Music and Stories

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

One of the joys of writing my Chandler’s Ford Today posts is when I have a topic where I can go to town on finding music clips! The topic of books is one of them.

Many thanks to my wonderful panel – #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones, and #RichardHardie – for taking part in my mini-series The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels. Hope you enjoy their fantastic insights AND the music I’ve used to go with these!

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Had a great night out watching the Chameleon Theatre Group perform three episodes from Blackadder Goes Forth, including Goodbyeee. Review to follow on Chandler’s Ford Today in due course but I will say now it was superbly done and the set, made by the company themselves, was brilliant. Looking forward to sharing more on that.

Adaptations I’m generally happy with if they are faithful to the book/series etc. This is why I loved the Miss Marple series with Joan Hickson – they were faithful to the Christie canon – but the Marple series. No. Didn’t watch it. Just couldn’t bring myself to do so when it emerged they were altering the stories and bringing in characters that didn’t belong in the originals. Really don’t like that.

My CFT post this week will be the final part of my series on the joys and challenges of writing the series novel. As ever, my thanks to to #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones, and #RichardHardie. Nice range of genres between them too – from children’s to crime (and Wendy writes both!) to fantasy to historical crossed with ghost stories. Link up on Friday.

Glad to report I’ll be having more work on Cafelit later this week and again in November. Will share links as and when.

From what I’ve seen of the set the Chameleons have produced for the stage version of Blackadder Goes Forth, I anticipate a packed house and a wonderful and thoughtful evening of entertainment. Will review for CFT in due course. Do check their FB page out.

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Pexels image.  There are times when words are inadequate.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So more on my alphabetical list then.

J = Juicy Storylines! Not just for soap operas, honestly, but something every character wants. Now “juicy” can be taken literally of course, but I see it as the storyline being appropriate for the character and taking them and stretching them to see what they are really made of. There’s nothing like a crisis for bringing out the best or worst in someone and that applies just as well to fiction!

K = Kicker. Must admit I needed to look this one up. (It’ll be interesting to find out what I can research for Q!). In journalism it apparently means a sudden unexpected change of events. In fiction we’d usually refer to it as a twist in the tale. I like kicker though. Has bite. And your stories must too, whether they have a twist/kicker in them or not.

L = Lines. Who is getting the best lines in your story? Your hero or your villain? A great story will have this split between the two to prevent either becoming a stereotype or, worse still, boring! Also a villain capable of humour etc means while your reader will not want them to win (possibly SHOULD not!), they will sympathise and identify with the villain to a certain extent. There should be something about each character a reader can identify with. (My inspiration here is Alan Rickman’s masterly portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves!).

About halfway through the alphabetical listing now. So then:-

M = Muse. The best way to feed said muse is to read widely and often (and do include non-fiction and poetry in this too. Different sources of writing are good for you and inspire your own thoughts and ideas in various ways). I’ve also found writing regularly feeds it too. Never worry about what you come out with at first being awful and needing work. That would’ve happened to Shakespeare too! It can and will be put right in the edits!

N = Narrative. Whose story is it? Whose viewpoint is going to dominate? What can that character see and know that the others cannot? Why have you chosen that character to lead the narrative? Answer those questions and your story will be off to a good start!

O = Originality. Reading widely feeds your originality. Partly this is due to what you read, but sometimes it can be because you read something you really don’t like or feel you can do better and that can be the trigger point for your own writing. Also, your voice is unique to you and will come through in your writing, especially if you write often. Regular writing (even if it is short bouts at a time) really does encourage your imaginative “muscle” to start working.

Pressing on with my alphabet topic then, we reach P, Q and R. (Great letters if you can get them out in Scrabble incidentally!).

P = Performance. Do your characters perform well in your stories? Do they live up to what you outlined them to be or have they gone beyond that? Read your stories out loud. Perhaps record them and play them back. Hear how your characters perform. Are they having the impact on you that you want them to have on your reader?

Q = Quizzing. I’ve found quizzing my characters to be a very useful part of my outlining. I don’t need to know the minute details. Nor do I put everything I outline in a story. However, I take my character’s basic traits and quiz them from there. If I decide a character is going to be brave, I will quiz them to find out if there are limits to that courage. I try to find out where that courage comes from. Does their “tribe” prize bravery? Or is it noticeably absent and your character is rebelling against that? What are the outcomes? (There WILL be some and that’s where the drama and your stories are to be found!).

