Co-Operative Marketing and What Defines a Good Book

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post shares an update from Richard Hardie with regard to his Authors Reach group. More writers than ever are banding up together to hold events they would not go to alone or to assist in marketing.

A great example of this is last year’s Book Fair where a number of local writers got together to sell our books in the area. (We succeeded too!). A good group will cross-pollinate each others’ works. Sometimes it can be easier to promote others’s works than your own. But in this day of print on demand, smartphone, and other technologies, offering to assist can be crucial. It is appreciated by readers too. Having an event with a wider range of authors taking part gives readers more choice (and makes it more likely they’ll turn up to the event!).

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Facebook – General

I’m glad to share the first part of a series for Chandler’s Ford Today on which I am series editor. Graham MacLean on Art will run for the next three weeks. Tonight’s article features Graham discussing the purpose of art.

Next week Graham will talk about the different media used in painting and share some of his fantastic artworks using the different forms. He’ll finish the series with a look at his favourite artists.

It was a real pleasure to help Graham put this series together. His paintings are wonderful. Hope you enjoy.  The images below are just three of Graham’s wonderful pictures.  Many thanks, Graham, for these.  There are more in all three articles.  The other two parts to this will appear on 14th and 21st June respectively.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One great thing about writing is that each writer brings their own perspective to a story. So even if several writers had the same theme, word count etc, our stories would be different. (Yes, there would be bound to be some writers coming out with similar ideas as to how to treat the topic but even there, the way characters are portrayed, the use of language, style etc all show the individual author’s voice).

This is why reading work by other writers is such a pleasure as I love seeing how others treat a theme etc, especially when it is a world away from the way I’d treat it. I like the contrast. I like other writers surprising me with what they come up (and hope sometimes at least I can return the compliment with my writing!).

Got plenty of reading to catch up on when I’m on holiday before long. Very much looking forward to it!

(Am glad to say the books in the slideshow below are some of those I’ve read as a result of interviewing the authors! Am more than happy to recommend them all – and naturally I’m starting with mine!!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Good luck to all of the authors taking part in the Waterloo Arts Festival next week. A special hello goes to my fellow Bridge House and Cafelit authors, Paula Readman, Christopher Bowles, Gail Aldwin, and Dawn Knox, who, like me, have work included in the anthology that ties in with the Festival.

I’m only sorry I can’t be there but hope the readings go well and that the ebook sells really well! (Not that I’m biased or anything… much!).

The stories in this anthology are all flash ones so if you are looking to add to your flash fiction collection, do look out for the release of this ebook from 14th June. I will share more details towards the end of next week.

It is heartening to see flash fiction in such fine form!

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – What Defines a Good Book?

A good book, as far as I’m concerned, has to:-

1. Have characters I care about (though I don’t mind if some are “slow burn” characters so I grow to care about them. I am prepared to give them time but I feel cheated if by the end of the book, I haven’t been made to care about the characters.).

2. Have characters I can get behind and either “root” for their success or, usually if a villain, hope they get their comeuppance. (I do love finding out how they do!).

3. Give you a sense that the author has said all that has needed to be said but oh how you wish there was more of the story because you enjoyed it so much.

4. Give you a sense of a wonderfully created world, leaving the way for prequels or sequels, whether or not the writer actually does write these.

5. Have a gripping plot, obviously.

6. Have an easy to remember blurb. It makes it easier to recommend the book to others because it gives you the main point, which drew you to reading the book in the first place.

7. Have a title that intrigues or you can see a few different directions in which the title could take you. That opens up all sorts of possibilities for the story itself and makes me want to crack on and read it!

8. If within a really popular genre, such as crime or fantasy, being able to offer something different to the “mix” so the book stands out.

9. You could see a decent film being made out of the plot as long as the movie people stick to the plot of the book, given it is so good.

10. You want to re-read it at least once a year. Always a good sign that.

Fairytales With Bite – Time to Wonder, Time to Reflect

Do your characters ever wonder or take some time out to reflect? Wonder can be at the physical beauty of the world they’re on, of course, (or if in a really bad place at just how ugly it is!), or they are aware of just how small they are in comparison to their surroundings.

Characters, like us, need periods of reflection, especially if they are on any kind of quest. So how do they find the time to reflect or is it forced upon them? (They’ve got to hide out for a while, so have got plenty of time to do some thinking etc).

What do your characters make of the world you’ve put them in? Are they observant? Do they treat their natural world with contempt or are they conservationists? Do they ever reflect on their own behaviour and attitudes?

Are your characters thoughtful or thoughtless ones? If you have characters where one is a reflective type and the other would far rather watch paint dry, (a) you can see the potential for clashes here (though they could be humorous ones) and (b) how do you resolve matters if the two absolutely have to work together? (Again potential for comedy or tragedy here).

I’ll leave you to wonder how to write that! Good luck!

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This World and Others – Purposes

I’ve recently been the series editor for a series on art by Graham MacLean on Chandler’s Ford Today.  (The other two parts of this series will be going live on 14th and 21st June.  I’d highly recommend having a look – Graham is a superb artist).  Part 1 of this series talks about the purpose of art.  (We could have gone on at length about that rather than just write and edit one post about it!).  Part 2 will see Graham discussing the different media used in painting and he shares some fantastic examples of his own work in most of the forms discussed.  Part 3 will be his thoughts on his favourite artists.

