Learning, Back at an ACW Event, and North Manchester FM

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (and most created via Book Brush using Pixabay photos). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Lovely autumnal weather here in the UK right now – just the kind the dog and I like most.

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Enjoying the lovely autumnal weather at the moment – dry, sunny, crisp – my kind of weather at this time of year.

Writers are often advised (and I’ve done it too) to read widely as sparks for story and article ideas will often crop up from what you enjoy reading. But I was at a fascinating Zoom talk last night about Cistercian Abbeys. Not something I write about. Nor am I likely to do so but the talk was interesting and revealed plenty I did not know especially about life in a community.

Now I can see I might get something from that for a story or two later on. Fabulous if I do. Still improving my knowledge even if not. Win-win basically. So why not try a Zoom or other kind of talk on a topic that might be a little outside of your own box but where you have some underlying interest? (In my case, I love history).

I’ve talked before about mixing up how you approach story writing to keep things (a) fresh and interesting for you and (b) to encourage lateral thinking and even more creativity. Why not use talks as another way into that mixing up your approach?

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Hope you had a good Monday. Not bad here. Nice autumnal day, plenty of sunshine, and Lady got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddy and her Labradoodle pal. All is well in her world at least!

Coming back to earth after a wonderful ACW event on Saturday but I find I always do need a bit of a breathing space after an event like that to take stock and then get on with my writing again.

Many thanks for the lovely comments so far on my Leaving It Late, which is my most recent tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Am so loving writing the drabbles again – and this particular tale shows just how far one character can take stubbornness.

Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 16-41-23 Leaving It Late, by Allison Symes

It was lovely getting back to using Evernote properly on my train trips to/from London for the Association of Christian Writers day yesterday. I’ll be out and about on the train again next month when I go to the Brechin/Angus Book Fest and again in December because Bridge House Publishing are having their annual celebration event, hooray!

Mind you, some things don’t change over the years. I always used to become irritated when bad radio reception would hit right during the middle of my favourite song. These days my irritation is aimed at when the internet connection drops out just as I’m trying to post something (and you don’t always know when a tunnel is coming up!).

It was fantastic catching up with so many friends yesterday and I look forward to catching up with more over the next couple of months. I also managed to draft a flash piece yesterday which I’m going to use for my YouTube video this week. Hope to share the link for that tomorrow over on my book page at From Light to Dark and Back Again. See further down.

Oh and it has been lovely listening to Gill James being interviewed by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Plenty of plugs for Bridge House, Chapeltown, CafeLit etc (and a couple for me too – thank you, Gill and Hannah). Give it a listen and discover insights into how a small independent publisher works.

Gill James Interview Here
Screenshot 2021-10-12 at 20-56-33 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 9 October, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

Am on way to my first in-person event for the Association of Christian Writers today. Event is being held in London. I am so looking forward to catching up with friends I’ve either not seen or only seen through Zoom for the past two years. Am drafting this via Evernote on train up. Will probably post on train home.

As well as what you learn from the speaker(s), you pick up loads of tips, sites to check out etc., when chatting with other writers over a cuppa or several. You also sense a creative buzz at the event which you can draw on to inspire you when you’re back home again.

So it will be a tiring, inspirational, and fantastic trip out. ACW are also celebrating the launch of Write Well! This will be launched during the latter half of today’s event. The book is written by various ACW members about aspects of writing and I am looking forward to reading it.

The lovely thing with writing is you don’t stop learning or developing what you do. This is so good for the old brain!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Giving your character an immediate problem they have to resolve is a great way to get into a story. Your reader has to read on to find out what happens, which is exactly what you want. But you can also add intrigue by hinting at an unusual setting for the problem.

I did this with my Decisions from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. My opening line to this is “He could watch the world end or jump on the alien spacecraft that encouraged visitors.”.

Well, firstly, what would you do if you faced that? Whatever you decide, hopefully the hook is there for you to want to find out what my character did. Secondly, I’ve managed to give you the genre in four words – world end and alien spacecraft. This confirms the genre has to be sci-fi and this is an apocalyptic tale.

The setting is here on Earth – that is confirmed by my character’s name (Jeff). So little things like this give your readers plenty of information to take in and you don’t info-dump on them either. That was something I did use to do when I first started out. Great big blocks of description and/or “have to tell the reader this so I will give it to them all in one go right here and now”. Uhh… no!

Drip-feeding information is better by far, more interesting, and helps keep your word count down, invaluable for flash of course.

Pleased to share my latest YouTube story, The Package. Who do you feel the most for here? Comments welcome here on over on my channel page. Hope you enjoy the tale.

 

Nice to have a quieter day after a wonderful day in London yesterday with the Association of Christian Writers. Will be returning to the capital in December for a Bridge House Publishing celebration event – can’t wait for that. Have been in contact with people over Facebook and Zoom, of course, but it will be so nice to get together in person again.

I’ll be sharing tomorrow my latest YouTube video which was inspired by a snippet of conversation I overheard on the train yesterday! Good fun to write and I look forward to sharing the story. (I say overhear, it was more a case of not being able to miss the conversation, but it can all be useful material for sparking off story ideas!).

 

Am back on the train for an Association of Christian Writers event so am resuming using Evernote for jotting down blog posts and flash fiction pieces. It’s lovely getting to use the app again after a long gap. I used it for the first time since lockdown for my trip to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August but with today’s event, it feels like it’s going to be a regular thing again. And that’s nice.

I will often use train writing sessions to brainstorm ideas for titles and/or opening lines. Course it’s a great chance to people watch again! Have just heard someone saying they had to go to their old house to pick up a delivery they sent to their old place by mistake and the person now living there was a “really old lady”. I suspect they mean someone of my age – fifties!! But could I get a story from that?