R = Right Word Count for your Flash Fiction. I sometimes write a piece deliberately to a word count and that’s it. Sometimes I think a story will come to 100 words but discover it can be done in 75 or needs to run to 250, say. Be flexible on this. The story is the right length when the lead character has done and said all they have to do/say for the situation you’ve put them in. The great thing with flash fiction is there are so many different categories, that even if your treasured 100 word piece comes in at 500 words, there will be markets and competitions for that out there.

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Goodreads Author Programme – Blog –

After the End, What’s Next?

If you’ve enjoyed a really good book, what do you do when you finish it? Go on to read more books by the same author, or read more in the same genre, or do you go for something that is completely different in mood and style?

I have done all three of these (though obviously not at the same time!) and it very much depends on my mood at the end of the story. If I’ve loved a gory crime thriller, I may well want something humorous to show the lighter side of life, albeit a fictional one!

With short stories especially, I tend to read a few by the same author before moving on. With novels, if the book has really gripped me, I’ve got to check out what else the author has done, even if I decide I’ll come back to those later.

The important thing though is that whatever you read, you enjoy it so much, you keep on reading, no matter what author, genre, style etc you choose next. Happy reading!

Image Credit:  many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for taking the photo of me reading as guest speaker and for kind permission to use the photo.  Both much appreciated!

Fairytales with Bite – Signs of a Fairytale World

What are the signs of a fairytale world?  How can you know quite quickly you ARE in one (via fiction I’m presuming for the purposes of this post!  If you do find a portal to another world, however, be sure to report back with plenty of details, pictures if at all possible.  We will all want to know!!).

1.  Magic.  The biggest giveaway of course is the use of magic.  The interesting thing to work out when planning your stories though is whether everyone can use magic or just a select few.  If everyone can use it, what are the rules so anarchy doesn’t break out?  Boundaries increase the drama in your story.  If everyone can zap everyone else, that doesn’t make for much of a story.  If only a few can do that but the price they pay is their own lives are forfeit, now there’s a potential story.

2.  Inanimate Objects – The Use Of.  We all know from Disney (see Beauty and the Beast) a teapot, to name one example, is rarely just a teapot!  Sometimes they’re an enchanted victim.  Sometimes these things are portals (also see Harry Potter).  So what uses are the inanimate objects put to in your setting?  Does a particular object convey a particular meaning or power and, if so, what and why?  What are the limits to the use of objects?

3.  Creatures.  Ranging from domestic animals that can talk (hello, Puss in Boots!  Loved Puss in Shrek.  Thought they had the portrayal spot on) to odd creatures that are the stuff of legends to monsters of course.   Basically what you wouldn’t see here!  And there’s nothing to stop you inventing your own.  This is where some knowledge of natural history is invaluable.  Knowing what animals need to survive and how their bodies are designed to handle that should inspire some ideas for how the creatures in your stories will do this kind of thing.

Happy writing!

This World and Others – Music and Stories

In my latest CFT post, the final part of my mini-series on The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels, I get to have some fun choosing music tracks to go with my fantastic panel’s insights.  Many thanks again to Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, Anne Wan, Wendy H Jones, and Richard Hardie for taking part in this three part series.  Hope you enjoy the insights and the music!

Music and stories have long been intertwined of course.  So many wonderful songs are stories set to music effectively.  Music can and does play a part in stories.  It can be used to show character.  Movies, of course, rely on music to help set mood.  Think of the Jaws theme by John Williams.  Every note of that puts pictures and therefore stories in your head (and possibly might put you off swimming in the open sea but that’s another matter!  There are advantages to just swimming in the local public baths!!).

I write with classical music playing.  (I often listen to Classic FM).  Unlike other styles of music, it hasn’t affected my mood (and therefore what I write!).  It does help me relax and I write more (and I hope better) when relaxed.  I’ve also found it helpful to think of the kind of music my characters would be fans of when I’m creating them.  It almost certainly won’t come into the story I write but it fills out my knowledge of the character I’m about to place before a reader.  That has to be a good thing.