So this led me to think about what purposes your characters (a) have, (b) consider worthy, (c) would not go a million miles near no matter how much you paid them, or (d) intend to carry out, no matter how or of who tries to get in their way.  How did they discover these purposes?  What is behind their attitude towards them?  Are societal/tribal pressures influencing them on how they should react/which purposes they should carry out or avoid?

A purpose will have a clearly stated aim so will automatically give your character something to either strive for or get away from, as the case may be.  It will be the conflicts caused by that striving or avoiding which give you your story.  The purpose has to be strong enough and definite.  So a purpose of, say, killing the dragon terrifying the village is fine.  A purpose of sitting down to think about what should be done about the dragon is not – far too wishy washy!

And talking of dragons, I’m glad to share a recently published flash fiction piece, Time for a Change, which has recently appeared on Cafelit.  Hope you enjoy.

And now I’m off for a few days break.  I will be back on here during the week beginning Monday 18th June.  Hope you all have wonderful holidays this summer.  I have, meantime, scheduled short Facebook posts on my author page and also on my From Light to Dark and Back Again page for the next few days.  I will be back here with a big round-up of those on my return.  Happy summer, everyone!

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DEVELOPMENTS/MAKING PROGRESS AND BOOK FAIR REPORT

Lots happening tonight!

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

I shared details of my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post earlier in the day about last weekend’s Book Fair. Going to share it again as my lovely editor has turned the galleries of photos into slideshows (which look fab. Many thanks, Janet).

I take a look at, not at only the event itself, but why I think the Book Fair helped writers (and is of wider benefit to a community that no longer has an independent bookshop). I also love the fact that when writers work together, great things can happen and the Fair was a great example of that.

Image Credit:  The photos in the slideshow are a mixture of those taken by me and my lovely Chandler’s Ford Today editor, Janet Williams, who started the site alone and has developed it into a popular online magazine.  Slideshow right at the end of this blog post.

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I love the way stories can come in so many different formats – literally everything from flash fiction to epic novels. This aspect was very well represented at the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair last weekend.

Then there are the formats of “transmission” – everything from the book itself to the audiobook to the play and film scripts. A good story is adaptable to more than one medium and can be appreciated and loved in more than one medium too. I have a soft spot for radio (and one thing on my To Do list is to try to write something for radio that makes it on to the air).

As well as “straight” stories, so to speak, there are the well-done spoofs, which are a sheer joy to read or watch. Last weekend was a busy one with the Book Fair in the morning and my going to see the Chameleon Theatre Group’s production of Murdered to Death by Peter Gordon in the evening.

I’ll be writing about that for next week’s CFT post but just wanted to say now that the story world, regardless of genre, truly is a fantastic one. The fact it can send itself up via farces/spoofs as well just adds to my love of stories overall.

 

My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

Fairytales With Bite – Developments

There have been developments in my writing career which I thought I’d take the chance to share now.  I also hope to look at how I’ve changed the ways in which I develop my characters.

Firstly, I’m now part of the Goodreads Author Programme.  I am blogging on here once a week but am also open to questions on its Q&A section.  So if there is anything book/story/writing related you would like to ask, please head on over and send me some questions!

Secondly, Goodreads have author/book widgets for those writers on their programme, meaning you can link to reviews of my book, From Light to Dark and Back Again.  Also listed on Goodreads is Alternative Renditions, an anthology by Bridge House Publishing, where the first thing I ever had appear in print, A Helping Hand, was published.  I think it is quite a nice symmetry to have my first book and my first published story listed in this way.  (What is also nice for me is my late mum, who so encouraged my love of books, got to see my first published story.  My dad, who I lost earlier this  year, got to see my first published book).

Thirdly, I am now taking part in more book related events and loving each and every one of them.  The latest was a local Book Fair and my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is a report on this.  There are plenty of pictures so it does give a good “flavour” of the event.  All good fun and I very much hope there will be more Fairs like this.  I hope to have more news of further events later on in the year.

As for character development, increasingly I am looking at what impact I want my characters to have on my readers.  This is, I think, essential for flash fiction with its tight word count.  The stories have to be character led so I am looking more closely at my characters’ motivations and what they are prepared to do to achieve their wishes!  I am also looking at how I want my characters to make the reader feel.  Those two things together, I’ve found, are giving me a clearer picture of my characters in my head before I actually write them and are helping with the writing of the stories immensely.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34146438-from-light-to-dark-and-back-again

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Let your stories have impact. Image via Pixabay

This World and Others – Making Progress

All writers should, obviously, seek to make progress with what they do but I would add that the progress should be what you are happy with.  Writers work at different paces so therefore progress has to differ.  Besides, nobody can guarantee publication or an instant best seller but you can work towards the first (and hope for the second, we all do!).

Also with the second, most of us would recognise that book sales are not necessarily the most reliable indicator of a book’s quality (am not going to name titles here, but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t think of some titles where you wonder how that got published at all! Again, we all do).  I think most of us would recognise then that you need to put your work out there, do what you can with regard to marketing (this will vary from writer to writer), and that sales build up over time (usually).

