COMING BACK TO EARTH

Just returned from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, after a fabulous week of excellent courses and getting to catch up with writer friends, with whom, for the rest of the year, I stay in contact with via social media.  Lovely as that is, you can’t beat getting together face to face!

So tonight’s post is all on the theme of coming back to earth and I also look at Books That Should Have Been Written as a lighthearted CFT post.  There is nothing anywhere that says you HAVE to come back to earth with a bump or several!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is called Books That Should Have Been Written and, if you like puns, this is definitely for you!  I also take a peek at irony.

Back from a wonderful week at #Swanwick70. The highlight of my writing year is the week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Why?

I meet up with writer friends that for the rest of the year, I keep in contact with by social media. I make new friends. I learn loads from the courses, which is never a bad thing. Oh and I sold a few books in the Book Room too!

Back down to earth then but with perhaps a more gentle bump! My CFT post this week is a lighthearted one called Books That Should Have Been Written. Contributions welcome in the CFT comments box!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Had a lovely time at #Swanwick70. Really enjoyed reading three of my 100-word stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again at the Prose Open Mic hosted by #JenniferCWilson. Flash fiction works really well at these things (as indeed does poetry – I missed the Poetry Open MIc night as it clashed with the Literary Quiz and I do love a good quiz but I hope all who took part in the Open Mic slots had a fab time).

Images of Swanwick were taken by me at last year’s event. Such a lovely place to be!

Fairytales with Bite – A toZ of Fairytales Part 2

So on to the second part of this series…

D = Determination.  The best fairytale characters I know have this trait in buckets (other suitably large utensils are available, as they say…!).  They can vary from determination not to be ground down (Cinderella) to determination to survive (Hansel and Gretel).  Determination can keep a character going when the world and its dog/unicorn/dragon seem to be out to “get them”.  Determination separates the wolf (big, bad or otherwise) from the sheep.

E = Energy. Can be topped up by determination but your characters are going to need plenty of energy to get them through whatever frightful horrors you’re putting them through.  Not only are there the obvious physical needs to think about, but bring in how your characters top up their mental strength.  They will need plenty of that too.

F = Fairies/Fantastic Creatures.  The great irony with fairytales is you can have them without fairies in (Little Red Riding Hood), but when you do use them in your stories, give them plenty to do and ensure not everything is solved with a wave of the magic wand.  Your fairy character still has to work for/struggle to get success, even if that is only implied in your story.  A wave of the wand may be what they do to remedy a situation or modify it (Sleeping Beauty) but there should still be issues for the characters in your story to overcome.    Otherwise there is no conflict and without that, the story vanishes.  Fantastic creatures can vary from animals to other magical beings (including your own invented ones) but we still need to have some sense of what they are like and where they fit in to the world you’ve created.

More next time…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Coming Back to Earth

Coming Back to Earthis the title of my latest Goodreads blog (where I do suggest a cure!).  I wrote a lighthearted post for CFT this week, Books That Should Have Been Written,partly as a “gentle” way of coming back to earth after my return from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

But how do your characters come back to earth?  They’ve experienced perhaps great adventures, now there’s a lull in the action as they come to terms with what they’ve just gone through.  How do they handle that?  I love The Lord of the Rings  for many reasons but the portrayal of Frodo becoming more and more tired as the stress of what he has to do becomes more and more of a burden is realistically shown.  On the assumption your characters are not super heroes who never get tired or out of sorts, how do your characters handle setbacks, tiredness, illness etc?

How do they pick themselves up from “earth” to get back to their “mission”?  Who helps them and how?  Plenty to think about there!

Goodreads Blog – Coming Back to Earth

Have just got back from my annual highlight – the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Had a wonderful time discussing and learning about all things connected to the worlds of books and stories. What’s not to like about that?

But, as ever with these things, you come back home again and you feel shattered and a bit flat. (You take in far more than you know you are when you are there and then I think the physical/mental tiredness of that hits you later).

So what can help you perk up again?

Why, nothing but a good book of course!

And the lovely thing about being a writer? You need to read widely, in and out of genre, to help feed your own imagination in any case, but you also get to write the books and with a lot of hard work, and some luck, get them out there.

So happy reading and writing!

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Getting Away From It All and the Fairytale A to Z (Part 1!)

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is Getting Away From It All. Appropriate as I am about to swan off to Swanwick! I share some thoughts on the importance of relaxing and how just writing something for the sheer fun of it can be a marvellous way to unwind for writers.

The great thing too is you can always work the piece up “properly” later on and submit it but to just write something for fun is wonderful. Possibly something we don’t do enough of? I’ve found doing this useful (a) to take a break from my main writing work and (b) to remind myself during tough patches just what it is I really love about writing – the creativity of it. I think you can lose sight of that at times.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

More on the ABC of Flash Fiction…

D = Drive. Not only do you need that as the writer, but your characters do as well. Something has to happen in your narrative for it to be a story at all so your characters must be ready to “act” and for that to wrap up quickly. They must be ready to “hit the ground running”. They do something, there is a reaction, there is a conclusion (and of course it doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy one).

E = Entertainment. Whatever your genre, your flash fiction should entertain (even if that entertainment is simply to make your reader think about the theme of your story and whether they would do the same as your character has). Every word has to make your reader want to read on, every line has to move the story on, and at the end you want your reader to feel as if they have had a good read, even if it is only in 500 words, 100 words, 75 words or what have you.

F = Fairytales. I’ve found flash fiction to be a good vehicle for fairytales (albeit of the short and sharp variety. Not necessarily sweet as well though. Many of my fairy characters do have a penchant for justice, the rough kind where they feel it is necessary at that!).

 

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – On Criticism

Confession time:  Am certain I didn’t put this up when I was supposed to so will share now.  It IS better late than never and I hope my post for July on On Criticism will prove helpful.

