Swanwick, Scheduling and the Book Cover Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allison Symes – 6th August 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More next time…

Goodreads Author Blog – Getting Away From It All

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

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

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

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

So whatever your holiday/summer reading is, enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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FAVOURITE TRAITS AND WHY FAIRYTALES WITH BITE?

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My CFT post is a review of the Fryern Funtasia held on Bank Holiday Monday. It is just one of those things I know but there is either heavy rain or baking heat when the FF is held! No happy medium. It’s either a big coat or the sun cream!

Having said that, the Funtasia WAS great fun and it was good to catch up with friends at Bettermaths and the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership especially.

It was also good to see the Fair Oak dog display team, though none of the dogs were running around the agility course. They were trotting – quite rightly too – and there were several huge buckets of water for them around their arena. As for human refreshments, you should’ve seen the queues for the icecream and cold drinks!

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Have got my schedule of writing for my train journeys all lined up for tomorrow. I’d like to come back home again with at least three new flash stories and an article drafted. Will report back on how I did but I am pleased to be able to make more use of travelling time like this, especially as by the time I get back home again, I usually just want to crash out. Should do even better when I go to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. The journey is longer!

I need to get back to entering more flash competitions so, depending on how well I actually do on the train tomorrow, I may well have some stories to submit. Hope so anyway.

Fairytales With Bite – Why Fairytales with Bite?

The reason I refer to what I write as fairytales with bite (and so giving this website its name) is (a) it is a very accurate description of what I do and (b) I was fed up with fairytales being dismissed as “twee” or “just for kids”.  I’ve written posts on this topic before but I thought I’d add here those elements I think make for a good fairytale.

1.  Magic.   There has to be magic somewhere but it is not the be all and end all in a fairytale either.  See below.  Also it is usually acknowledged there are limits to what magic can do.

2.  Characters have to make choices.  This is generally true of all fiction but in fairytales, the characters still have to decide something has to change.  Cinderella wanted to escape her horrible life but still needed to be willing to do what the fairy godmother told her.  (Couldn’t you just see the ugly sisters arguing with the godmother?  I could!).

3.  An appropriate ending.  Most of the time in fairytales this is the traditional happy one, but not always, as Hans Christen Andersen proved with The Little Mermaid amongst others.  Having said that, his ending to that story was apt for the way he’d written all that came before.

4.  There has to be some hope.  There has to be hope for the characters to achieve their happy ever after ending or, if they know this is not going to be the case, what can they salvage to make things as good as they can be?  If you have to settle for second best, you are still going to want that second best to be as good as possible.

There are other elements of course but these strike me as being amongst the most important ones.  Comments welcome!

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This World and Others – Favourite Traits in Characters

What are your favourite traits in characters (your own or those from other writers)?  I think mine would have to include:-

1.  The ability to prove the doubters wrong.  I love it when the underdog wins the day. Whenever I read of a character being “written off”, I am on the look out for that character turning out to be the hero (usually) or the villain (sometimes, and inevitably reacting against being written off!  I do have some sneaking sympathy here.  You can see why they would react that way at least.).

2.  The ability to stick with the right path, no matter what.  The ultimate example of this for me is both Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings.  (Sam was just as determined to do right as Frodo was, even though Sam was doing this for his friend, rather than for the “cause” directly).

3.  Being the best friend/sidekick the hero didn’t know they needed until undergoing the quest.  If awards were being given out for this, it would have to go to Sam Gamgee.  Never ever overlook the sidekick.  They’re in the story for a good reason and it is almost always a pivotal moment the hero needs.

4.  Honest characters.  I love those moments when, usually the sidekick, gives the hero/heroine a verbal bashing for missing something important or taking others for granted or for becoming arrogant etc.  The lead characters do need others who can rein them in – nobody gets it right in life all the time so why should they in fiction?  Just as we need others to tell us “hang on a moment there”, so do characters need other characters to tell them when they’re at risk of going off track.

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ODD COMBINATIONS AND FLASH FICTION TERMS

Again, a mixed bag for you!

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My latest CFT post combines two things in a review, which I never anticipated I would ever combine – the Famous Five and William Shakespeare! Yes, really.

I review Five Go Mad for Shakespeare staged by the MDG Players at the Dovetail Centre in Chandler’s Ford last Thursday. They were ably assisted by the Romsey Players with their “play within a play”, which is another nod to the Bard!