Oh yes! Firstly, the old lady could be something not of this world and my character has no idea what to do when they discover this. Far from getting one over on an old lady, she is the one turning tables here. Secondly, I could do something with the delivery itself. What is it? Why does my character need it? What would happen if the old lady opens it as it came to her house?

So will be keeping ears and eyes open for this trip ready to jot down ideas!  See YouTube video above – I did do something with this!

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Goodreads Author Blog – New Books

One lovely thing about going to events, as I’ve done this week, is exploring the book stalls and bringing home a new book or several! (Naturally I hope to sell some of mine too!).

It is great being able to go to events again. I missed this so much in 2020. And I know I will be picking up a very good read indeed when I go to the book stalls.

I’ve yet to go back to bookshops again but that will only be a matter of time! I may get to do so as part of my travels as there is a Foyles bookshop at London Waterloo. I think a lot will depend on how much I spend at the book stalls first!

The downside is every time I pick up new books like this, it reminds me I should sort my bookshelves out! I guess into every reader’s and writer’s life a little rain must fall!

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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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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
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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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Talks, Flash, and the Character -v- Plot Debate

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. Images of Lady, of CafeLit 10 books, and my stories in it, and screenshots all taken by me, Allison Symes.

Summer weather, a mini heatwave, finally here in the UK. The dog and I are busy keeping cool.

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Many thanks to the lovely people at #DundeeCityWriters for making me so welcome at last night’s Zoom talk. I spoke about short story writing as opposed to flash fiction this time. All great fun.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. It’s a local author news post this time about yours truly where I give an update on what has been happening/is going to happen over the summer for me. And I am glad to share news on both the fiction and non-fiction fronts for the first time here as well.

Lady, you’ll be glad to know, is keeping well and as cool as possible. She’s generally as daft as the proverbial brush but not when it comes to weather like this heatwave a lot of us in the UK are experiencing right now. (I know, it’s July, it is to be expected, but I have no way of telling the dog this!). She drinks plenty, stays in the shade, and enjoys gentler exercise sessions away from the main heat. She can go back to her usual athletic running about when the weather cools. And it will.

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Pleased to be speaking later tonight to the #DundeeCityWriters. Zoom is a wonderful thing!

Great to see so many lovely comments coming in on my #FridayFlashFiction story, The Unpaid Shift. Many thanks, all.

Working away also on my author newsletter. That will come out on 1st August. I share news, tips, writing prompts, and exclusive flash stories here amongst other things. If that sounds of interest, head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you can sign up.

And if you head over to my From LIght to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly, you will find my latest YouTube video as well. See below!

(Lady keeping cool and drinking well. I’m drinking well but do feel as if I’m melting right now. But at least it is the kind of weather you expect for July!).

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my post on Authors Electric this month. I talk about character -v- plot (and many thanks for the great comments which have come in so far).

I also look at a character I don’t care for much in this post even though I love the author. Mind you, this kind of thing is useful for me as I think about my characters. I do look at what I love and loathe about characters produced by other writers and I can learn so much from that. If a character is dire, I can examine why that is and try to avoid doing this for my own creations.

I also look at how a character makes me react and discuss series novels where a character can develop over time. I also name my favourite example of the latter as my top pick is a masterclass in how a character can develop over several books.

Screenshot 2021-07-20 at 19-35-10 Character -v- Plot by Allison Symes

 

Hope you have had a good day. A huge thanks for the wonderful comments on my The Unpaid Shift currently on #FridayFlashFiction. So enjoying writing the drabbles again. If you missed it, see the link.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week which will be a Local Author News one from me where I have exciting updates to share.

Am also looking forward to sharing great author interviews later on in the summer. So plenty going on here.

But more immediately, I am looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric post tomorrow. This time I’m writing about the character -v- plot debate. Give some thought as to where you stand on that one and maybe pop a comment up when I share the post link tomorrow. See above.

Screenshot 2021-07-16 at 18-47-03 The Unpaid Shift, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the lovely response to Self Defence, my latest YouTube video. These are great fun to write and produce. And they are a great way to use the mini-flash tales which are only a sentence or two. See below for video.

I was giving a Zoom talk to #DundeeCityWriters last night about short story writing but many of the techniques I use for flash I can and do use for the longer tales. For example, I have to have a rough template of what I am going to write and then off I go.

The main difference for a short story (anything over 1000 words) is I need to have some rough pointers for what happens in the central part of the tale so I avoid the dreaded saggy middle! (Not wanted in cakes. Not wanted in stories either!).

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Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube story video. It appears self defence can, in the right circumstances, apply to inanimate objects.


Thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about writing more in the first person for flash. I hadn’t anticipated doing this earlier in my writing career. I’m not sorry about the development as it had been a kind of writing I’d gone out of my way to avoid. Why?

Because all I could see were the limitations of it. You can only see through that one character’s eyes. Everything the character sees, hears, or could be reasonably expected to know is what you have to play with.

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What I hadn’t seen immediately was that kind of framework Is useful for stopping me head-hopping and in making me focus on the lead character. I can’t go off at a tangent here. That in turn encourages creativity as I work out what the lead character can see, hear, be reasonably expected to know etc.

I’ve also come to love the immediacy of the first person narrator.

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I’m writing more in the first person with my flash stories as it is a very easy way to “hit the ground running” with my character. I can literally take you right inside the “I” character’s head and show you their thoughts, actions, and reactions. I can’t “head-hop” either as I have to focus on just that one character.

But when I do have more than one character in a story (usually one of my 500+ word tales), I do work out who the lead character is and who the support will be. I still have to know whose story it is and why and what the role of the support will be. (Of course the support may do anything but support the main character but that’s fine. I just need a defined sense of who does what and why).