What good judging should be and that includes for reviews etc

What every review should be. Pixabay image,

Fairytales With Bite – the Fairytale A to Z Part 1

I love a list – whether it’s a numerical one or an A to Z format.  So for fairytales and the magical world, what would my A to Z be?  Part 1 then would be:-

A = Anthropomorphism 

Not my favourite word to spell, I must admit!  However, for me, a classic tale will have this as one of its elements.  Think Puss in Boots, Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia etc etc.  What matters is the traits shown or speech given to an animal character to have/speak must make sense for the way that character has been portrayed.  We see Puss in Boots is a character who would be smarter than his master so the speech given to Puss must reflect that.

B = Beauty
One thing I love about fairytales is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is not always the classical definition either.  I love the stories of The Ugly Duckling and Beauty and the Beast. Is it just me but I didn’t think the Beast was that ugly incidentally (especially as Disney portrayed him?  Huge, yes, but that’s not the same thing!  That aside, there is a strong emphasis that it is a beautiful heart/character that matters most, which I fervently believe.  I can’t say what single thing makes me love fairytales but this is a very high contender for being the top one.

C = Characters
There isn’t one dull character in fairytales, is there, when you come to think about it.  There shouldn’t be in your stories either.  (And even when a character is meant to be “dull”, there still has to be something about them that will make your reader want to find out if they stay that way or change or if there is a point to the dullness.  Maybe the lead character needs a duller one’s sensible comments to point them in the right direction?).

More next time….

This World and Others – Getting Away From It All

Getting Away from it All is my title for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post and my latest Goodreads blog.

What do your characters do to unwind?  Where would they go to get away from it all?  If your fictional world has a hierarchy (and frankly most will have something), are there places where the “commoners” can’t go?  How is that enforced?

I am about to head off to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for a wonderful week of courses, catching up with writer friends, and making new ones.  A marvellous time is had by all.  For your longer stories, where would your characters go to catch up with friends and family they can’t see often (and how did that situation happen)?

In my Goodreads blog, I talk about my holiday reading.  What would your characters read?  Does your fictional world have a good literacy rate?  If not, is anything being done about it?  I’ve mentioned in previous posts that a totalitarian world will seek to restrict/ban books (as sadly is seen too often in this world!) but is there an underground system that bypasses/overcomes those restrictions?

Plenty of story ideas there!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

Swanwick, Scheduling and the Book Cover Challenge

Facebook – General

Am busily preparing CFT posts for the next couple of weeks. I’d like to get both of the following Fridays done because I know when I come back from Swanwick, I will be happy but shattered so doubt if I’ll be writing too much later that evening! So easier to write and schedule such posts now.

I need to get back to blocking out time for specific things I’d like to do (which is where Swanwick will be particularly helpful to me this year).

Once the CFT posts are done (which I hope to have up and scheduled by Wednesday). I can focus on some fiction. The great thing with flash is I can happily spend an evening writing that and have several stories by the end of it to work on further. Okay, they WILL need working on further but the joy of the first draft is worrying about editing much later on!

I love taking my Kindle away with me as it (a) saves a lot of packing and (b) saves a lot of heartache working out which books to take and which to leave behind. Also for some reason my case is always a lot lighter than it used to be! Biggest issue for me though is to remember to pack the charger!

Talking of recharging the old batteries, my CFT post this week takes a look at that and I will be sharing a few things I find really helpful for unwinding (and I don’t even mention wine, chocolate etc., so you have still those as options too!). Link up on Friday.

I’ve been enjoying taking part in a book cover challenge this week. Has made me really think about the novels I couldn’t be without. What are the ones that have influenced you in some way?

So far I’ve included The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, The Daughter of Time, Raising Steam, and Murder on the Orient Express. A nice mixed bag there! And all great in very different ways.

Am doing my packing for Swanwick tomorrow. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if other writing friends have done theirs already but the Thursday before is soon enough for me and my books and notebooks go in first! (Did put my rail tickets in my railcard holder today – I suppose that counts!).

The case is packed ready for Swanwick. Just the usual odds and sods to add at the last minute. (Disaster for me will be forgetting my phone charger!). And yes I did pack my books, notepads, pens etc first. Got to have your priorities right!

Okay, I’m not sure where I’ll put books I buy from the Book Room but I’ll worry about that later in the week (and I refuse to believe I’m the only Swanwicker taking that view!). Happy, and safe, travelling to all who are going. May you get through the engineering works at Derby without your blood pressure soaring too high!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I do love writing some one line complete stories from time to time and it makes for a good exercise to get you into your writing session. For example:-

1. The day the clocks stopped the watchmakers were fired.

2. The dragon surveyed the empty street, which had been teeming with life a moment ago.

3. Try as he might, Arthur could not get that wretched sword out of the stone. (N.B. This also counts as a complete story wrecker!).

4. Turn left and he’d face obliteration, turn right he’d have to face the New Year sales – he went left.

5. The gull enjoyed the look of astonishment on the day tripper’s face, almost as much as the bird loved the stolen battered cod.

6. Dessert was sorted – the gull went back and pinched the same tourist’s mint choc chip icecream.

Allison Symes – 6th August 2018

Give this exercise a go! It’s fun and there’s nothing to stop you developing your ideas further. As for me, that’s some ideas drafted for my third flash fiction book!

My favourite forms of flash fiction are the ones I write in the first person. There is an immediacy about those I think and I love being able to get straight into the character’s head.

It is also great letting them “tell you” the story. There is no pretence at being unbiased or anything like that. The character will give you their thoughts with both barrels, so to speak.

Of course, when everything goes horribly wrong with said character, the reader should be able to see the seeds of that happening early on in the story. And often it is the character’s attitude that plays a major part in this. Great fun to bring about!

