely loved being read to! Maybe adults need reading to more often!

Will write more about this for Chandler’s Ford Today for this coming week’s post but thanks to Richard Hardie for setting things up. I hope all who went to the Centre today had a great time.

Support your library? Definitely! (And a big thanks must go to the library staff who provided teas, coffees and cake throughout the day!)

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Heather Chamberlain and Woofbot enjoy talking with Richard Hardie, YA author, at Winchester Discovery Centre.  Image by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have spent most of today promoting From Light to Dark and Back Again, and flash fiction in general, at Winchester Discovery Centre today.

A group of local writers were there joining in with the celebrations for the Centre’s 10th-anniversary. Didn’t get to do the author talk (though at least I’ve got one prepared now!) but did do readings of my stories, which I love doing.

Off to the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown celebration next weekend. I’ll be reading stories again then too and am looking forward to catching up with fellow BH authors again.

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Children’s author, Finian Black, at his book stand at Winchester.  Image by Allison Symes


Goodreads Author Programme Blog – Appreciating Books

I was at the Winchester Discovery Centre on 25th November as one member of a group of local writers invited to take part in the Centre’s 10th-anniversary celebrations. I used to work in Winchester and passed the Centre countless times but had never been in there before. It is a stunning building and the library is beautifully laid out.

I’ll be writing more about today’s event for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week but I wanted to say now how good it was there were so many people in the Centre and that books are appreciated. Sometimes I’ve had the impression books can be sidelined. There ARE other forms of entertainment after all but to my mind you can’t beat curling up with a good book, whether that is in book, audio or electronic format.

It was good to talk to people about what flash fiction is and, better still, read a couple of examples out from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Loveliest comment of the day was from someone who relished my reading to her as an adult! Perhaps we “grown ups” need to be read to much more often!

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Changing the World and Reading Fairytales

All images are from Pixabay unless stated otherwise.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is the start of an occasional series where I look at pivotal moments in history. I start with one where the result changed everything – Bosworth 1485. And the relevance for Hampshire? Well given our county symbol is the Tudor Rose, quite a bit!

It is strange that Bosworth is not commemorated more than it is given its impact on the whole country.

Hopefully, see some of you at the Winchester Discovery Centre 10th-anniversary celebrations tomorrow.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to reading some of my flash fiction at tomorrow’s Winchester Discovery Centre event (10 am to 4 pm. Officially, I’m “on” at 11.45 for a short presentation but I will be there for the day with a stand).

If you would like to know more about flash fiction and/or writing for the small press and online magazines, do come over and have a chat.

There will be a wide range of authors taking part throughout the day and other activities so the whole day should be a lot of fun with something to interest most people!

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Fairytales With Bite – Reading Fairytales

I’ll be reading some of my fairytales with bite at Winchester Discovery Centre tomorrow (Saturday 25th November 2017) as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations.  A group of local writers, including me, will be giving short presentations and readings throughout the day as well as manning our own book stands there.  It should be good fun.  If you are in the area and would like to know more about flash fiction and/or writing for the small press and online magazines, do come over and chat.

Reading fairytales also means of course reading between the lines.  One of the things I love about fairytales is they usually have a fairly strong message behind them.  With Hansel and Gretel, I pick up the obvious anti-child cruelty theme but also the importance of sticking together and supporting one another.  Had Hansel and Gretel not done this for each other, they wouldn’t have survived in the tale, which is the whole point.

The nice thing about fairytales also is the story shows you the message without preaching it.  It is by far a more effective way of getting the message across and something we should all aspire to with our own writing. I know I find it far too easy to slip back into “telling” though flash fiction writing, with its tight word count,does help me against that (there’s no room for it!).

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This World and Others – Changing the World

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post looks at how the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 changed everything and I especially look at its impact for Hampshire, my home county. It was very much a personal battle too between Richard III and Henry Tudor, later Henry VII.  One man’s actions, that of Lord Stanley who betrayed Richard, literally did change everything so this made me wonder what about our characters and the changes they could bring about.

What individuals amongst them could change everything in the worlds we’ve created and how?  What would the impact be of them doing this?  What if they decided not to change anything?  Is the status quo maintainable (and should it be)?  Is the world you’ve created crying out for change and needs the right character to do it?  Even if your “right” character is willing to carry out the changes needed, how do they reach that decision and what obstacles are in their way?  Do they ever doubt themselves and their “mission”?

There are some cracking stories to be written answering those questions. Of course, for the last couple, I was thinking of The Lord of the Rings, but while I know I won’t ever write anything on that scale (few of us could!), we can still answer those questions for our own stories and bring more drama and tension into them, which should hopefully keep our readers wanting more from us!