Goodreads Author Blog – Annuals

Did you use to get annuals when you were younger? Do you still get them?

I am fond of The Friendship Book (D.C. Thomson – those wonderful Dundee based publishers have produced this for decades). This is one of those books that is always on the present list at a certain time of year I won’t mention yet because we’re still in the summer. I refuse to think of the C word until the autumn at the earliest (and just wish the shops would do the same).

When my family was younger, they loved The Beano annual, and when we could get it, The Bash Street Kids one. They weren’t the only ones to read them either! I still have a soft spot for Minnie the Minx in particular. For anyone who might not know, The Beano is veritable institution amongst comics and again produced by D.C. Thomson and again going back decades. I think I’m right in saying it is well over 50 years old.

I’ve got no time for snobbery around comics, comic books, annuals etc. The important point here is they do get people reading (and the hope is of course they go on to read books with a higher text content later. My family did. What matters is getting that love of reading to develop and annuals and comics can be a great place to start).

I still like comics like The Beano. The world they take you into generally makes you laugh. And I count comics as much a part of the reading life as books.

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Balancing Fiction and Non-Fiction

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

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

Storytelling shows us so much about ourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Hope you enjoy Getting The Workmen In.


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


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

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

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

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Balancing Fiction and Non-Fiction

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

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

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

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Stories, Audio Books, Reviews, and Unexpected Publication News

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.

Hope you enjoyed the weekend. I share two new stories below and publication news (which came about unexpectedly – see below for more. I don’t usually have unexpected publication news!).

The Writing Journey

Facebook – General

Pleased to share my blog for Authors Electric for this month. This time, I talk about the joy of audio books. What are your favourites? Do you “save” audio books for specific occasions? I listen to most of mine on long journeys (so now we can hopefully start getting out and about again, I can resume this particular pleasure!). Highly recommend the Terry Pratchett Discworld audio books read by Sir Tony Robinson. I adore those.

A right old mix of sunshine and heavy showers today. Still doesn’t feel like May. Am beginning to wonder if it ever will do! But I do know the thing to hopefully cheer us up a bit.

The Week That Was is my latest CafeLit story. I hope you’ll find it to be a lighthearted start to the week. (And lighthearted is always a good way to finish off a Monday, I find). Oh and if you pop over to my From Light to Dark and Back Again page in a moment or two, there’ll be another story for you there. It is story time! See below for that!

Screenshot_2021-05-17 The Week That Was

PS. Also looking forward to giving my flash fiction talk to the Byre Writers on 31st July. Many thanks for the invite, folks!

Screenshot_2021-05-17 (7) The Byre Writers Facebook(1)Screenshot_2021-05-17 (7) The Byre Writers Facebook

 

The heavens truly opened in soggy Hampshire today! It still doesn’t feel like May but maybe we’re moving on from it feeling like March to it feeling like April with unexpected showers etc. I guess it’s progress of a kind!

Glad to say I will have a new story up on CafeLit tomorrow which is one of my lighter tales. Looking forward to sharing that – hopefully it will prove to be an amusing start to a new working week. See above!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post later in the week will be on Reflections where I discuss reflection and the creative life. I’ll also have an Authors Electric post to share this week so plenty going on with the blogging side of my writing. See above for AE blog. Looking forward to sharing CFT on Friday.

And there is always the flash fiction to write… talking of which it’s time to be off and get on with some!

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Unexpected Publication News!

In one of those odd turn of events which happen sometimes, I am pleased to announce my story, Next Time, Maybe will be in the Bridge House Publishing anthology later this year after all. Will share more news about Resolutions (the anthology title) nearer the time.

Lovely to see more comments come in on #FridayFlashFiction for my story Got You! It’s the first time I’ve been inspired to write a flash or other piece thanks to a cartoon on Facebook. Just goes to show, I think, that inspiration and ideas can come from almost anywhere. It is working out the strongest ideas, the ones most likely to work that can be tricky.

Screenshot_2021-05-18 Got You by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Just to flag up there is currently an offer on Amazon for the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details.

Hoped you enjoyed the CafeLit story shared on my author page yesterday (The Week That Was) (see above) and the story video here (Mistakes). (See below). Good to start the week with stories!

Flash is great to read out loud at events, easy to share on Zoom talks and the like, and can be easily shared on social media as part of an overall marketing plan. But having to invent loads of different characters is for me the most fun thing about writing flash and keeps me on my toes and out of mischief.

 


Pleased to share my latest story video with you. This one is Mistakes (and haven’t we all had several of those!). Hope you enjoy this one (oh and let this one be a warning to never get on the wrong side of a librarian).

PS. If you pop over to my author page on Facebook (Allison Symes), you’ll see another story from me – this time it’s my latest on CafeLit. Monday is story time day! Hope you enjoy The Week That Was. See above.

BookBrushImage-2021-4-13-19-4935
Flash fiction writing has shown me how to focus on what is important to a character, given there can often be more than one interesting thread to follow here. (Not a problem. You end up with two or three linked flash fiction stories using the same character or accept you probably would be writing up to the 1000 word count limit).

Learning to focus is an essential skill for whatever kind of writing you do. That, and not being afraid of editing any more, are two of the biggest things flash fiction writing has done for me.

Oh and a huge thank you for the wonderful comments on my story Got You! which appeared on #FridayFlashFiction this week. It is lovely getting feedback like this and so, so helpful. (Just in case you missed the tale you can see it here at https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/got-you-by-allison-symes). Link also shared above but, as well as plugging my stories, I am all for plugging sites like Friday Flash Fiction and CafeLit! They give authors a voice…

Choices



Glad to say I’ll be giving another author talk on flash fiction in July. Looking forward to that. I love discussing flash and what it has done for me as a writer. As well as the collections being out, flash fiction has taught me so much about showing and not telling. I’m also not afraid of editing any more. All of that is useful no matter what you write.