Looking forward to my train journey on Saturday to Swanwick despite the engineering works at Derby. Why? Aside from loving train travel (usually!), I hope to write quite a bit via Evernote and my phone for my flash fiction and non-fiction posts. Three hours? Can get a fair bit done in that time, thank you.

I’ve been on the train a fair bit this year so that almost certainly helps for my being further on with my third flash fiction collection than I thought I’d be! And I am getting better at using “dead” time more efficiently. The stories soon mount up (and if you’re a crime writer, the bodies do too! 😁).

The ABC etc of Flash Fiction… (will continue this over the next few posts though there may be some gaps in posting due to my being at Swanwick and probably having far too good a time to be posting!).

A = Atmosphere. The story may be short but its atmosphere must come through clearly. You literally have a few words to set the mood and then follow through. On the plus side, if you like writing “from inside the head of the character”, as I do, this really isn’t a problem.

B = Brutality. There is editing and there is editing. You really do have to murder your darlings with flash fiction. Only what is crucial to the story remains. And it can be hard sometimes to cut a really good line but if it really isn’t vital to the tale, it should go out. Save it though. Might be able to use it elsewhere.

C = Characters. Couldn’t really pick anything else for C. Flash fiction has to be all about the characters. They show you their world and their attitudes in a few words and, ta da, from that the story comes. Character attitudes lead to conflicts which in turn lead to stories.

More next time…

Goodreads Author Blog – Getting Away From It All

I shall be getting away from it all shortly at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School once again but will be immersed in a world of stories and books (reading and writing them!). Bliss!

So what books go with you when you get away from it all?

I pack my Kindle and what I read depends on my mood, naturally, though I am currently enjoying Lucy Worsley’s A Very British Murder and hope to finish that by the end of the week. The book is great. It is usually a question of how long can I keep my eyes open at the end of the day! That is the trouble with bedtime reading…

There’s a couple of other crime novels I want to read as well while I’m away. And after that I may well turn back to humour again. I do find I like to read a few stories or books in a genre, then switch to another one and read a few in that for a bit. Still, it all mixes up the reading and then there is always the delight of the wondrous world of non-fiction too!

So whatever your holiday/summer reading is, enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

YOUR FIRST WRITING – AND SWANWICK!

Facebook – General

What was the first piece of writing you remember? I can’t recall mine but do know when it was “composition” time at school, I was in my element. The whole idea of making up your own story back then was marvellous (and frankly still is!).

I couldn’t tell you either the moment I decided I would be a writer I just know the nagging feeling of wanting to write and, backing it up more importantly with actually doing the writing, has been with me for far longer than I can recall. The best thing to do is follow that writing urge but be open to trying new forms of writing. It is the way, I think, to find out what it is you really want to spend your time doing!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have prepared what I hope to be working on during Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, which starts on Saturday. This is a longer term project I want to read through and edit. I’ve also got a few ideas on where to submit this once done so want to check those out too while I’m away. Hope to submit said project by the end of the year (the idea being once back from Swanwick I’ll be ready to sort out my amendments and get the project out there).

Am continuing to work on my third flash fiction book. Have got ideas for non-fiction too which I hope to flesh out more so in between the courses at Swanwick, and catching up with friends there, I shall have plenty to do! But that is always a good thing…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do your characters like to eat/drink? Are they good cooks or do they live on their world’s equivalent of take out? What do they like to wear (and does it fit in with their world’s idea of what is suitable)?

Ask yourself questions about your characters. Not only will you get a better picture of who they are and what they’re like, the crucial points about your fictional world will develop too. For example, if you know your character is a freedom fighter, what are they fighting against? It also shows your world is probably a dictatorial one. (If it wasn’t, why are there any freedom fighters at all?).

Am hoping to submit some more flash fiction stories before long (but probably after I’m back from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. This week will be spent in preparing posts to schedule for while I’m away I expect).

My third flash fiction book is coming along but I hope to do a lot more on that while away. And as I mentioned on my author page that will be alongside a longer term project I want to read through and edit and, hopefully, be submiting by the end of the year. It is great having a mixture of different writing projects – I never get bored (!), I love the challenges each one presents (and those differ naturally). and, if things go as I hope, I should have a variety of work “out there”, hopefully to find a good home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BUNCH OF AMATEURS, THE MAGIC OF THEATRE, AND NON-FICTION

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s a joy to review the plays performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group as there is always a good mix of shows put on during the course of a year. I’ve watched pantos, tragedies, and comedies. Each review I do for CFT on these means having a look at the background of the play and/or the writers of it and I always learn something.

It’s a great way of taking in stories that are new to you: go and see them acted on stage!

A Bunch of Amateurs is written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman.  The plot hinges on a local theatre company, the Stratford Players, desperately trying to save their theatre so bringing in a fading American star, Jefferson Steel, to get sponsorship and bring in the punters seems such a good idea….   You know the phrase “famous last words”?  Well, that applies here!

Image Credit:  All images below are kindly supplied by Lionel Elliott and the Chameleon Theatre Group and used with permission.  Many thanks to them.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was watching a Dr Who episode tonight (Peter Capaldi) and a phrase “stories are where memories go” caught my attention. Mind, it many ways it should do!

What memories of a character could you turn into a flash fiction piece (or longer)? Can you write a story where a character is led astray by mistaken or deliberately falsified memories (and why would someone do that)? Have you got another character who uses memories as weapons against others and how do they do this? What do they gain? How are they stopped, assuming that they are?