What I’ve sought to do since seriously trying to write for publication is to make steady progress year on  year.  Some years that has been just to have more work online.  Now I do have a book out, From Light to Dark and Back Again, my aim has been to promote it as much as I can and carry on writing the follow up to it.  I’ve recognised that book marketing is an ongoing thing.  Even when I have book 2, book 26 or what have you out there, I will always be referring to my back list etc.  So to a certain extent marketing for any one book doesn’t really stop.  Therefore it makes no sense to put myself under unnecessary time pressure.

On my Fairytales with Bite site tonight, I’ve written about Developments (both mine and in how I write characters now, as opposed to when I first started writing) and I share that link here.  I am now on the Goodreads Author Programme and talk about that in this post and welcome writing related questions on the Q&A spot it has so please do go and have a look and come back to me!  I’ve shared on there the Goodreads widget leading to my book reviews, below I share the widget showing my books.  What is nice here is you see both my first published book and the anthology, Alternative Renditions, where my first published story appeared, A Helping Hand.

As for progress for 2018, I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions but I do over the Christmas break, think about what I’d like to see what happen – and then do what I can to achieve it.  At the end of the year, if I’ve achieved it all, brilliant.  If I’ve achieved some (and especially if opportunities have opened up where I didn’t expect and I’ve rightly followed those), equally brilliant.  If I’ve achieved “just” some, then that’s fine too.  Onwards and upwards!

Image below is just a screen shot but if you follow the links above via Goodreads you will come to my author page with all relevant information on it.

Goodreads Snip

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Wishes and Flash Fiction

 

Facebook – General

One week to go to the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair from 10 to 12 at the Age Concern Centre in Brownhill Road. Good range of authors and genres represented. Should be good fun.

If one of my fairy godmother characters could grant me three wishes, what would I choose? (For that matter, what would YOU choose for yourself?). My choices would be:-

1. To send predictive text into oblivion and arrange things so people forgot it ever existed. (I’m counting that as one wish, my fairy godmother character may disagree, but I would sacrifice a wish cheerfully to get this through. Much as I love my smartphone it has confirmed my loathing of predictive text. Complete pain when writing, It rarely predicts anything I can actually use!).
2. To NEVER be interrupted by anything when reading. (Think my fairy godmother character might struggle with this one).
3. For paper jams and power cuts to be a thing of the past. They always happen at the most inconvenient times.

If I could sneak in some extra wishes, I’d go for:-

4. For all people to be able to read and write and to want to read. Reading can easily be dismissed as something people don’t have time for and I’m at a loss as to why. Same people would happily watch a 3-hour film. Maybe reading needs to be seen more as a form of entertainment than it currently is?
5. For genre fiction to no longer be looked down on (though there has been some progress here). Why shouldn’t a book JUST be for entertainment? Why does it have to be worthy as well?

So what would your wishes (+ 2 bonus wishes) be?

More of the books

Local writers’ books  including mine recently on sale at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza.  Hope to see some of you at next week’s larger event, the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair.  Image by Allison Symes

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Thanks to Catherine Griffin for the excellent Book Fair poster.  Also to Sally Howard and all in Chandler’s Ford Authors who are organising this event.  Should be good!

Well, what IS your story? Image via Pixabay.

Well, what IS your story? Image via Pixabay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A flash fiction tale has to be complete in itself with a beginning, middle and end, but its great joy (for me at least) is the ability to imply so much more.

My story, Serving Up a Treat, is a tale of domestic abuse where the character brings an end to it. (For how you’ll need to see the book!). What is implied in this story is the backstory. It is implied that what has been happening to the character has gone on for a very long time.

The “snap” point should be expected so does the piece deliver on that expectation? Yes, it does. You do have to follow through! However, that doesn’t mean you have to spell out every last detail. In fact, with flash you can’t as there simply isn’t the room with the limited word count.

I’ve found flash fiction to be a great way of improving my blog posts, longer short stories etc because it forces you to ask what is REALLY important. What MUST the reader know? What can I drop hints at and leave them to work things out from there?

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From my railway station signing. The lovely origami boxes were made by my CFT editor, Janet Williams.  Image by Allison Symes

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.

Writer at work! Flash fiction stories must be complete in themselves but they can imply so much.  Image via Pixabay.

 

Many thanks to all who’ve reviewed my book so far on Amazon and Goodreads. 

Goodreads – Author Programme – Blog Post

Why do you read? Like me, I suspect you have several answers to this. Mine include:-

1. For entertainment.
2. For education.
3. For research (for a story or post I’m writing. Not quite the same thing as for education above. I define that as reading to learn but for its own sake and not necessarily to “use” elsewhere).
4. Because I always have read and reading is simply part of what I am and do.
5. The book is nearly always better than the film!
6. I like to read at bedtime to help me unwind and have a better night’s sleep.
7. To widen my tastes in books and stories, I have to be prepared to try genres new to me so I see this as a kind of exploration of what’s out there. I have no idea at this stage whether I’m going to like what I read or not so can’t say if I will be entertained!
8. I’m thrilled to be published myself and I do see it as necessary to support the industry I’ve entered. How can I best do that? By buying and reading books! (A kind of self-help here I think).
9. To enjoy what my friends are writing!
10. To explore literary culture. In the last two years, for example, I’ve read and seen more Shakespeare plays than I ever have done and part of this is to expand my knowledge here. (It’s a very enjoyable exploration too and I love National Theatre Live for making it easier to go to see productions).