And I must admit I loved choosing the music for my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again.   The track used is an adaptation of Camille Saint Saens Danse Macabre (used as the theme tune for the BBC detective series Jonathan Creek).

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Stand Alones, Flash Fiction and Fairytales

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Many thanks again to Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, #AnneWan, Wendy Jones, and Richard Hardie for their further insights into the joys and challenges of writing series fiction. Amongst tonight’s topics is how to ensure each book in a series works as a stand-alone, given our series writers can never know which book a reader will actually start with. It isn’t necessarily book 1!

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What five things do I like to see in a character? Ideally they have all of the traits I list below but as long as a character has the majority of them, I’m likely to enjoy spending time in the company of that character as I read their story.

1. Courage.
2. Sense of Humour.
3. Loyalty.
4. They, at the very least, respect books; at best they have their own library!
5. Kindness.

Does that rule out the villains? No! Even villains can be kind to their pet cat, have a decent library etc.

Looking at that list, it’s what I like to see in myself and, before you ask, I’m working on the personal library bit! (It’s nowhere near as grand as the one in the pictures below though!).

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One of the things I love about going to writing conferences is that I always learn something pertinent to what I write. And it is not always an obvious link.

I’m off to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day on Saturday, the topic is Writing for Children and Young Adults, which is not directly what I do, but I just know I will pick up useful tips that I can apply directly.

And you never know – looking at what other writers do can help you re-examine whether you are working in the best way you can. It may also inspire a new direction of writing too! What I do know is it will be fun finding out if it does or not and what useful tips I’ll bring home with me.

The great thing with writing is you never stop learning how to improve what you do and that is so good for your brain!

(And networking is always fun!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A = Alliteration. Can be useful for titles in flash fiction (though I don’t use it much) but as with any story, it can grab the attention and help set the mood. Best not overused I think. You want each title to set the tone for what it is to come and a variety of methods for doing that is best. Keeps it fresh for you as the writer too.

B = Backstory. Not a lot of room for that in flash fiction! Best to hint at it through one or two vital details the reader has to know and leave it at that.

C = Character. The kingpin of fiction I think. Get the character right and the plot will come from them. Know your character inside and out – I find it useful to know their chief trait (and I piece together a mental picture of what they are like from there). Find the appropriate starting point for you but it is worth taking the time to know your character well before you start. Your writing will flow better because you write with that knowledge. It does come through in what you write.

As ever, am planning to write flash fiction on the train journey to and from London on Saturday as I head off to a writing day run by the Association of Christian Writers. It’s amazing what you can get done on a smartphone with no interruptions! (Daren’t do this on the Tube though. Always worried I’ll miss my stop! I do think the Tube is a wonderful invention and you never get cold down there either…).

I also sometimes draft non-fiction articles and future blog posts when out and about. I just need a long enough train journey to draft a novel now. 😉😁Hmm….

 

When planning your story (you do, yes?), I find it useful to work out what the obvious ideas might be from a title I’ve thought of, and then work out what could come from those. I don’t plump for the first ideas that come to me. I try to make myself dig that bit deeper to come up with something that fits the theme, makes sense, but is also different precisely because I haven’t gone for the obvious ideas!

Spider diagrams or flowcharts can be useful here. I find I must have a title to kick start the process with, even if I do end up changing it for something better later. It is always a tad annoying that a better title idea crops up when you are writing the story and NOT before you get started, but that is one of those quirks of writing!

Picture of me reading was taken by the lovely #DawnKentishKnox at last year’s Bridge House event. Am very much looking forward to this year’s one too!

 

Gill talks with Dawn and I at the BH event, image taken by Paula Readman

Gill James talks with Dawn Knox and I at a networking event held by Bridge House Publishing last December. Am glad to report Dawn will also be in the Waterloo Festival Anthology. Image from Paula Readman and thanks to her for permission to use it.

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and Allison Symes and books - with kind permission from Paula Readman - Copy

Paula Readman, Dawn Knox and I at the recent Bridge House celebration event. Many thanks to Paula for the image. Also Paula is another winning entry for the Waterloo Festival.

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Dawn Kentish Knox, fellow flash fiction writer, reads some work from her excellent book, The Great War. Image by Allison Symes

Lovely having an appreciative audience, pic taken by Dawn Kentish Knox

I read three stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture!