There are some good stories to be written out of memories, that’s for sure! (And the great thing is you can create the memories to write about in first place. The lovely thing about fiction is it should be rooted in truth to ring true to your readers, but it doesn’t actually have to be true, otherwise we’d have little in the way of sci-fi or fantasy!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite – The Magic of the Theatre

My latest CFT post is a review of A Bunch of Amateurs (written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman), which was recently performed by the Chameleon Theatre Group.  It was a great play, brilliantly performed.  But it led me to thinking:-

1.  Going to the theatre is a great way of taking in stories!

2.  In your fictional world(s), how do your characters take in stories?  Do they read?  Do they have theatres/cinemas etc?  What would they watch/read?

3.  When you go to a performance like this, you go in knowing you are seeing a “pretence” but being willing to suspend disbelief.  You focus on wanting to see how the story ends and enjoy the performances taking you to that point.  The challenge for writers is hooking our readers quickly enough at the start of the story to achieve the same effect for the length of the tale, whether it is a flash piece or a trilogy of novels!  So face the challenge!  The key is in creating characters readers will want to follow through anything.

Happy writing!

This World and Others – Why Non-Fiction Matters to Fiction Writers

I’ve written about this in a post for Chandler’s Ford Today (Fiction -v- Non-Fiction? No Contest!) a while ago, but it is a topic close to my pen so thought I’d bring it up again here.  Why does reading non-fiction matter to fiction writers then?

1.  If you are writing material which means you need to world build, finding out how this world works/has worked/has made blunderingly colossial historical mistakes/created some fascinating engineering etc can directly inspire you for how your fictional world carries out these things.  (Sometimes it can be the direct opposite of how we’ve done it but you need to know how we did it first to be able to do that!).

2.  Ideas spark off other ideas and non-fiction is full of them.  What did make an inventor come up with their revolutionary new designs?  What made them come up with a new system for, say, transport when nobody else had realised a need for it?  There are ideas for characters here too…

3.  When anyone comes up with something new, there will be opposition.  Sometimes it’s justified, sometimes not.  How does your hero/heroine overcome that?  Or if they are the ones behind the opposition, do they achieve their objective?

Plenty of story triggers there!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handling Criticism

It has been a very busy week but it was a great joy to welcome Val Penny to my blog on Tuesday last.  Looking forward to her Hunter’s Revenge coming out in September.  I’m also looking forward to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later this month.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – On Criticism

My More than Writers blog post for the Association of Christian Writers went up on site yesterday.

On Criticism talks about handling criticism, and how showing how your characters handle that themselves can be used to reveal a lot about them. It can be a good way to get depth into a story given no character should be one-dimensional. They should act and react and then usually act on that reaction! How they handle being criticised is a good way to show how they related to the ones doing the criticising for one thing!

I also share some thoughts on allowing time to elapse before evaluating your own work. Link above.

My CFT post this week will be a review of the Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, What a Bunch of Amateurs. A really funny play (writers: Ian Hislop and Nick Newman). Looking forward to sharing the link on Friday.

A great story, regardless of format, is one in which you are very happy to suspend disbelief for the duration of reading it/watching it performed/listening to it etc. Amateurs was easily that and good fun.

Images below kindly provided by Lionel Elliott and the Chameleons (and used with permission). More to come on Friday.

Beginning to heat up in Hampshire again…. Lady not keen. Neither are Lady’s owners! Still our park did perk up a bit after the rain last weekend. It doesn’t ALL look like straw now!

Weather can be used as a descriptive shorthand. If you say someone has a sunny disposition you know exactly what is meant. It can be a useful technique for flash fiction of course – all those words saved on your word count!

However, it is too easy to fall into cliche with it (and that’s what I’ve just done with that phrase I think!) so best to use this sparingly. (Think of it as the writing equivalent of chilli powder – too much and you will know it! Too little and well what was the point?).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am hoping to submit some more flash fiction before I head off to Swanwick. Happy with progress of WiP (which is nice – haven’t always been able to say that). Have all sorts of ideas bubbling away for future flash fiction collections, which I’m looking forward to having a go at.

Would like to investigate more flash fiction competitions too, so plenty to be getting on with over the summer, but then that is never a bad thing!

The lovely thing about flash fiction is the freedom it gives you to write in different genres, albeit in a very short format! FLTDBA has everything in it from humour to horror to fantasy to poignant pieces and a little bit of crime too. I adore that flexibility. The only thing I have to worry about is the word count!

I love to use thoughts in my stories (though admittedly in flash fiction, I have to keep these brief. That’s no bad thing though). Thoughts reveal the character’s attitude, what state of mind they are in at the time and so on. Thoughts can also help you cut the word count (something every flash fiction writer is looking to do!) because you can go “straight to the chase”. The character is showing you what they are thinking.

Had a nice time earlier going through the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School brochure, trying to decide what courses I will do when there. The lovely thing about writing flash fiction is all sorts of things can feed into it and spark off ideas so a course on crime writing may well inspire all sorts of very short stories on that topic.

Expecting, Why Stop Now, and Punish the Innocent are just three of my flash stories in FLTDBA where the theme is crime. Other themes in the book are fantasy, Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, and abusive relationships. Quite a mix! I can’t stress enough how vital it is to read widely. You need to spread your net wide to “catch” as many sparks to fire off ideas as you can and then the work is in deciding which are the strongest ones to actually write up into stories.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Heatwaves and Reading

Is the hot weather (in the UK at least) encouraging you to read more or less than you would usually?

I find I’m “dipping” into things more, especially magazines, given by the end of the day, when I’d usually like to read for a while before lights out, I’m feeling far too washed out to read much. Oh and I am reading more magazines on Kindle now, which was something I never thought I’d do, but I’ve got on better with it than I thought I would.

Magazine reading is ideal for that feeling washed out to concentrate much scenario, as are short story and flash fiction anthologies. Quick reads when you feel as if your brain has melted are ideal. The literary fiction can definitely wait for when it is cooler!