And Zoom of course has made these kind of talks easier to do. Hard to imagine life without it now. I often read examples of my works when giving a talk (as it is one of the best ways of demonstrating what flash fiction is) so I am getting some practice in for Open Mic Nights too!

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Reviews

Do you find book reviews useful?

Now, hands up time, as a writer, I obviously do. Reviews are a great way to get feedback on your work (even if sometimes it is not the feedback you really want – but there it pays to remember not everyone will like what you do anyway and that’s fine. Tastes are subjective after all).

Also I can flag up the reviews I have had as part of my overall marketing strategy.

BUT the review, whether it is long or short, HAS to tell me what the reader liked/disliked. Just leaving a star rating doesn’t tell the author much. The review also has to be honest and to give a reader a flavour of the book in question without giving out spoilers.

A review like that is far more likely to make me try out a new book and author than anything else. (I am guided by reviews for other things too incidentally. Usually there is a consensus of opinion and that can tell you a great deal).

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Further Thoughts On The Writing Game

Image Credit:  Pexels/Pixabay unless stated. A huge thanks to my guest authors on this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post for their author and book cover pics.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to share the second part of my CFT series on The Writing Game – and What to Watch For Part 2. Plenty of advice and tips here, Hope you enjoy. A big thanks to all of my guest authors. This week I feature guests from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Topics include handling professional jealousy and checking contracts.

This series is the kind of one I would have welcomed when I was a new writer especially. Why?

Because you don’t realise at the outset how much there is to learn. You don’t know what the pitfalls and hazards are. You’re not aware, to begin with at least, of the difference between vanity publishing and real self-publishing.

It is only when you’ve been writing for a while and you make author friends that you pick up tips and good advice from them, as well as from organisations like the Society of Authors.

If there is only ONE reason to go to writing conferences and events (when such things are possible again), the learning from others is, for me, the most important one. No one author can know it all.

Mind you, there are LOADS of other excellent reasons to go to writing events when you can and via Zoom etc in the meantime.

The nice thing about all of this? Later on, you can share what you have learned with others who, in turn, will share it later. What goes around literally comes around in writing circles – and it should always be to the benefit of the writer!

Hope you enjoy.

Many thanks for my guests this week – #DawnKentishKnox, #GillJames, #AmandaJones, #PaulaCReadman, and #AmandaHuggins.

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Have gone from walking the dog before it became too hot, creosoting fence panels, to editing to about to have a lovely Zoom chat with writer pals.

Am looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. Full of top tips, this week’s installment shares advice from writers from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Link up tomorrow.

Need to get back to flash fiction writing but hope to do that over the weekend. Am also enjoying preparing material for a blog where I will be a guest. Now off to chat!

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Facebook – General – and the Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – The Reading Challenge

I talk about The Reading Challenge in my monthly spot on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

This month I ask if writers SHOULD find reading a challenge.

So over to you. What do you read that challenges you? What benefits do you find from that? Do you read outside of your usual genres and how do you find that works? Has it inspired your own imagination and, if so, how?

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks to my lovely guests for their advice and tips in Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my new CFT series.

As well as avoiding the scams (as we all must), the writing game does have a fun side to it! There are so many kinds of writing to explore so if you’re not sure which is for you, try different ones out. You’ll soon know which you are likely to stay with, which you might write occasionally, and those you loathe!

Exploring different forms of writing led me to discovering the wonderful world of flash fiction and blogging. I have no regrets about either!

Whatever you’re working on this weekend, I hope you have a splendid time writing.

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Mixing up how you find ideas for stories is always a good thing to do. It’s fun too. I think that was the major thing that I took from the Zoom creative writing workshop I was on recently.

I’ve mentioned before that I will sometimes start my flash fiction with what I know will be the closing line and work backwards to get to the starting point. At some point I ought to try a line that would work best in the middle of a story and see what I can do with that. To work forwards and backwards would be a good challenge!

Stretching yourself in writing in different ways helps you discover what you like and, best of all, find new ways of writing stories you also develop a liking for – and it keeps you on your toes.

 

What have been the differences for me in writing FLTDBA and my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due soon?

I’ve had more fun with TTFF in terms of where and when I set my characters. I’ve also written some linked flash fiction for this one, which is a first for me, and I hope to do more of that. I strongly suspect some haiku flash fiction tales might make it into my next one!

Again themes have emerged as I put the collection together but I hope to talk more about that later. I am planning to have a cyberlaunch in due course and am looking forward to that.

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Fairytales with Bite – Reasons to Love Fairytales

Nobody really needs a reason to love fairytales, of course, but for the less convinced I offer the following:-

1. They are often the first stories youngsters come across and are a gateway into the wonderful world of reading. Once that spark is lit, there should be no turning back. It is no coincidence that those who read more develop a larger and more wide ranging vocabulary.

2. There is a clear sense of right and wrong in fairytales. (That appeals to children and those who decided growing up was overrated).

3. Some stories can act as warnings.

4. The stories can reflect injustice and cruelty but also usually have those things stopped by the end. (In life so often these things are not stopped. It is good to have stories where matters are rectified, justice is done etc. This is something shared with good crime stories too).

5. They’re great stories (reason enough!).

In fairytales the dragon does not win. (Shrek inverts that concept but there the dragon is one of the good guys. Love that idea).