There is no right order for any of the above reasons for reading but they strike me as all being very good ones to do so!

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To write books you need to have a deep love for the written word and how else can you develop that other than by reading widely?  Image by Allison Symes

Other News

Many thanks to Jennifer C Wilson for hosting me on her excellent blog a little while ago.  I share the link to my post here (Falling into Flash Fiction), but highly recommend exploring the rest of her site and her paranormal historical fiction works, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, Kindred Spirits:  Royal Mile, and The Last Plantagenet?  Jennifer is published by Crooked Cat but her most recent book, The Last Plantagenet?, is her first self-published novella.

Writing to a Story Prompt

Facebook – General

The Goodreads Author Programme sent me a story prompt idea which was to write a horror story in two sentences. Okay, I’m a flash fiction writer so this is very much up my street!

The link below is to my author dashboard slot. Please do send in questions via Goodreads, I love Q&As like this. I also like the idea of being sent a story prompt like this every so often, so thank you, Goodreads. Great writing exercise.

And my two sentence horror story?

It took three days to get the blood off the walls. It took another five to remove the last drops off the carpets.

I could reduce that to one long sentence, but think it works better as two shorter ones. There is a rhythm to two shorter sentences you simply wouldn’t have if they were joined.

And the story is very much to the point! The image is from Pixabay – it is always good to have plenty of reading material…

Reading - says it all really via Pixabay

Says it all really.  Image via Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The Goodreads Author Programme sent me a story prompt which was to write a horror story in two sentences. (I’ve shared this on my Allison Symes Author Page. I would welcome questions sent in via Goodreads too).

The two-sentence structure is interesting. Just enough to get the story going and then you come to an abrupt halt! The story works fine as it is but I could extend it into a standard length short story, one of my 100-word tales, or anything in between.

This is another advantage of flash, which I’ve used. You can write a flash piece, submit it, hopefully have it published and then take the same idea, expand on it, send it to somewhere that would take longer fiction and hopefully enjoy success with it again.

You would have created two stories, effectively around a common theme/lines, but then gone in different directions with it. The longer version would have more description and maybe more characters than the short piece. (Flash works best with 1 or 2 characters in it and others referred to). Short stories catch a moment in time, flash fiction even more so.

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF BOOK LAUNCHES AND REALITY OF FAIRYTALES

A nice mix of posts tonight I think!

Facebook/Chandler’s Ford Today

I have to smile. I am being invited to add myself to the “Allison Symes” Team. Err… Facebook, I AM Allison Symes and I AM the team. Me and… well that’s it! Oh well, perhaps this is something I need to aspire to – to have people, other than me, to add on to the said team? This could take some time…

Meanwhile, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post shares my thoughts on why book launches are important to an author and Anne Wan’s report on her most recent one at Waterstones in Southampton. I suspect most writers, published or not, will identify with this but comments would be welcome via the CFT comments box.

Anne writes the children’s series Secrets of the Snow Globe and has just launched her second book, I had hoped to get to Anne’s launch but couldn’t in the end so this is a bit of a strange post in that I’m sharing a launch I didn’t go to! Anne’s report only made me wish I HAD been able to go (which is a sign of a good launch if ever there was one).

Anne is on the left in the image with her illustrator, Dawn Larder, on the right. Dawn came back from Spain to be at Anne’s launch. Now there’s commitment for you!

Image Credit:  All images in my CFT post tonight were kindly supplied by Anne Wan.

Shooting Star - Feature Image - Anne Wan Book Launch at Waterstones 2017

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve discovered, thanks to the smartphone, there is no such thing as dead time.

I had to take my car into the main dealer today and while I was waiting for the necessary works to be carried out, I was happily writing away on the said phone (I’m becoming used to the stylus now!) and have drafted another story for my follow-up book to FLTDBA.

I didn’t manage to complete the story but I am almost there on it and I know where I’m going with it. (It will be one of my longer flash pieces too). This is where technology comes into its own. I was also pleased to be able to email what I’d written back to myself for an instant back-up. So even time waiting for a garage fix can be put to good use!

Stories can be created and read on just about any modern device - image via Pixabay

Stories can be created on almost any device.  Image via Pixabay

Goodreads Blog

I talk about the joys of non-fiction this week.

Much as I love reading a wide range of fiction, I must admit it has been my tastes in non-fiction that have expanded in recent years.I am reading more history now than before and loving it. Ironically perhaps, reading more straight history, so to speak, has made me appreciate historical fiction more.

I am reading more history now than before and loving it. Ironically perhaps, reading more straight history, so to speak, has made me appreciate historical fiction more.I think it makes it easier to see or guess at the depth of research a historical fiction author has to do to be able to set the scenes of their “world” properly and to carry their readers with them. Get one historical detail wrong and that whole world could crash.