Looking at my reading patterns over the year, I tend to read more novels over the autumn and winter months. It’s not a conscious thing. I suppose you hone in to the fact that with the nights drawing in, now’s the time to get on with a good, LONG book!

Meanwhile it’s back to the cool drinks and quick reads for me!

 

 

 

 

Introducing Crime Writer, Val Penny

Introducing Val Penny…

One of the lovely things about writing is getting to meet other writers at conferences and so on. You can share tales of woe, exciting publication news etc and know the other person will appreciate where you are coming from. Sometimes you can find out about markets and competitions you hadn’t heard of, but above all you have friends – and social media makes it so much easier to keep in touch.

I was delighted to meet crime writer, Val Penny, at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School a couple of years back. I’m looking forward to catching up with her again there this year. I am very pleased to have Val join me on my blog tonight and she shares an excerpt from her forthcoming book Hunter’s Revenge, the second in the Hunter Wilson/Edinburgh Mysteries series. (Good news for those of you who like crime writing, as I do, is there will be more to come).

Over to you, Val… (and I want to know the moment you DO achieve your childhood dream of owning a candy store. I shall be right over….!).

The Author Bio for Hunter’s Revenge

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books.

author pic 2

And Val has very kindly shared the extract from her forthcoming book.  Enjoy!  I know I did!

 

Hunter’s Revenge
Prologue
East Germany, January 1968
The last thing Georg did on his eighteenth birthday was kill a man.
He really hadn’t meant to kill the Stasi officer in front of him, but it was him or Georg – and Georg did not want to die. It was the first time he’d seen a corpse. The streets were slick with ice. The man lost his balance and cracked his head on the pavement. Georg stared down at the body: there was blood and brains all over the pavement. He looked into the officer’s eyes. They stared blindly to heaven, but Georg knew there wasn’t a Stasi officer on earth who was going there. He looked away from death and towards his friends in horror, but when they saw what had happened, they scattered. Georg picked up the officer’s gun and began to run.
More Stasi officers appeared as the boys fled.
Georg was out of breath when he got home.
“What’s the rush, son?” his father asked.
“Shit, Dad! It’s bad.”
“You’re drunk! No language in this house, boy,” said his grandmother.
“Dad, the boys and me were leaving the bar to come home and we saw a Stasi officer”
“So?”
“We were laughing and having fun.”
“And?”
“For a laugh I knocked his hat off.”
“Idiot! You know Stasi have no sense of humour. Ever. So what next?”
“He pulled his gun and told us to stand silently against the wall.”
“And you apologised and complied, I hope.”
“I panicked and punched him. He slipped on the ice and fell over. He hit his head on the ground, and when I checked him, he wasn’t breathing. He was dead. I just took his gun and ran.”
The silence in the room was deafening.
“You did what? You fucking idiot! Did you really punch a Stasi officer? Are you mad? You know we don’t even have to openly engage in resistance to draw the attention of the Stasi and incur its retribution. Just failing to conform with mainstream society can be enough. Shit! I sired a fool.” Georg’s father’s red face reflected his rage.
“And now you are here,” his grandmother added. “You ran home, leading them straight to us. We will all die now. Thank you.”
“What is all the noise?” Georg’s mother came through from the kitchen, drying her hands on her apron. His twin sister Ingrid and younger brother Wilhelm followed her. They looked bewildered. Their father rarely raised his voice, especially not to Georg.
As his father explained the issues, Georg’s mother burst into tears.
“They will kill him,” she whispered.
“They’ll kill him?” his father shrieked “Fuck, the rest of us will be lucky if all they do is kill us too! Have you any idea the danger you have put this whole family in, you young imbecile?”
“God, that’s true!” his mother sobbed. “Georg has to leave. He must escape right away. Maybe, when they come and find him gone, they will believe we had no part of it.”
“You and I both know that is not going to happen,” his father said. “They know everybody in the town, and even if they don’t already know it was Georg, one of their informers will turn him in for reward or to save their own skin. They will soon find out where he lives.”
His wife nodded.
“Mum, where do I go?” Georg pleaded. “Dad, what will you do? I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just fooling around.”
“Then you are more of a fool than I ever thought,” his father said. “It’s a bit fucking late to worry about us. We will cope, but we must deny you and any knowledge of this atrocity. I love you always, but you must leave, son. Now. There is no choice, and you must be quick because they will be here all too soon. Make a start on your escape tonight. It’s your only hope, and ours.”
“Quick, Wilhelm, fetch him my savings and your grandfather Georg’s book,” said his grandmother. “Georg will need the money, and he can always sell the book.”
“I’ll pack a meal,” his mother said. She gathered up the family Bible, along with some bread, ham, cheese and apples.
“Don’t give him too much, it will slow him down,” said Ingrid.
“Pack everything in a rucksack. You can put it on your back, Georg, and still run,” said Wilhelm as he handed their grandmother’s meagre treasures to George.
“I am so sorry, Father. Where do I go? Where am I running to? What will happen to you?” Georg’s voice raised to a scream.
His mother held him and kissed his head, but his father grabbed his arm, pulled him from her and shook him.
“You got yourself into this; we will get you out of it. No point in worrying about us. Get out of this country. Don’t look back. Just run. Go west, go to Britain. Stay alive. Get out of this house, get out of my sight and never come back. Do you hear me, Georg?”

Hunter's Revenge Banner

Wow!  Plenty to get your teeth into there!  Well done, Val.
Hunter’s Revenge Blurb
Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is revenged.

DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense?

Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer. Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city. The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.

Hunter's Revenge Cover
Many thanks, Val, for sharing such an intriguing extract! I look forward to reading more!