This World and Others –

What Every Piece of Writing Needs

While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

  1. Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.
  2. A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.
  3. To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.
  4. A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.
  5. No sagging middles!
  6. A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.
  7. To be a good advert for the other writing you do!

 

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AUTHOR SERVICES/ONLINE EVENT NEWS

Image Credit:  Pixabay or Pexels, unless otherwise stated.

NEWS

A lot has happened writing wise over the last few days.

Firstly, I now have an Author Services page on Allison Symes: Collected Works as I now work as an independent editor, as well as an author. More details below in the relevant post with the appropriate link.

Secondly, the launch of the ebook Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s Waterloo Arts Festival is this coming Friday, 12th June from 6.30 pm.  There will be videos, you can meet, via Zoom, the authors including me and more details follow in the post below. You will need a ticket but the event is free. Link is below. Hope to see you there!

Cyberlaunches are a good chance to promote you and your work but you need to engage with people rather than boom at themDo invite people to your launch - you do have to actively invite them and then hopefully entertain them with your launch too

Facebook – General – and Author Services News

There is often a lot of “behind the scenes” work with writing. I find it bubbles away nicely in the background for ages and then, oomph, it is all ready for sending out to a publisher or a competition or what have you.

Or you are preparing various things ready for taking your writing journey on to another stage and I am at that point now.

I have updated my website as I now have an Author Services page available.

Some of you, I know, will already know I carry out editing work. Details are on my Author Services page.

There are two sides to this page: one is my work as an author. I am happy to give talks and run workshops etc. The other is the editing side.

Full details of how to contact me are on the Author Services page.

And for other writers taking new steps on their writing journey, may I wish you the best of luck as I take new steps on mine!

And from FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN FACEBOOK PAGE

I don’t think there can ever be said to be THE perfect time to do something new! It’s a question, I think, of doing what prep work you can and then picking as good a time as possible as suits you.

Just to say I now have an Author Services page on my website (link below) and there are two sides to this. One is for my work as an editor. Full details of what I do and how to contact me are on the page.

The other is for my work as a published writer. I am very happy to give talks and run workshops on flash fiction. Do see my page for more details.

Allison Symes and published works LARGE VERSION

Facebook – General – and Waterloo Arts Festival News

This Friday night is Waterloo Arts Festival night – well the writing side of it is!

Of course, it has to be online but the event is free. You do need a ticket for the event but see the link.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers, including yours truly.

Hope to see you!😊

 

Now on to the rest of this round-up!

Facebook – General –

The Book Cover Challenge – Days 1 to 5

Day 1
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate Val Penny who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Changed my opinion about Richard III. Is also a different kind of detective novel. A gripping read. Hope you check it out.

 

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A wonderful detective novel.

Day 2
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #RichardHardie who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Epic fantasy. And one of my favourite film adaptations too.

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Epic in every sense

Day 3
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #WendyHJones who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle. Great stories with the most intriguing detective ever, I think, and the forerunner for EVERY flawed one that has come since too.

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A timeless detective in many ways.

Day 4
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #JenWilson who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? A ChristmasCarol by Charles Dickens. My favourite ghost story (and I love the Muppet version of it too).

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Not many writers get to add to a tradition but Dickens did/has.

Day 5

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #SharonBradshaw who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. A classic and brilliant example of irony in romantic fiction.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says "The Penguin English Library JANE AUSTEN PRIDE AND PREJUDICE"

This book introduced me to irony in fiction and is such a wonderful story.

Days 6 and 7 will feature in my next post.

Facebook – General

I’m taking part in a Book Cover challenge on Facebook at the moment (see above) and it is making me think about what books I’ve chosen and why.

I’m also trying to marry up who I nominate to take part with books I’ve chosen I think they’ll also be fans of and not to make their life more difficult here, honest! Rather it will free them up to choose other huge favourites in their selections because we will all have the same dilemma. We can only choose HOW many?!

It is difficult limiting yourself to 7 books given the challenge lasts for 7 days but as a celebration of stories and books in general, this is great fun to take part in! Many thanks to #JaneBrocklehurst for nominating me.

I wrote a Chandler’s Ford Today post a while back about what books I would take to a desert island. Hope you enjoy. And do share which you would take with you and why.

 

Saddened but not surprised that Swanwick has been cancelled for this year. Will miss seeing everybody but am already looking forward to next year’s event. 2020 is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. It’s unlikely to crop up as one of people’s all time favourite years, is it?!

Yet ironically good things are happening. Zoom has brought people together (and my social life has perked up a lot thanks to it though I guess that does say more about me!😆😆).

Talking of Zoom, I’m looking forward to the online Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition event on Friday night. Will report back in due course. (And do come if you can. Link to event to follow further down).

And I hope, after the event, to share the video I made for this after the event where I read an extract from my winning story. It was great fun to write and I look forward to sharing that.

It was good fun making the video too and it’s not something I would have thought to have done, had events gone on as they usually would have done.

Meanwhile I’m writing away and looking forward to answering interview questions I’ve been sent. In some ways lockdown hasn’t changed my routine at all. I sit at a desk and write! But it is the not seeing friends and going to book related events I’m missing the most.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It seems such a long time ago that I took a change of direction with my writing and discovered flash fiction. Now there is one turning point I really don’t regret! And it has enlivened my reading too. Flash fiction collections are great fun to delve into (and ideal for a quick read when you haven’t much time).

Yes, yes, I know, I’m biased. Course I am. Go on check out some flash collections and see if I’m right or not then!

These things are all relevant to a cyberlaunches which are often used to launch a book at a discount rateImages like this help set an online party atmosphere

 

A good opening line either sets up an intriguing premise OR lays out a problem you know has got to be solved by the story’s end.

A good closlng line either delivers on that premise OR resolves the problem.