I think it makes it easier to see or guess at the depth of research a historical fiction author has to do to be able to set the scenes of their “world” properly and to carry their readers with them. Get one historical detail wrong and that whole world could crash.This is the big advantage of fiction, of course. You can and do totally make it up! But set a story in a known historical setting or with known historical people, then the details must be authentic.

This is the big advantage of fiction, of course. You can and do totally make it up! But set a story in a known historical setting or with known historical people, then the details must be authentic.

I like the fact that non-fiction has been, in recent years, using more of the techniques in fiction to catch readers’ imaginations. Non-fiction should never be a deadly dull list of dates and facts.

Good non-fiction opens up the world it is written about and makes it real to the reader. This is very similar to a fiction writer portraying characters the ready can really identify with. Catching the imagination is vital whatever genre you write in then.

Personal history can often be found in things like old exercise books, which in turn reveal things about political history and how much people knew at the time. Image via Pixabay.

Personal history can often be found in things like old exercise books, which in turn reveal things about political history and how much people knew at the time. Image via Pixabay.

Fairytales with Bite

I look at the reality behind fairytales for this week’s post.

Can there be reality behind fairytales?  I think so.

Writers are always advised to write about what you know (which can be difficult for authors of sci-fi, horror and fantasy in particular when you stop and think about it!  We are inventing new worlds. How can we possibly “know” something that does not exist except on our pages?  I suppose the what we know here is knowing in good enough detail the world we’ve created and inventing characters readers can identify with.  Knowledge of human nature is crucial here).

But there is reality in fairytales.  Not just of character types.  Whatever world you write about, characteristics do not change much.  There will always be those who lust for power, the oppressed, those who fight back, those who go on seemingly impossible quests because they have to save something/someone and this is the only way to do it and so on.  (Great stories come from the last category alone, think The Lord of the Rings to name but one).

When I think of a realistic fairytale, my mind nearly always turns to Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Match Girl.  Definitely not one of his cheerier tales but, without giving too much away, to be able to write this as well as he did, he had to know something of poverty (which he did) and I strongly suspect he actually saw real match girls which inspired this tale.  To me this story is a barely disguised report on something he saw and his underlying jibe at people being allowed to suffer like this girl did is as hardhitting now as it would have been when he first wrote the tale.

Often with fairytales it is the message behind them that is the realistic bit.  I think this is why fairytales have always resonated with people and always will.

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There can be reality behind fairytales. Image via Pixabay (and image used as part of book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again)

 

This World and Others

I talk about being well prepared for this week’s post (and I was!).

The importance of good preparation is something that comes up in my Chandler’s Ford Today post tonight where I talk about book launches and share a report from a recent one by children’s author, Anne Wan.

Does this mean you should never write “off the cuff”?  Funnily enough, no.

I have brainstorming sessions every so often which I find incredibly useful for producing potential ideas for future stories and blog posts.  There is no planning or preparation for this whatsoever.

This is unlike everything else I write though. I do sketch out a structure for the articles I write. I have my beginning, middle and end in mind before I start writing.

I outline my stories (sometimes in lots of detail, others with “broad brush strokes” and yes I’ve done this for my flash fiction work too!).

I find this kind of preparation, whether it is for fiction or non-fiction, helps me produce more work, not less. I think it helps me write more efficiently when it comes to producing the actual piece.  This blog post, for instance, I knew I would share something of how I work as a “peg” to hang the rest the piece from.  And that to me seems a good place to end this other than to say comments on how you work, what preparation you find useful etc would be most welcome.

Have a good writing week!

 

Writing first, editing later but both needed - image via Pixabay

Writing first and editing later but good preparation makes an enormous difference to your progress on either.  Being prepared with a good beverage is ALWAYS a good idea!  Image via Pixabay.

 

Book Reviews – From Light to Dark and Back Again

May I take this chance to say a very big thanks to all who’ve reviewed my book so far in either paperback or Kindle format.  Whether it’s a one-line or a one paragraph review, they are all much appreciated! The link takes you to the Amazon page showing both formats.  I am also pleased I now have my copies of The Best of Cafelit 6 where I have a flash story but I’ll share more on this on my next post.  This week has been busy but enjoyable, writing wise.

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Well, what IS your story? Image via Pixabay.

Judging, Guest Blogging and ACW Writers’ Days!

It has been a busy week!

Guest Blog Spot on Jennifer C Wilson’s Author Website

I first met Jennifer at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in 2016 and we quickly became friends.  In 2017 we had the great joy of racing to the Swanwick Book Room to get our books in there!

 

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The Lakeside Block at The Hayes Conference Centre where Swanwick is based.  Image by me.

 

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The beautiful main building at The Hayes.  Image by me.

This is one of the huge joys of going to events like this.  Yes, you learn from the courses.  You may well make connections that will help  you with your writing career but the most important thing is to make friends.  Nobody but a fellow writer will quite understand what drives you to write.  Nobody but a fellow writer will sympathise with total  understanding when what seems like the millionth rejection has come into your inbox.

Jennifer writes paranormal historical fiction (I like to think of them as ghost stories with a twist!).  Her latest books are The Last Plantagenet, a novella available in e-book, and the second in her Kindred Spirits series called Royal Mile.  Her first book in this series, Tower of London, was about a hero we both love – Richard III!