I think one of the appeals of crime fiction is following the development of characters like Hunter Wilson over a series of books. Crime fiction reveals a lot about the human condition and I think there will always be a fascination with what makes criminals tick, what got them into crime in the first place, could anything have been done to prevent it, and so on.

It’s not a new fascination either. I’ve recently been watching a series of programmes on BBC Four about Highwaymen, Outlaws and Robbers and the old printed sheets detailing someone’s crimes (usually just before they went to the gallows) sold like the proverbial hot cakes in London. We’re talking 17th and 18th centuries here. And going further back, there is fascination now about what happened to the Princes in the Tower, but that fascination started at pretty much the moment it was known the boys were missing.

So crime writers are very much tapping into something fundamental here – the need to know why someone would act in a way at odds with what is seen to be right.

Happy writing, Val.  Very much looking forward to this.

CHARACTER RESEMBLING - Just what is your story then

Find out more about Hunter Wilson’s story in September! Image via Pixabay

Finding Ideas

Facebook – General

The challenge of finding new ideas for stories, is, of course, ongoing but the great thing is there are so many avenues to explore.

Proverbs and sayings can give themes for stories. Someone coming out with a strange way of expressing something can be an inspiration. (I was on the receiving end of one of these this week. Am certain I can get a flash fiction story out of it – will keep you posted!).

How about taking advertising slogans and changing a word or two to get your own theme? Instead of the old egg advert which said “Go to Work on an Egg”, how about “Go to Work on a Unicorn”. Now there’s a fantasy story or several behind that. Have fun (I intend to with that one as well).

Items of clothing (for example an odd shaped hat) can lead you wondering about the kind of character who would wear such a thing and what they might get up to while wearing it!

Keep your eyes and ears open. I’ve found, over time, when I hear or see something that could be useful for a story, I tend to hone in on it. It’s almost as if you develop a kind of antenna for this so be open to it. If the ideas don’t work out, well you’ve lost nothing but time trying them. (And I would be surprised if you didn’t get something out of them, if only the core for a stronger story you write up later).

I love stories that mirror others as long as it is done well. The play I saw on Wednesday was a great example of that. More details in my CFT post on Friday. The play was influenced heavily by one of Shakespeare’s finest which confirms something I’ve believed for a long time.

Reading widely is so important for anyone wanting to write. Indeed, it is more than that. It is NECESSARY.

Not only can you see how writers set things out, you DO learn by reading what others have done. You take in things like ratio of dialogue to narrative, where passive tense IS used appropriately, and how the writer you’re reading uses drama and cliffhangers in chapters to make you keep on reading so you have to find out how the story ends. That’s just a few things you take in when reading.

Also, by reading widely you are supporting the industry you want to join so it makes sense on so many levels. Ideas for your own stories come from all over the place and the theme of a novel you love may well be one you’d like to also write about, albeit in a totally different way.

Reading non-fiction can open your mind to ideas that you would want to bring into your fictional world. For example you read about how the phone came into being. Okay, how would that happen on the world you’re creating? What is their equivalent of the phone? Reading history (fictional and otherwise) can not only give you a sense of the past so much so you will want to set your own stories there, but there’s absolutely nothing to stop you writing about a minor character in the court of a monarch. Equally you could take your knowledge of how the court of Elizabeth 1 operated and set up a similar style of government in the world you’re creating.

Happy reading and writing!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction, because it has to be character led, can deal with “issues” but, obviously, briefly. That can often work better than a longer story where the writer can feed more into the tale. Short and to the point is what flash fiction does and, with stories that pack a punch like this, I believe brevity is best. No danger of repeating yourself either!

Flash fiction can take you anywhere
You like in terms of worlds, time or space.
Readers find out how your people fare
In whatever word count fits the case.
As long as it is under one K,
You and your story will be okay!

Allison Symes – 29th July 2018

COMING UP NEXT TIME…

Guest Post from crime writer, Val Penny

I’m looking forward to sharing with you on Tuesday, 31st July a guest post from friend and crime writer, Val Penny.  She is behind the Hunter Wilson/Edinburgh Mysteries series and shares with us an extract from her forthcoming novel, Hunter’s Revenge.  It is very good but don’t just take my word for it.  See what you think from the extract on Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

 

Judgement Day

Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest post is called Judgement Day and talks about reviews and critiques.  It is NOT a comment on the blood moon tonight (Friday 27th July 2018)!

Feature Image - Judgement Day.docx

Alwyas a good iea! Pixabay imag.

What good judging should be and that includes for reviews etc

What every review should be. Pixabay image,

Facebook – General

Am looking forward to writing my review of A Bunch of Amateurs, which the local Chameleon Theatre Group performed tonight. Ironically, this week’s CFT post from me talks about reviewing and critiques so will feed beautifully into my play review!

Confession time: these things are NOT always planned! (They mostly are of course but not in this case).

Also delighted the Chameleons have quoted excerpts from some of my reviews (and also those of Ben Williams also of CFT) in their programme. All helps build up the profile.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have you ever been to any kind of reunion? Did it work well or were you only too glad to get out of there?! I’m pleased to say the reunions I’ve been too have been jolly affairs but the thought occurred to me that you could use reunions to test your characters’ mettle. What WOULD happen when your characters go to this kind of event?

Their reactions will tell the readers so much more about them (especially if you show, for example, agitation by getting your character to walk around and around his lawn in the middle of the night, something he wouldn’t do normally).

Can reunions have unexpected consequences? Someone hears something they weren’t supposed to and reacts badly to it? Equally the dynamics between relationships resurrected (no matter how briefly) can lead to both comic and tragic writing. What would you plump for?