What is talked about less often are the lines in between! They matter too, obviously.

One thing I like about flash is it forces you to ensure every word, every sentence moves the story forward, so no saggy middles here! But there’s no reason why you can’t use that same technique of asking yourself DOES this line add anything useful to what ever kind of fiction you write. And that question I’ve found useful so many times. It helps me focus on what really matters after all.

My top tips for flash fiction writing would be:-

1. Limit the number of characters. Especially for those stories under 500 words, you may well get away with only one character.

2. Focus on what the situation is. There has to be a moment of change so what is the single most important thing we the reader have to know about your character and the situation they’re in? That is the story.

3. Your opening line needs to lure your reader in but don’t worry if you need several goes at this. Often I will draft a story and a better opening line comes to me when I’m editing.

4. Your closing line needs to deliver on the promise of your story so ensure it does. I love twist endings, punchline endings, etc., but deliberately mix up the type I write as I don’t want all of my stories to be finished using the same format each time. The ending has to be appropriate to the character and tone of the story too.

5. Read your story out loud if you can. Listen for the flow. Look out for anything that might make you stumble over your words. If you do, a reader will.

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Time spans for flash fiction, appropriately, are best kept short. I focus a lot on one character, THE important event in their story as that IS the story, and the action is usually wrapped up fairly quickly. The pace is quick too.

I do, however, sometimes write more reflective pieces where a character looks back at their life. My They Don’t Understand is a good example of that.

I also sometimes have characters filling in important information as they are doing something. Time for Tea starts like that and you get to see more of the character’s attitudes, thoughts, and plans as the story unfolds. It is clear those thoughts etc have been building up over a long time but it is NOW they are doing something. That, of course, is the hook for a reader – to find out what that something is and does the character achieve what they think they will?

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – 

The Right Time For a Good Book

I prefer to read in bed but the right time for a good book varies from reader to reader of course.

What is your preferred reading time?

Mind you, I am pretty good at sneaking in extra reading over lunch, though I usually read magazines then. Still it is all grist to the reading mill and I get more read so win-win!

Reading for me is principally a form of entertainment.

Secondly, it is a form of widening my experience of the world. When life is tough, I will always go for books that make me feel better, often tried and tested favourites.

When life is okay, I will want to stretch myself with my reading and that is when I will read books and authors new to me. The good thing is with life being so full of ups and downs for everyone, I get to “do” both kinds of reading over time. So that’s okay.

I like the Look Inside feature on Amazon when trying out new authors and most of the time I do end up buying, having liked what I’ve seen.

I tend to go through phases here too when I will be downloading a few things, none for a bit, and then downloading again. Just as well really that an electronic book shelf cannot give way!

When do you decide it’s time to widen your reading horizons? Is it just based on friends’ recommendations or do you have to be in the right frame of mind to “bite”?

Usually I will take a look at a book a friend recommends and if the blurb, the cover, and the Look Inside attract me, I download. But all of it has to appeal.

And that’s something I try to bear in mind with my author hat on. How can I get these details right for a potential reader of mine?

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Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips

Image Credit:  Pixabay and Pexels as usual, unless otherwise stated. Many thanks.

Special Note:  Today, 8th May 2020 is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. My parents and grandparents, who lived through this, are sadly gone, but to all who gave up so much so that we could live, thank you. You are not forgotten. Nor should you ever be.

My parents were evacuated, my father more than once as many East End families came back to London before having to leave again due to the doodlebugs.

My grandparents? One served in the Forces before being invalided out and then working as an ARP warden. He saw things as an ARP warden nobody should have to see. My maternal grandfather was in a reserved occupation – he worked in munitions and was often bombed out.

There is much to be thankful for despite our current difficulties.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I hope this week’s CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, proves particularly useful. I share my thoughts about Zoom. I go on to share hints and thoughts about having a cyberlaunch. I discuss what I found useful when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again and what I learned from this.

Naturally in the fullness of time I’m looking forward to having another one for Tripping the Flash Fantastic!

What I do know though is preparation is key! And a cyberlaunch should be fun for you as author/host. That fun will be picked up on by those attending your launch.

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I hope the tips on cyberlaunches in my latest CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, prove useful. The good thing about holding events like these is you will always learn something from them in what worked well, what you could have done better and so on. Those you take with you to your next event!

Going to other cyberlaunches, as well as being great fun and supportive of other writers, also provides good opportunities to learn.

I held a raffle when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I used a random number generator and allocated a number to every visitor. When it came to doing the draw for a prize, I simply put in the range of numbers from smallest to largest and picked out the winners that way.

That wonderful tip was something I picked up from a cyberlaunch I went to (and I’m sorry I have forgotten whose that was but I will say a big thank you now as it did prove useful and I am sure it will again!).

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Good support at 8 pm for the Clap for Carers though Lady decided not to use her vocal talents this week. I’m sure she’ll make up for it another time…

Am absolutely thrilled to say I am one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival’s Writing Competition. Many congratulations to all of the other winners who are:-

Mehreen Ahmed: Dolly
Gail Aldwin: The Price of Firewood
Christopher Bowles: Chroma
Maxin Churchman: Pulling Together
Jeanne Davies: Utopian Dream
Jo Dearden: A Small Clay Vase
Linda Flynn: Fishing in Troubled Waters
Anne Forrest: Number Twenty-seven
Dawn Knox: Rising from the Ashes
Roz Lyn: Circle Time
Paula R C Readman: Cobalt Blues
Hannah Retallick: Bookclub for the Elderly
Theresa Sainsbury: Transforming Teenagers
Allison Symes: Books and Barbarians

I will miss enormously NOT going up to London for the Festival, meeting up with my fellow writers for a very convivial pub lunch etc, but there will be online events so I will look forward to those.