So when Jennifer invited me to have a guest spot on her website, I was only too pleased to accept.  I talk about how I “fell” into flash fiction and share two new stories, which I hope will make it into my next collection.  Hope you enjoy the post and I am only too happy to recommend the Kindred Spirit series.  I am currently reading The Last Plantagenet – and loving what I’ve read so far!

A truly beautiful library but do the books in it meet my criteria for what makes a good story. I would hope so! Image via Pixabay.

A truly beautiful library but do the books in it meet my criteria for what makes a good story?  I would like my book in there (obviously) and Jennifer’s Kindred Spirit series amongst many, many others! Image via Pixabay.

Facebook – Southampton Writers’ Circle

I would like to say a big thanks to Geoff Parkes for sharing a wonderful picture from Wednesday night when I had the great joy of being back at the Southampton Writers’ Circle.

I was judging their Scroll Award competition for the best work produced that year and the winner was Angela Curtis for her non-fiction piece, My Pocket Rocket.

It was great to meet up with everyone again and the quality of work was high. I hope all who entered go on to submit their pieces. It would be lovely to hear later if some (ideally all!) end up being published – good luck, everyone.

This was an interesting contest as it meant non-fiction was being judged alongside fiction. As with this kind of competition, you can’t compare like with like (because they’re not!), I judged each piece based on how close they were to publication standard.  I also named suitable markets.  What was nice was that every piece has very good potential to be published and I would love to hear later that they do achieve that.

 

 

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I present Angela Curtis with her trophy and scroll.  Many thanks to Geoff Parkes of the Southampton Writers’ Circle for the photo.  Great image!  (Note to self:  I need to laugh like this more often!).

 

Facebook – Goodreads Author Programme

I have posted my second blog on here now and today I talked about what you read.  Many thanks to Paul Trembling for getting a short debate going on this.  More comments welcome.  I will be trying to post to this site once a week.  Do also send in questions to the Ask the Author spot as I love author Q&As and would be only too pleased to talk about books, writing, being published, flash fiction and so on.

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Association of Christian Writers – Writers’ Day

Firstly I’ll share the link to my most recent post for the More than Writers blog page where I talk about the changing seasons and my take on autumn/fall.

Secondly, ACW had their annual London Writers’ Day on 7th October.  Our speakers were Glen and Emma Scrivener and the topics were God’s Story and Your Story.  Our venue was almost full, there was a real buzz from the Day and everyone was inspired by our speakers.  My FB post is below.

Had a wonderful time at the Association of Christian Writers’ Day in London today. Good venue, great speakers and there was a fantastic buzz too. (Always a good sign that!).

Really finding my smartphone so useful. Managed to do some reading and evaluating on the way home, which was great. I use Evernote to draft stories, remind myself of writing tasks and so on and am finding this incredibly useful. I’ve also used its camera function and then saved the file to Drive, Photos etc. (Ii am a great believer in the multiple back-up. I’ve been caught out in the past here – so help me, never again!).

Writing can be very therapeutic at times, if only because you are so busy working out what your characters are doing/going to do etc, you can’t really think too much about anything else. Am finding that useful too.

Well, what IS your story? Image via Pixabay.

Well, what IS your story? Image via Pixabay.

 

Changes and Conjuring Up Worlds in a Few Words

Facebook – General AND Chandler’s Ford Today post

Many thanks to all with their kind words of support following the loss of our lovely border collie, Mabel, yesterday. She gets a brief mention in this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post, where I talk about the changing seasons and my love of autumn.

Autumn was always blighted by inconsiderate firework users (too many of them going off too late at night and for days and days on ends. Absolutely terrifying for most dogs. Not going to be a problem for me this year, sadly, but I do make a plea for the adoption of silent fireworks (yes, they exist) or to focus on organised events which have the saving grace of (a) being safer and (b) don’t go on too late in the evening. The latter gives pet owners time to calm their pets down etc and is much appreciated by said pet owners.

I also put in a plea to look out for hedgehogs under the bonfire heaps before lighting them. I’ve been fond of the creatures ever since I read Mrs Tiggywinkle’s adventures courtesy of Beatrix Potter.

I also invite comments in on what your favourite season is and why. This post was a real joy to write and selecting the images a pleasure (though I could have put so many more in!).

 

Feature Image - Changing Seasons

My latest CFT post.   Image via Pixabay

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

An interesting question that came up at Swanwick in the summer was whether flash fiction counted as poetry or prose. It is always counted as prose but it is possible to write poetry as a piece of flash fiction.

Obviously you have to keep it short but the way you express yourself in a few lines can (a) have a poetic quality about it in itself and (b) the way you present the lines on the paper can also create a link to longer poems being presented in the same way. For example:-

THE GUILTY SECRET

I stumbled through the woods.
Not sure what was following me.
I knew I had to dump the goods
No other eye should ever see.

ENDS
COPYRIGHT ALLISON SYMES 2017

I’ve written this off the top of my head for this post and I can already see ways of improving it. (Hope to do this and include it in my next collection!). But you can see that it looks like a poem but reads like prose. It is a complete story in itself and the word count means it would come in under flash fiction categories very easily.