Had to smile. Facebook, bless them, have just invited me to add myself to the “Allison Symes team”!! Ahem… there is a team of 1 here – me! Not sure how I can join myself (and I’m not after suggestions!). 😁

My CFT post this week is called Judgement Day – no links to the blood moon were intended, honestly! I talk about judgement for writers in terms of reviews and critiques. I also share some hints and tips about what to expect from a critique you send off for, as well as advice on writing reviews.

This will tie in nicely with my post for next week when I’ll be reviewing a local theatre production!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Regardless of your writing format, it is the killer line that stands out. I’ve been watching a play, What a Bunch of Amateurs, tonight at our local theatre group’s hall (more to come on this on CFT in due course) and there were many laugh out loud lines. Enjoyed by all of course.

How can you make your lines stand out?

They have to be something the audience wasn’t expecting. The funny moments often come, in films at least, when the audience is caught off balance.

The lead character has got to have strong appeal to the readers OR have a good reason for acting the way they are. Their dialogue should show something of who they are. A good character grips the reader and won’t let go!

Flash may be this odd fiction’s name
But rushing it is not the game.
You still need to edit and craft
No-one publishes that first draft.
The one comfort I know is true
Is Shakespeare had to rewrite too!

Allison Symes – 26th July 2018

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The great thing with using well known sayings for your flash fiction titles is you can “twist these”. For example we all know what is meant by the phrase “pressing the flesh” but I take quite a different approach to it with my story of the same name without losing its appropriateness.

I also love “open” titles such as My Life, The Outcome, and Expecting. There are so many different directions those titles could take the reader – they’re unlikely to guess them all!

I have to have a title to begin writing a story, even if I end up changing it. I don’t change titles that often but sometimes as I write, something better comes to mind. Something that has a stronger twist or can keep the reader guessing in a better way – if that comes up as I write, I switch to it. I want the title to have a strong impact on the reader, as well as the rest of the story.

After all, the title works “harder” in a flash fiction story as due to the limited word count, you can convey a lot of information through that so I’ve found I want to make the most of it.

Goodreads Author Blog – How Influential are Book Titles for You?

When writing my own stories, I must have a title to help me get started, even if I change it later on. I am very fond of “open” titles where I could go in several directions with it. It helps to keep the reader guessing!

With books, I want a title to intrigue me enough to make me want to go on to read the blurb and maybe then the first paragraph or two. I then want to read the book to see if it lives up to the promise given by that title and the blurb.

But I never buy a book on the strength of its title alone. I see the role of a title is to “get me through the door” so I look at the book in more detail in the first place.

Some of my favourite titles include The Lord of the Rings (don’t you just want to know who the Lord is?), The ABC Murders (how can the alphabet be relevant to a crime), and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (got to find out where they all come into a story, yes?).

What are your favourite book titles and why?

Fairytales with Bite – Finding Titles

I’ve got a theme rolling on titles this week, thanks to my latest Goodreads blog, which asks How Influential are Book Titles for You?

My CFT post has one of those titles which tie in with an event!  There is a blood moon tonight and my post is called Judgement Day!  I hadn’t planned that, honestly, but I like the idea of the link!  The actual post is about judging for writers, especially in terms of reviews and critiques.  I also share some hints and tips.

How do you find titles for your stories?  I use a mixture of proverbs, well known sayings, as well as phrases used frequently.  I like open titles where I could go in a number of directions – there are several examples of this in my From Light to Dark and Back Again.  For example:  The Outcome and Expecting.  Expecting what?  The outcome of what?  The whole idea, of course, is that the reader will want to find out so they read the stories.

The rest of the story has got to follow through on the promise an intriguing title gives its reader.  So it’s no good thinking up the best title in the world only for the story itself to let it down.  People remember that!

Also, never be afraid to change the title if you feel it is not quite strong enough or just doesn’t feel right for the story.  I don’t often change mine but when I do, it is always because a better, stronger title has popped into my head.  Sometimes you need to start writing the story to find out what the real title is.

Happy writing!

This World and Others – Titles

It is appropriate that I have a simple title for this post!

My latest Goodreads blog asks How Influential are Book Titles for You? and the idea for this post sprang from that.

Firstly, do books as we know them exist on your fictional world?  If yes, but not as we would recognise them, what form do they take?  Can everyone read or is that the right of a privileged few?  Is reading encouraged or considered dangerous?

Secondly, does your fictional society confer titles on those that have served it well?  Is the system a monarchy or republic and how would that affect titles given?  Again, are titles only given to those from the “right background” (and what would that background be?).

Thirdly, how is land title passed on?  Can anyone own property (and what form does it take)?  How does selling land/property or bequeathing it work in your world?  Do you have a system where the government automatically takes a certain percentage of the value of the property as its “inheritance tax”?

Last but not least, I love titles which are open and give me plenty of possibilities to work with.  This is a good example of that!

Author News

Just to say I now have an author page on Book Bub.  Many thanks to Wendy H Jones for putting me on to this.  You need to sign in to be able to see the page but the site is free and they send you details of books on special offer etc.

Frustrating Things about Writing

Facebook – General

What do you find is the most frustrating thing about writing?

Rejections?

That lovely moment when you think you’ve got a corker of an idea but you go to write it down and it suddenly evaporates?

Being interrupted when you’ve got going nicely and you know you will have to come back later and find you can’t quite get into your rhythm again?

All of them, I hear you cry! I know. It is difficult to choose from this particular shortlist.

Rejections – I take some comfort from the fact EVERY writer has them, it really isn’t just you or me for that matter. But hopefully you can learn and improve on what you do with each one. Also just because a piece is rejected somewhere, it doesn’t mean it can’t be accepted elsewhere. So keep trying, keep going!

Ideas Disappearing – it happens. Write down what you can. Then think laterally. I sometimes use a spider diagram. Sometimes I get the idea I had initially back, other times I think of something better. Win, win there either way!