What with the news of two of my stories being in Cafelit 9 later this year, it has been quite a week! This is the lovely side of writing of course. What doesn’t get seen is the work that goes into those stories over weeks, writing them, honing them, sending them off, and then waiting to hear.

This is why I like to have something I’m about to send off, another competition in mind to have a go at, and something I’m resting ready for editing after a suitable time break away from it. Over the course of a year, it means I’ve submitted a number of stories. Some will be accepted, some won’t but even there I can revisit the tales and try them out again with another market/competiton. I’ve had work published doing that.

Now on to the next story, which is almost ready for submitting!

 

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Another reason for outlining my characters is I want to be able to see the world through their eyes and until I know certain things about them I can’t do that. What their attitudes are is, to me, far more important than knowing what they look like.

I know some writers need to know the physical appearance of their characters first and then work out what else they need to know from there.

But what matters here is finding the starting point that works for you, whichever way around it happens to be!

It took me a while to work out which way WAS the best route for me to take. But all that practice in writing early on, though the results were never published, has paid off now. I know what works for me and I go with that.

Where variety comes in is how I approach writing the story. Sometimes I start with the end line and work backwards. Sometimes I use the more conventional start to end approach.

Practically always, I find I need to change the beginning of a story. It is usually only once I’ve got the first draft down I can figure out the best start is at, say, paragraph three, and the opening two are either not needed at all or I can salvage useful bits of information and drip feed them into the tale later. I know I often have to work my way into the “real” story and that’s fine. The dressing to help me do that never stays in the final tale you hopefully get to see!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Another way to mix up how you approach writing flash fiction is to take a closing line from a story of yours and then use it as the opening or a title to a completely new story. I’ve not done this YET but I have in my draft third book used the same characters in more than one story AND have someone else refer to them in yet another tale.

A little while ago I had a series of linked flashes on Cafelit which was prompted by an exercise in the Prompts book by Gill James and that was good fun to do. See link!

As you know, I like to mix up the mood of the stories I write plus I like to write in different genres too. My overall favourite will always, I think, be what I call my fairytales with bite (aimed at an older audience, usually with humour and/or with a twist). But I have enjoyed writing historical flash fiction and hope to do more of this too.

Prompts 2020

Image by Gill James

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and Publication News! (Yes, it’s been a good week!)

It will be lovely having another story in the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition ebook anthology during the summer. It will be the third year in a row I will have had a story in there. This year’s theme was Transforming Communities and my story is called Books and Barbarians. I’ll leave you to wonder about that one for the time being!

Every writer had to write to a 1000 word count maximum and all on the same theme. The other ebooks from the Waterloo Arts Festival (publisher: Bridge House Publishing) are a fantastic mix of styles and moods.  Here is the link to Transforming Being. The first in the series was called To Be…To Become.

The books prove, to me at least, that each writer has their own voice and, as a result, we really are not in competition with each other. Do check the books out. Available you know where….

 

What do characters in a flash fiction story need to have? For me this would include:-

1. A strong voice. They have to be distinctive and intrigue a reader enough to want to follow their story.

2. An intriguing personality (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be a nice one!).

I also need to feel at the end of the story that no other character could have/should have been the lead.

When writing the story, I want to be fascinated enough by the character to WANT to write about them. I usually know fairly quickly when outlining thoughts for a story/character that yes, this is going to work because…

I sometimes know that the character will work if I beef them up a bit here and here… (and that’s nearly always a sign I needed to do a bit more outlining at the beginning to get the character right but that can be and is fixed).

And talking of which, I have a character in a draft story that definitely needs my attention!

Happy writing!

 

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Fairytales with Bite – What is Your Favourite Fairytale?

I would list my favourite fairytales as:-

Cinderella

Snow White

The Little Mermaid

The Ugly Duckling

Puss In Boots

Toy Story series!

Shrek series

Be fair, I didn’t say they had to be just books now!

Common themes here:-

  1.  Wrong being righted.
  2.  Not judging by appearances.
  3.  Animals being smarter than humans – okay just the cat in this instance but be fair, what a cat!
  4.  Evil being thwarted.

All great individual themes for stories of your own there! And yes, you can still write fairytales with animals in them. It never did Roald Dahl any harm!

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This World and Others – Interaction

When you set up your created world, are you getting it to engage with other worlds or is it just one universe you are concerned with? The advantage of having at least one other world in your set up is the possibility of conflict between World A and World B, which can lead to some great stories. The disadvantage is you have at least two worlds to think about and plan for fully before you start writing.

Having said that, bear in mind, as with The Lord of The Rings, you can have one complete world and within it varying countries/regions. Here you will need to give careful thought to what these have in common and what the differences are. Who lives where and why? Do they get on with the other regions and if not, why not? How are they governed? Do different governing styles lead to conflict and what are the results?

Also think of interaction at a local level. Local officials can often have more sway over people’s lives because they are dealing with said local officials all the time. The people may never  have dealings with the overall government so what are the local officials like? What actions of officials might lead people to rebel? Again, think consequences and happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lists and Zooming Around

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

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Am finding my social life has perked up no end – thanks to Zoom. Hmm… Lady has got used to “disembodied” voices coming out of my computer! She still doesn’t like it (who can blame her?) but she goes and curls up somewhere instead of barking at the screen. Progress takes many forms, folks.😊

Mind you, some things don’t change. When I was a kid, I used to have to stand on a box so I could be seen over a pulpit when I read a Bible lesson. For Zoom, I have to sit on a cushion so I show up clearly enough for people to be able to lip read me if they need to/want do. Some things don’t change much! 😕

In other news, I’m finding having a session once or twice a week where I just draft blog posts is proving useful. It is proving handy having a batch of posts good to go when I’m pressed for time.