Book Buying News!

From Light to Dark and Back Again is available from The Book DepositoryDelivery time on the paperback is 1 to 3 business days.  As ever, reviews are always welcome in the usual places.  The great thing is reviews do not need to be long but they all help the writer, even the indifferent ones!

Fairytales with Bite – Flash Fiction and Fairytales

Flash fiction is an ideal vehicle for fairytales.  Why?  Because the best fairytales set up their world quickly, have a definite conclusion, and often pack a powerful punch.  Flash fiction does this too so to my mind flash and fairytales are a match made in writing heaven.

Flash fiction has to be character led due to its limited word count but you can set that character wherever and whenever you wish.  A few telling details can set up a magical world quickly.  For example from my George Changes His Mind (in From Light to Dark and Back Again), I set up a magical world with the opening line “He refused to kill the dragon.”  The telling detail there is in one word – dragon! The story goes on to show what happens and that is the important bit of the story after all.  I don’t need to use thousands of words setting up the magical world in which this is set.  This is not crucial to this story.  What matters is it IS in a magical world and what George goes on to do or not do.

A lot of my stories are either reflections of a fairytale world or set in it and they are great fun to write but I always focus on what the lead character is like.  That is the crucial point of any story I think but in flash where every word must work hard to earn its place to stay there, it is even more so.

This World and Others – Stand Alone

Part 2 of my CFT mini series on The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels looks at, amongst other topics, how to ensure a book stands alone given no series novelist can know at which point a reader will discover their writing.  It is highly unlikely to be book 1.  Indeed I’ve discovered series at the mid point! Many thanks again to my marvellous panellists – Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, Anne Wan, Wendy H Jones, and Richard Hardie – for some great insights.  Very happy to recommend their books to you too.  Great reads one and all albeit for different audiences!

It is true that every writer stands alone, even those that collaborate as they have to go off to write “their bits” before coming back and swapping notes with the other one(s) in the project.  We have to judge whether our work is strong enough to submit and, if there is a choice of places to submit to, which is the best one.  We have to judge whether we have edited a piece enough or if it still needs work.  The call is with us and we are going to get it wrong.  The joy, of course, is when we get it right and a piece is published.

This is where meeting other writers, whether at conferences, online, at courses etc., is invaluable.  There is nobody like another writer to know exactly how it feels when you’re struggling to get the words out or who knows the joy of the words pouring out and work going well.  You do have to share this sometimes for the sake of your own sanity!

I learned a long time ago no writer is a competitor to me.  I write as I write.  I cannot write as you would.  We all bring our unique perspectives to what we write – and that is the great thing about it!

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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!

Writing Likes – and a Dragon Story

Facebook – General

Who do you like to write about most – the heroes or the villains?

I think there is some truth in the saying that villains are more fun to write (and indeed act out) but the challenge for writing for the “good guys” is to ensure they’re not worthy but boring.

This is where the device of the character flaw(s) for the heroes and where the villain(s) being shown to have understandable reasons for being the way they are comes in.

However, this can become cliched in itself so the challenge then is to create characters, bad or good, where the reader can “root for them”. They’ve got to grab the reader’s attention and hold it (even if it is a case of the reader really wanting the character to get their comeuppance).

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Facebook – General – and Cafelit

My latest flash fiction story, Time For A Change, is now up on Cafelit. If you like dragons, you’ll like this one.

Also pleased to say another flash fiction story, Progressing, will soon be part of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition anthology. This will be an ebook. I’ll share further details when I have them.


Facebook – General

My CFT post for this week features an update from Richard Hardie, author of YA novels, Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords, regarding his Authors Reach group.

I’ve discussed the importance of networking in previous CFT posts. Groups like Authors Reach will become increasingly important given writers are banding together more to support one another in marketing, holding events no one author could do alone and so on.

The post also shows you shouldn’t underestimate the time and effort needed to get your work “out there” regardless of whether you are in a group or are on your own. Writing the book really is the beginning…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve talked before about having to have a title to work to when I’m writing a story. However, this doesn’t mean the title I initially come up with is set in stone.

Quite often a better title becomes apparent as I’m drafting the tale so I change things to suit. I don’t know quite what it is about having “something” to start with – perhaps it it is the literary equivalent of giving myself a head start!