Interruptions – On the plus side, whoever you are prepared to drop your writing for must be pretty important to you so treasure them! I carve out blocks of time for my writing and, unless there is a dire emergency, I stick to those. I’ve found it helps to be consistent with this. It also helps to show loved ones what I’ve produced in this time, publication credits when I get them etc so they can see the point of what I’m doing that way. It helps lessen the risk of any “non urgent” interruptions!

One of the highlights of my writing year is rapidly approaching – the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Brochure arrived yesterday.

I think I know what courses I’m going to be doing – I went through the programme when it was put up on the website (I know, I know, girly swot!). Having said that, the brochure gives me the perfect chance to change my mind again and then again and then… well you get the picture!

Looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones! Pictures below taken by me – The Hayes is a stunning place to be.

How can you tell when a story idea really is something you should run with?

When the idea haunts you, basically.

When you start writing the idea down and more ideas flood in as you do so.

I’ve only had a couple of ideas where, on outlining, I found I couldn’t expand them further to create a story. All that promise and nothing… bah humbug!

So does it pay to outline? Definitely. Can save a lot of time.

As for outlining flash fiction, I keep this brief, aptly. Character is X, major trait is Y, how is latter going to help or hinder X?

I often find that a flash story can go in a couple of different directions and then it is down to what mood I want to go for. A humorous story is when X’s major trait hinders, causes trouble etc – there is a lot of comic potential there.

A more sombre story shows the major trait hindering X but they are not necessarily aware of it. What X sees as persistence, all those around them see as stubborness and X being an awkward so and so.

But a good idea gives you that potential to go in different directions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to seeing the latest production by local theatre group, The Chameleons, tomorrow night. Will be writing more about it for CFT later but my lovely editor, Janet Williams, is also going so I think I can classify this as the nearest thing CFT has to a “works’ outing”!

My CFT post this week will be looking at what to look for in a good review/critique. I also share some tips – link to go up on Friday.

The local wildflower meadow I wrote about for last week’s CFT post is still going strong I’m glad to say. This is totally unlike the grass in the park, our lawn, and most of our plants. I’ve also noticed the trees have started to shed leaves. Really wouldn’t mind some rain now… and talking of the weather, it has been mad here today. It was hotter at 8 am than it was at lunchtime and hotter still at about 5/6 pm!

This is not in my genre at all but I guess there is room for climate change fiction!! (And practically all of it will be based on facts…).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t set out to write fiction with a “purpose” other than hopefully to be entertaining. I’m all for books that can educate, open readers’ eyes to new worlds etc etc. but there is absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to write stories which make people smile/laugh/scream as appropriate and be for sheer entertainment only.

I’ve never understood why some can look down on genre fiction due to its easy accessibility to readers. You want people to read, yes? Fine, let them get on with that. Maybe people will move on to “more worthy” books later when they are ready but if not, they will still be reading, which is always a good thing.

(And writing to entertain can be easier said than done anyway! Now back to the writing… oh and the first one you have to entertain IS you. If you don’t like it, why should anyone else?}

When is the right time to start a new flash fiction book? Directly after you’ve finished the last one and sent it off to the publisher!

Am making good progress on my third collection. Am planning to make even more progress on it while I’m at Swanwick. I also plan to revisit my unpublished novel (as I would like to change the status on that one!!).

So plenty to do and no chance of getting bored – good, bring in on, say I!

Should you be able to guess the ending of a story, regardless of length?

I must admit one of the joys of reading for me is to try to work out where the story will head. It is great when I’m right. It is even better when I’m not! I like a really good story twist that takes me by surprise yet when I go back through the tale find that the clues to it were there all along.

When I write my twist endings, I nearly always reject the first idea that comes to me. Why? Because inevitably the first idea that occurs is the same one that will occur to most other people too! There is no fun to be had in guessing the ending there!

I do write that first idea down though, despite knowing I inevitably won’t use it. Why? I’ve found the very act of writing it down helps generate other, better, stronger ideas. I find it easier to come up with something when paper and ink are involved somewhere in the process rather than just think it all up. I suppose in a way in drafting ideas like that I am kind of giving myself permission to “play about” with the thoughts that have occurred to me. Whatever the deep down reason, all I know is that it works!

In flash fiction you don’t have room for many characters but you can “infer” some to compensate for that. I do this by revealing what my lead character thinks of X even if X never makes it into the story itself. This also reveals my lead character’s attitude to X and can show how likely it is my lead gets on with others (or not. I can think of quite a few of my “people” I wouldn’t get on with but the great thing is I don’t have to like them to write about them!!).

Another way of showing another character yet without them taking up precious word count room is to have the story written as a letter, diary etc. I use the letter format in my You Never Know where my lead character’s attitude to who they’re writing to is all too apparent! It is also clear they are irked by the attitude of the unseen character.

I love being able to imply things with stories like this. I’ve never been that keen on stories where the author spells everything out. I like putting two and two together for myself and if the writer can send me up a false trail, well done them!

 

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Book Covers

I think everyone does judge a book by its cover. How else can you do so? You need something to draw you in initially and that is the cover’s job.

I like a cover to be appropriate for whatever it is I’m reading and, ironically for a writer, I want the picture to do most of the work.

I’ve sometimes given opinions on book covers before the books concerned are published and the ones with lots of text merely look cluttered. Far from giving me more to read on the cover, too much text here switches me off.

Where I do want the text is on the back for the blurb. Have you ever read a book, enticed by the blurb and cover, but the story fails to deliver on its promise? I think most of us have and you just feel let down. (All writers beware here!)

The great thing here though is that despite the cover and blurb being really important, it is STILL the story that matters most of all. And what we are all after is a story that entertains, educates, keeps us gripped to the final page and so on.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.