 

The eerie quality of fog can have its own beauty

The eerie quality of fog can have its own beauty.  Image via Pixabay

 

The Interview Interviewed!

I have interviewed Gill James before for CFT and most recently on her wonderful historical fiction, The House on Schellberg Street.  Here she interviews me for her blog!

 

Blogging via diaries and tablets, ancient and modern technologies via Pixabay

Blogging via journals, diaries and tablets.  Image via Pixabay

 

 

Goodreads Author Programme

I’m glad to say I am now part of the Goodreads Author Programme and I love the author Q&A they start you off with to help introduce you to people.  Please do send in questions via this and in the meantime here is what I’ve put up on site so far.  There is a blog attached to this too.  I have written a quick introductory post and, as I get into the habit of writing regularly here too, I will share the links here eventually.  In the meantime here is the Q&A.

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.

Fairytales With Bite

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post talks about the changing seasons and why I love autumn.

A sad change for me this week has been the loss of my elderly border collie.  In the fullness of time we’ll adopt another rescue collie but right now the house feels very empty without my lovely Mabel.  Change can be a terrible thing at times.

Having said that, change is vital for writers.  We need to be able to see what is wrong with our own work so we can edit it effectively.  We need to be open to new writing ideas.  (My being open here led to me writing flash fiction and ultimately being published in it with From Light to Dark and Back Again).  We need, I think, to keep setting goals and striving to achieve them if we are to develop further writing skills (and hopefully publication credits too).

A more positive change recently has been where I was interviewed by Gill James.  (I’ve interviewed her before for CFT).  I share the link here.  Amongst other topics we talk about why I write in the genre that I do.  Sometimes re-examining why you are doing what you are writing wise can be a good idea.  It can reinvigorate your enthusiasm, also perhaps get  you to evaluate if something really is working for you  (and be open to change if not).

 

Mabel-Gracie

My two lovely girls, sadly now gone.  We lost Mabel, the border collie, this week.  Gracie, the bearded/border cross, died just over five years ago.  Both dogs loved their toys!

 

 

 

This World and Others

One huge advantage of writing flash fiction is it teaches you to write “tight” as you don’t have the room for wasting words.  So how can you conjure up new worlds in just a few words?

What you are after is a general impression for your reader.  You can’t go into too much detail but there needs to be enough for them to pick up and fill in gaps with their imagination.

For example my story Calling the Doctor in From Light to Dark and Back Again is one of my very short tales (100 words or thereabouts) and in a few lines I’ve conjured up a naive character, a sense of menace and a rough setting.

This is because this tale has a twist based on a well known novel and if you know that book, the setting of my story would come to you at once.  (Even if you didn’t know the book, there is still enough in the naivety of my character for you to picture what that person would be like and get a sense of their world that way).

So it is a question then of selecting the most important thing your reader must know to make sense of your story.

Ironically, this can work well for longer pieces of fiction too even though you would have the word count to go into more detail.  By focussing on what is the most important thing(s) for your readers to know, there will be no waffling and the images created in your readers’ minds will be so much the stronger because of that.

 

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Do your stories have the right impact on your readers?  What are the ripples caused by the images you create?  Image via Pixabay.

 

BLOGGING AND THE POINT OF FAIRYTALES

A very busy night tonight.

Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers (and also Facebook – General)

In my monthly spot for More than Writers, I look at the changing seasons and attitudes towards them.  My maternal grandmother hated autumn.  She always saw it as the season when everything died (and ironically perhaps died in a September many moons ago).  I love autumn despite the downside of the darkening early evenings, fog etc.  Just as we have to have autumn and winter before we can hope to have spring again, I talk about how I don’t feel you can avoid the horrible side of life and how I feel I should handle this as a Christian.

Poetry conjures up images so beautifully. Image via Pixabay. See Sandra Lyn Gordon's wonderful poem on Chandler's Ford Today for another example of great imagery.

Poppies for Remembrance.  Glorious reds are so often a feature of autumn.  Image via Pixabay.

Chandler’s Ford Today/Facebook – General and From Light to Dark and Back Again

My weekly post looks at why writers should “put themselves out there” and flags up a local Book Fair a group of local authors and I will be running at the end of October.  I discuss the advantages of writers banding together like this.  There will be a nice range of books available at the Fair too, many with special offers (including my From Light to Dark and Back Again).  There will be YA fantasy, short story collections, flash fiction (guess whose!) and romantic comedy to name but a few.

One nice thing about events at the end of October is you have to have them indoors generally speaking and we will be at the Age Concern Centre in Brownhill Road in Chandler’s Ford. I will flag up a reminder a bit nearer the time but I should add we were pleased to meet many people at the recent Hiltingbury Extravaganza and hope to meet still more at the Book Fair.

And dare I mention THAT word? Yes, I think so. We see the Book Fair as a great chance to start your Christmas book buying! There will be special offers too…

 

BookFairPoster8

Coming soon as they say!  Image kindly supplied by Catherine Griffin and Sally Howard.