All I know is it works!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I love story titles which can take you in all sorts of directions. My latest story on Cafelit, Time For A Change, is a good example of that. A title like that can mean your setting is on Earth, in any time or place, or out there in the depths of the known and unknown universes. The only limit is your imagination.

I love this Pixabay image of a dragon. There’s something about those eyes… (mind if you did get so close to such a magnificent beast, I doubt if you’d have chance to study the eyes much!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Well, I hope you might look at dragons in a different light if you read my Time for a Change story on Cafelit yesterday! (Will share the link again shortly).

One thing I love writing is taking an often maligned character – say a dragon! – and show a story from their angle. I like to look in general terms as to why a character might act the way they are and, a lot of the time, you can end up feeling some sympathy towards a kind of character you might otherwise have felt nothing but antipathy towards!

I also believe knights in shining armour aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be either! Some knights don’t need armour in which to shine either..

 

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

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.

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STORY ENDINGS

A definite theme emerged tonight.  Which do you find most difficult to write – the ending of a story or its beginning?  I share some thoughts on both my Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others posts.  Comments very welcome.  And I would welcome questions coming in via the Goodreads Author Programme Q&A too.

Firstly, though:-

FACEBOOK – GENERAL AND CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post looks back at YA author, Richard Hardie, and his book signing at Eastleigh Library last weekend. This was part of Cub/Brownie Uniform Day and, overall, part of the Love Your Library Week.

The post looks at what libraries can do (Richard’s report) and I share my thoughts on how writers and libraries need each other, as well as give a summary of the book signing event itself.

If you missed Richard at Eastleigh, then he will be at the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair on Saturday 28th October from 10 am to 12 noon, along with many other regional writers, including me. We hope we can see some of you there.

There will be a good range of books on offer from Richard’s YA fantasy books (Leap of Faith and Trouble with Swords) to my flash fiction (From Light to Dark and Back Again) to short story collections (Secret Lives and More Secret Lives of Chandler’s Ford) and many books and genres besides. Far too many to list here but that’s a very good thing!

Eastleigh Library - Richard at work

Richard at work in Eastleigh Library,  Image by Allison Symes

Allison Symes, Richard Hardie, Daniel

Richard, his dog, Oscar and my son, Daniel, were amongst my supporters at my signing earlier in the year. Image by Janet Williams, Chandler’s Ford Today’s lovely editor.

BookFairPoster8

Richard and I will be two of the authors at the local Book Fair soon.  Image via fellow Chandler’s Ford Writer’s Hub member, Cahterine Griffin.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the dilemmas I sometimes face when writing my flash fiction is knowing where to stop!

Sometimes I bypass this dilemma by writing a short piece (usually 100 words) and then, separately, extending the story out to a standard 1500 to 2000 word count later on if I feel the idea is strong enough to take this. (I then use those stories for standard short story competition entries).

I don’t do this too often as I’m usually well engrossed in the next story idea and I also think this solution is one best done sparingly anyway. You want generally to move on to the next idea, the next story etc. However, for a really strong idea, there is no reason why you can’t do this and have two stories based on a strong central premise. Waste not, want not!

The other way around this dilemma, which I use more often, is to work out which ending would have the most impact on the reader and at what point. I then leave the story at that point. You can’t go wrong with that method, I’ve found, but this is where putting work aside for a while pays dividends. You can then look at the piece with fresh eyes and read it as a reader would. It is only by reading it like that you can work out what that best impact point is in the first place!

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My latest story is in The Best of Cafelit 6, recently published.  The rest of the books shown here are where I’ve been published by Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit and, of course, Chapeltown Books.  Image by Allison Symes

Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

My last Bridge House story is in here. Naturally I hope there will be many more to come! Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

The links below take you to my Weebly websites with these posts but I have set up a slideshow on both not reproduced here.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

One of the joys of writing flash fiction is it doesn’t limit your possibilities with a very strong story idea.  I have written a short piece (usually one of my 100-word tales and then, separately, extended the story at a later date to the standard 1500 to 2000 words required by most writing competitions.  So I have two stories around one strong central premise.  I like this!

I must admit I do this sparingly because I have usually moved on to the next story idea etc. (I also think it is something best done sparingly anyway and for your very best ideas only, otherwise you dilute your own work too much).