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Events and Editing

Sorry for the gap in posts but lots going on, all positive.  More below.

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Not been around much the last couple of days. Have been editing a series for Chandler’s Ford Today, which has been interesting and good fun to do but time-consuming! All good experience though. The series will appear fairly soon.

My post this week will be the start of an occasional series looking at pivotal moments in history. Tomorrow’s post will focus on Bosworth and how that affected us in Hampshire. More details tomorrow but when you consider Hampshire’s symbol is the Tudor Rose, well the outcome of 1485 mattered! I somehow think Hampshire would have chosen a different symbol had Richard III won!

Looking forward to going to the 10th-anniversary celebrations at Winchester Discovery Centre on Saturday. I’ll be giving a short talk on flash fiction (at about 11.45) and giving readings from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Should be good fun.

And if you’d like to discuss flash fiction, writing for the small presses and online magazines, do come over and have a chat.

Meanwhile, Lady settles in…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Sorry for the gap in posting but I have been editing a new series for Chandler’s Ford Today which will start soon. It has been interesting and fun to do but time-consuming. All good experience though! Can help you look at your own work with a more critical eye too and that is useful.

I’m going to be at the Winchester Discovery Centre this Saturday as part of its 10th-anniversary celebrations. I’ll be giving a short talk on flash fiction and reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again.

Do pop over and say hello if you can. I’m also happy to talk to any writer who might like to know more about writing for the small independent presses and online magazines.

There will be a wide variety of events going on at the Discovery Centre and the local authors’ stands are one part of this. And I’m all for libraries and local writers supporting each other as previous Chandler’s Ford Today posts from me show!

Should be good fun. Hope to see you there.









Enjoying writing the follow up to FLTDBA. Image by Allison Symes














Facebook – General – Formats for Reading

Pleased to catch up on some magazine reading this week. I tend to have weeks where I get little chance to read much or am able to read loads. There seems to be no happy medium for me. Not sure why this is but do know it can be annoying!

I do read on my Kindle most evenings and I love the ‘”portable library” aspect of that. Really useful but only this week I’ve ordered a paperback, which has just arrived. Love books, love all the formats they come in is my motto!

Not all formats suit all people. I can think of family members who would never read a paperback (especially if it is of the length of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I adore, though to be fair if you drop THAT on your foot, you’ll know it!), but they do love audiobooks. I only listen to those when on lengthy car journeys but they are fabulous for that.

So what is your favourite format for a book? I think predictions of the death of the paperback are just plain wrong. I think the swing towards ebooks and then back again towards paper books will continue. (New Kindles come out, leads to boost in sales of ebooks etc).

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Facebook – General – Part 2 – Winchester Discovery Centre

Looking forward to taking part in the Winchester Discovery Centre’s 10th-anniversary celebrations next Saturday, 25th November.

A group of local writers, including yours truly, will be giving short talks and readings throughout the day. There will be a range of other activities going on throughout the day too.

There is a video clip on the link below. Hope to put up more details a little later on in the week but, if you can, do come along and enjoy the day at the Centre. Should be fun.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Part 1

Just sometimes I like to write something different for my blog posts!  This story will end up, I hope, in my second book.

I ran till I could run no more.
I dropped to the thick forest floor.
The sounds behind me had now gone
But I knew it was a big con.
They weren’t fooling me anymore.

I guess it would’ve helped if I had
Chosen not to go to the bad.
But when a girl’s luck is so down
And she can nick a pretty crown,
To not do so would just seem mad.

Who would miss that one little piece?
Not the king. Not even his niece
And she was the one who wore it!
No, I thought, I do need a bit
Of luck my way, the bad to cease.

I’d sell this lovely work of art.
I knew I must make myself part
With it so I could try to use
The money to feed my own muse.
Well, all writers need a good start!

Allison Symes – 18th November 2017

A poem or flash fiction or both? I occasionally write stories in verse though I do prefer the more obvious prose format. It is nice to throw something different into the mix now and again though!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Part 2 – Vengeful Fairies

If you were ever in any doubt that fairies could be downright nasty when it suited them, have a look at my “mini-series” on this theme in From Light to Dark and Back Again. Job Satisfaction and Collector’s Piece show fairies having a great capacity for revenge (and why it pays never to annoy the Tooth Fairy. And you thought going to the dentist was bad enough…).

I’ve always loved J.M. Barrie’s portrayal of Tinkerbell. Definitely not all cute and sweet. When children are told to clap if they believe in fairies and Tinkerbell wishes she could “get at” the ones who didn’t clap, well I think that one passage alone sums up the fairy folk attitude to life admirably! (Oh and fairies are definitely not twee in Shakespeare either so why fairytales can sometimes be seen that way and “just for kids” is beyond me).