Generally I prepare these Facebook posts “live” and I am doing so now. There are times I come to this not knowing at all what my topic is going to be but I like that. It forces me to think and be more creative and then that flows well into the rest of the writing I’ll do afterwards. Also it means I can respond to news, writing news etc as it comes up during the day.

But the crucial thing is whatever you write, whether it is for publication or not, is to enjoy what you do. I can’t imagine a life without writing in it somewhere and that is how it should be.

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Zoom church was lovely this morning – and that was a combination of words I never expected to write!

I continue to make progress on my various projects though I always feel I should be achieving more. I cheer myself up with the thought most writers think that though!

I find I can’t work on one thing at a time before moving on. I have to have at least two to three different things on the go, partly because while I know when my writing slot is going to be each day, there can be some variation in time allocated to each one. I can adjust what work I do according to the time available so this is why having a couple of things on the go at any one time works well for me.

Also it means usually I’ve got something out there for consideration, something I’ve written but which needs some “resting time” so I can edit it properly, and something else I’m drafting. I find that useful.

Hope to have another lighthearted CFT post up later this week. Details to follow.

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What aspect of writing do you find the most challenging?

For me, it’s not letting my characters talk too much! I love writing dialogue. Failing that, writing their thoughts is also good fun. And, yes, I could go on at length which is why the flash fiction format works so well for me. It forces me to face up to the fact I can’t do that and I DO have to stick to what is relevant! There is a point to a strict word count!

What aspect of writing do you find the most fun to do?

For me, it’s finding that word or two which I know will either add depth to my characters or describe something well but economically. If I were to say, for example, Madame X had a velvet chaise longue (as I’m sure she would!), it is the word velvet that makes the difference for me. It helps me to visualise better. (I can also hazard a guess at what the rest of Madame X’s furniture will be like too!).

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What do books do for you? For me they:-

1. Entertain.
2. Inform
3. Take me to other worlds (and quite often it’s different aspects of this one).
4. Take me back in time (so I can see how others lived. This nearly always brings about a deeper sense of gratitude for what we have now, especially literacy. I just know I would’ve been a peasant in medieval times. Any chance of reading? None whatsoever. Chances of dying young in childbirth? Very high. Hmm…).
5. Keep me out of mischief. For a bit.
6. Show me just what a wonderful world of stories we have out there. There is at least one genre to suit everyone.

Happy reading!

 

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Judging what to leave out of a flash fiction story can be tricky at times. I’ve sometimes been caught between two useful character details but I really only have the room for one of them.

This is not down to word count either given the range of different markets and competitions I could go for and I would just change which one I plumped for.

When I say I haven’t the room, what I mean is the story would feel too “top heavy” if I put all the details in. You learn to get a feel for this over time. Less really is more in flash fiction. It is the telling detail that matters. And it is a question of deciding which telling detail is the most important one and therefore should be the one to make the cut.

For me, it’s usually down to the impact factor which helps me decide what goes in. Detail A may strengthen understanding of a character’s motives. Useful. Detail B may show the character has a pathological hatred for something. If my story is showing a character being driven by something, then Detail B is almost certainly the one to go in.

So it is a case of selecting the right detail for the right occasion. What serves the story/character best is the way, I think, to judge this.

F= Find fantastic characters to write about but keep them few in number. Too many cooks spoil the broth = too many characters in a flash fiction story make it top heavy and can lead to confusion in your reader. Focus on one or two characters only.

L= Learn what makes your characters drive. Ask the old “luvvie” question “where is my motivation in this?” as it is a good one to ask of your characters. It will also help you focus on what really matters to your character and your story.

A = Always know what the story is and ask yourself what the point is and is your plot moving on to that point. Flash focuses on ONE important moment for your character. The limited word count means you have to shine a spotlight on ONE small area only but your story can make a powerful impact because of that.

S = Story, story, story. It’s got to be a cracking story. What will keep the reader reading? Think of your hook, lure the reader in, and deliver on the promise of that hook. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself, when editing, is this achieving the impact I want the story to have? Change anything that doesn’t serve the story well.

H = Have a strong conclusion whether it is a one-liner or a twist ending. You want your reader to leave having thoroughly enjoyed your story and feeling not one word could be added or removed from it. Oh and above all Have Fun! It’s a mantra of mine that you’ve got to enjoy your writing to be able to keep going with it.

Good luck and happy writing!

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What aspect of a character do you look out for when you start reading a story?

I want some idea of their general attitude. How they treat or refer to other characters in the story is usually key to telling me all I need to know!

Now okay sometimes this can be a red herring. A twist at the end can turn my assumptions around but I love that.

I then go back and look at the story again and see if I can pick up any clues as to what the character was really like early on. On a second reading I usually find something. Of course, I can note how the writer has done this and then see if I can do something similar for my twist flash tales.

You really do learn from other writers, past and present, and this is just one excellent reason to read widely and well. None of us are going to re-invent the wheel after all. So be inspired and use that inspiration to fire your imagination. Your take on characters will be unique to you.

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So how do you decide which ONE pivotal moment is THE one to write about for your flash story?

For me, it has to be the one that makes the most impact on your character. Sometimes this is the obvious dramatic moment but it isn’t always.

In my Time for Tea, the crucial pivotal moment (from my viewpoint as writer rather than reader) is when the narrator reveals someone else has told them something about their adult children. The narrator doesn’t think to question it. An alert reader will. But this moment sets the course for what the narrator is going to then do and that is why it matters. Quiet moments or revelations can turn a character and their story just as much as louder, more obvious moments can.