 

Goodreads Author Programme

I’m working my way through what has been a busy week.  Pleased to say I’m now on the Goodreads Author Programme and I was delighted at how easy it was to set up the profile and share it on Facebook.  (It is now a link on my author page and my page for From Light to Dark and Back Again).  I loved answering the questions they use to get you started but then I do love author Q&As!  Please do drop by and visit the page.  Would love to answer writing questions so do send them in!

 

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Do send your questions in to my Goodreads Author slot.  Image via Pixabay (and one of the stills from my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again).

 

Fairytales with Bite – The Point of Fairytales

 

The link below takes you to the post but also to a slideshow.

To be fair, there is more than one point to fairytales but, for me, the most important one is fairytales can show children things about life and people’s behaviour in an entertaining way that doesn’t preach.

Cinderella doesn’t need to say bullying and cruelty to others is wrong.  You pick that up from the story (and the idea virtue is rewarded, even if it is slow!).  Okay this doesn’t just apply to children but for many it is their first venture into the wonderful world of reading (as it was for me).  All stories show the world we know to some extent via their characters.  We may not be able to identify with the strange world portrayed but we can do so with the character that’s battling for justice against the odds.

What is remarkable about fairytales is their bluntness at times.  They call evil out for what it is and not all of them end happily either (which is also a lesson in life we all need to learn but fairytales are a great way of getting that point across reasonably gently).

I grimace when people dismiss something as “just a fairytale”.  There is nothing “just” about fairytales.  They have to be well crafted stories to hold children’s attention for a start.  When people are asked to name the first book or story they read, they often refer to children’s classics, including the fairytales.

 

Feature Image - Flash Fiction - Books are Gateway - image via Pixabay

So true!  Image via Pixabay

 

 

This World and Others:  Using What is Around You

The link takes you to this post but also to a slideshow.

What is the most popular question ever asked of any writer?  My nomination would be “where do you get your ideas from?”!  Certainly it is the impression I have had from writer interviews I’ve read it is one of the top questions ever asked.

I can understand why people ask it but it is a difficult one to answer.  I get my ideas from a combination of sources and if you even try to explain that, all you will see is your questioner’s eyes glaze over as they were expecting a quick, pat answer!

Over time, I have learned to use what is around me to inspire ideas.  For example, in the UK right now, we are well into autumn and I’ve talked about the changing seasons in my Association of Christian Writers’ blog post this month on their More Than Writers page.

In From Light to Dark and Back Again, my flash fiction pieces have been inspired by moments in films, my take on well known books (for example Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde) and also my take on fairytales, my first love when it comes to reading and writing. My characters are nearly always amalgams of character traits, interesting things I’ve overheard that I’ve wanted to adapt and put into the mouth of a fictional person, and physical qualities (some good, others less so!).

So there is no one “go-to” place for ideas, nor should there be, and I guess the only answer to the question is to tell your questioner you get your ideas from many different places.  If they are really keen to know more, you can expand the conversation.  If not, well there’s your quick answer and you haven’t bored them!  Result!

 

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Using what is around you can be the creative spark for many a great story.  Image via Pixabay.

 

 

 

As at the HE, we would also be delighted to share information about creative writing classes, the Hampshire Writers’ Society and so on so so do come and along and see us if you can. We would be very pleased to chat.

Never give up, work hard, be disciplined... all valuable traits for success, whether you're a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.

HAPPENINGS, FLASHING AND DRABBLING

Facebook – General

Pleased to say I’ve been accepted onto the Goodreads Author Programme. I need to update my profile on there and download book cover images etc but hope to do this in the next day or so. There is scope for having an author Q&A on this (I LOVE author Q&As!) and I hope to have one in the not too distant future.

Am also looking forward to a local Book Fair at the end of October and will post more details nearer the time. Am also looking forward to joining the lovely people at the Southampton Writers’ Circle very soon as I will be judging their Scroll Award competition. (It was also good to catch up with a couple of said lovely people at Swanwick in August!).

Also looking forward to going to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day in London on 7th October. Always learn a lot from these. Incidentally, I think this is one reason why writing is good for your mental health. You are always trying to improve what you do and learning as a result. Great way of keeping the brain active.

Didn’t get anywhere in the recent flash fiction competition I entered but it means I have another story written for my second book. Nothing is wasted!

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

Shakespeare had his quill, modern writers have their laptops. Image via Pixabay.

Such a familiar look. Image via Pixabay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve recently found out that my tendency to write 100-word tales means I’m a drabbler, a writer of drabbles. That’s fine. The only problem with writing flash fiction is it does mean you are known as a flasher. On the whole, I think being a drabbler is better! There is a little more dignity to it!

Some of my flash stories are inspired by movies. The Haunting is inspired by The Ladykillers where the heroine is forever leaving her brolley behind and it is not until the end of the film we discover she has always hated it. Learning the Trade is inspired by Fantasia/The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (which is one of those Disney films I’ve only ever seen clips from and not the whole thing. Not deliberately on my part and I would love to see the whole film especially as the music that goes with it is fantastic).

Sometimes a film or a radio play can spark off ideas where your characters react differently to the ones you watched/heard originally. Interesting story ideas can come from that.

Books make wonderful gifts. Image via Pixabay.

Books are wonderful – whether in print or electronic, whether as audio stories or told by a storyteller. Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here - the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here – the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.