This situation comes about when I realise I am having problems working out where exactly to end a story.  Do I leave it at the short punchy ending which suits flash fiction so well or do I extend the characters out (and the plot with them) and trust the right ending will emerge from that (it always does incidentally)?

My main method of working out the right story ending is to work out at which point the story has the most impact on the reader and that is where I leave the tale.  Nothing more, nothing less, job done.  For flash fiction, which aims to give short, sharp impressions on the reader, this is by far the best way of working out where to stop the story (I think).

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

One of my favourite stock images because it is so true.  Image via Pixabay.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

My theme tonight has been the right story endings – right for your story that is, as all endings have to be appropriate for the tale and that can have so much variety.  I can’t imagine Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet with happy endings (can you?!), but the way these plays finish is appropriate for the characters and the situations they are in as the Bard of Avon wrote them.  (He also went for maximum impact on his audience, which ties in with my post Finding the Right Story Ending on my Fairytales With Bite site tonight).

So happy ever afters then?  The classic ending for fairytales, usually but not always.  Hans Christen Andersen proved with this with The Little Mermaid and The Little Match Girl in particular, which I guess I could describe as two of my favourite “weepies”.  But, again, the endings are apt for the way he wrote the characters and the situations he put them in and I think this is what we should aim for with our own stories.  Sometimes a happy ending will be appropriate, sometimes it won’t, sometimes the possibility of a happy ending to come beyond the life of the story is an apt way to finish, and sometimes a tragic solution is the only way to end the story.

So you need to ask yourself what would be the most appropriate finish for your story?  Does it tie in with what we know of your characters?  Does it have the maximum impact on your reader?  The most important thing about endings is they have to be definite and definitive.  Something about the ending must bring to a satisfactory conclusion what you have revealed about what your characters – this is where the “ring of truth” to fiction comes in.

Do you find writing the endings to stories more difficult than the start?  Comments welcome!

 

Eastleigh Library 2017 - Richard gave his talk from here

Richard Hardie gave his talk from this wonderful rug at Eastleigh Library but I also thought it a good way to wrap up this post tonight.  While I have talked about story endings, story beginnings can be difficult too, but for fairytales, you can’t beat this one!  Image by Allison Symes

 

BOOK SIGNINGS, LIBRARIES AND TECHNOLOGY

Facebook – General

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is another one about book events. None for ages, then like buses, two on top of each other!

Following on from Anne Wan’s book launch report last week comes Richard Hardie’s news about his book signing at Eastleigh Library last Saturday. This signing was part of Uniform Day (encouraging Cubs and Brownies to complete their book reading badge) and the overall Love Your Library week. It was good to see a packed library. The event was great fun.

I talk about libraries and writers needing each other, Richard shares his thoughts on how the event went and what libraries really can do, and if you did miss Richard at last week’s event, he will be back with his books, Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords, at the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair on 28th October from 10 am to 12 noon. More details in the post tomorrow.

Meanwhile, for my part, there is plenty of writing and editing work to do so best press on then! (Though I may have a sneaky read of The Best of Cafelit 6 first. Love what I’ve read so far – well done all contributors!).

Eastleigh Library 2017 - Richard gave his talk from here

The rather splendid rug at Eastleigh Library from which friend and fellow writer, Richard Hardie, talked about his Young Adult fantasy novels recently.  Image by me.

Eastleigh Library - Richard at work

Richard’s table at Eastleigh Library recently.  Image by me.

BookFairPoster8

Richard and I will be two of the authors taking part in the Book Fair coming up soon.  Image by Catherine Griffin of the Chandler’s Ford Writers’ Hub.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction, I think, is the ultimate proof that less can be more when it comes to storytelling! I am convinced technology (particularly smartphones) helped the form to take off, which is a nice side benefit.

Often when technology brings about changes, there are always fears it will be the death of something else. For example, the monks who wrote out all books by hand (and beautifully done too) didn’t exactly welcome Guttenberg and Caxton!

But things do need to move on. I don’t miss having to use carbon paper when I needed more than one copy of a typewritten letter. I don’t miss literally cutting and pasting stories to get them in the right order for yet another re-typing later on.

I want to see technology getting more people reading, albeit in different ways than previously. I like the way libraries have embraced e-books and I know in Hampshire the Library Service holds regular “Get to Know Your I-Pod” sessions. (You can even borrow one for the duration of the course though you do have to register for these). My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow also talks more about what libraries can do as Richard Hardie and I report on his most recent book signing at Eastleigh Library.

So however you read, enjoy! Ultimately, that is the most important thing.

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Traditional books will always have a place. 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.

 

The Kindle. I read from it at bedtime and have a wide variety of non-fiction and fiction books on it. Image via Pixabay.

The Kindle. I read from it at bedtime and have a wide variety of non-fiction and fiction books on it. Image via Pixabay.

 

SMASHING STORY STARTS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Smashing Story Starts shares what I look for at the start of a story.  This includes intriguing opening lines to what I like to know by the end of the first paragraph.  I must admit I like to hit the ground running with my stories and get directly into the characters’ heads.  I like to flesh out more details later in the story.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

My Top 5 Reading Tips is a follow-on from yesterday’s post when I shared my top 5 writing tips.  I look at reading here from a writer’s viewpoint and discuss, amongst other things, the need to read widely and well.

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

Great to see good Facebook feedback on my article with Richard Hardie on his YA publication news.  Many thanks, all.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss Christmas literature – the Nativity, the carols, the films, the spoofs…!

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And there was I thinking my milkman had a big round...!  Image via Pixabay

And there was I thinking my milkman had a big round…! Image via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

There's still a place for writing directly to paper. Image via Pixabay

WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

When Enough is Enough shares my thoughts on working out when a piece of work is actually finished!  I’ve learned how to be more concise over time (which is why I can now write flash fiction!).  And working out what to say and then stopping at the point without tipping over into waffling and repetition takes some time to get right.  Well, it did for me anyway!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

My Top 5 Writing Tips does exactly what the title suggests.  I look at editing on paper and share a useful tip for writing competitions amongst other ideas.  Hope you find this useful.

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

My post this week is Local Author News: Richard Hardie.  Richard writes excellent YA fantasy novels in the Temporal Detective Agency series.  Richard shares his latest publication news including the great coup P&G Wells of Winchester, a renowned independent bookshop, are now stocking Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords.  It is nice to write a post which shares what a local author is up to and promotes an independent bookshop.  Just a shame there’s so few of them left now.

FACEBOOK PAGE

Again I share news of my CFT post.

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Leap of Faith, Richard's first novel.  Image kindly supplied by Richard Hardie.

Leap of Faith, Richard’s first novel. Image kindly supplied by Richard Hardie.

 

Books make wonderful gifts. Image via Pixabay.

AWKWARD QUESTIONS AND WRITING GOALS

Again many apologies for the no-show last night.  The bug that got me last week decided to put in a repeat appearance much to my annoyance!  Still, hopefully all gone now.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Awkward Questions can be fun to ask of yourself and your characters. In the case of the latter having someone ask them the questions that they didn’t want to be asked can be a great way of raising tension and guarantees conflict!  But the questions must be significant enough to have a real impact, the kind of impact that will turn your story on its head.  It also pays to ask yourself as a writer from time to time things like why am I writing this, is my meaning as clear as I think it is and so on.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Writing Goals discusses why I review my writing performance in the post-Christmas run-up to the New Year.  I also set some goals, some I know I won’t achieve in 12 months but I want to be well on my way to doing so in that time frame, which is the point of setting these!  Others I will achieve.  Other things happen that are unexpected bonuses.  But writing goals down is, I’ve found, a good way to ensure I’m in with a reasonable chance of achieving said goals.  I don’t really know why writing them down makes a difference.  All I know is it does and that’s enough for me.

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

My post this week shares the news of local YA author, Richard Hardie, whose books, Leap of Faith and Trouble with Swords, are being stocked by local independent bookshop, P&G Wells of Winchester.  It’s a real pleasure to promote a local writer and a local bookshop!

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss my upcoming Chandler’s Ford Today post and share a link to Southampton Writers’ Circle’s You Tube channel as they have kindly shared the Baubles trailer on this.  Thanks, everyone, and hopefully see you again in 2017.

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you-really-do-enter-another-world-when-reading-image-via-pixabay

You really do enter another world when you read.  Image via Pixabay