The evening was a mixture of spoofs, well known scenes from Hamlet and Macbeth, and songs. It was good fun and very well put together.

MDG NOTICEBOARD

The MDG Players cast and notice board. Image by Allison Symes

MDG NOTICEBOARD PART 2

All the seats were taken at the show. Image by Allison Symes

Programme Front

The front cover of the programme. Image by Allison Symes.

Programme - What is on offer during the show

A mixed menu of delights in the show are listed here. Image by Allison Symes

THE GAME CARDS FOR WOULD WE LIE TO YOU

The green and red cards were used for a game during the show, Image by Allison Symes.

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Went to see an April Trio of Plays by the Chameleon Theatre Company tonight. Review on CFT next week. This week will be a review of Five Go Mad For Shakespeare put on by the MDG Players last week. So yes, I’ve been out and about and seeing some wonderful plays! I like this. I like it a lot! (Hope it won’t be too long before I get to see some National Theatre Live productions again too).

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One of the problems I face with writing is prioritising! Writing for Chandler’s Ford Today helps as I know I’m posting on Friday so I plan my posts so usually I’m carrying out final checks on Wednesday.

However, it is fitting everything else in that I’d like to do, both for fiction and non-fiction, that is the problem. The one comfort? I know I’m not alone in this. (And things like using Evernote on a phone on a train does help me get a lot more done with time that would otherwise be wasted. Just how much staring out of the window can you do?!!).

The one good thing is I am well ahead on coming up with ideas for stories for what I hope will end up being my third flash fiction collection. I’ve also drafted some of the stories out. (I hope some of them will appear online at some point).

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There are times I wish there were better terms for flash fiction writers. We’re flashers for a start! Anyone writing 100-word stories is a drabbler and I have occasionally written at the 50-word mark too (though this has been more for my second collection which is under submission).

Therefore, this makes me a flasher, a drabbler and an occasional dribbler. Doesn’t sound good, does it?😀 Does anyone know who came up with these terms in the first place?!

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I’ve talked before about one benefit of writing flash fiction being that it shows up your wasted words. This carries over into any other creative writing you do as you learn to look out for these wasted words and they’re the first to be cut out.

However, another huge benefit to writing flash fiction is having to write with absolute clarity. As your word count is limited, you want every word to carry its weight so your readers pick up the meaning you intended.

That clarity can (and I think should) carry over into other writing too. Also, because flash fiction really does have to be character led, it beefs up your ability to create convincing characters! They have to “lead” the story, there simply isn’t the room for an elaborate plot. But the great thing is genre isn’t an issue. I’ve written flash fiction pieces in fantasy, fairytale, crime, horror, and so on.

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Managed to draft another flash fiction piece while waiting to give blood this afternoon. Best thing to come out of the afternoon too given there was trouble with my veins and I had to come home without donating. Ah well… try again. (I cherish the thought if the National Blood Service had trouble with my veins, so would your average vampire! You have got to find the things to use them!).

That aside, I’m pleased with the progress I’m making on this batch of stories and hope to submit some more to Cafelit before long.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Childhood Books

I sometimes review local theatre productions and a recent one was called Five Go Mad for Shakespeare. Good fun, and I enjoyed the references to Enid Blyton’s adventure series, and to the Bard too.

I used to collect the Famous Five series as the local newsagent stocked them. (Those really were the days… the newsagent’s shop was big compared to the ones I come across now. Its book section was reasonably generous in size).

I loved reading the Five’s adventures and I think those books, plus the fairytale collections I had (and still have!), are the fiction volumes that have had the most affect on me. Of course, the moment I’d got my hands on the latest Five adventure, I had to read it as soon as possible. I don’t remember reading them in one sitting but I know I would’ve been ready for when the next book was due in the newsagent’s!

So what childhood books have had the most impact on you? Have you re-read them since then?

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Fairytales With Bite – Why Children’s Fiction Matters Even When You Do Not Write It

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is a review of a show called Five Go Mad for Shakespeare and it was good fun.  I never expected to review something that combined Enid Blyton’s Famous Five with the Bard of Avon but there you go…

This led me on to thinking about the importance of children’s fiction, even for those who do not write it.  My first loves in terms of children’s books were the classic fairytales and the Famous Five series.  I also liked Heidi, Black Beauty, and other classic children’s books.

I think it can be forgotten sometimes that anyone who, like me, writes for adults, “owes” our audience to children’s writers.  Why?  Because most people who read regularly have always read since they were children and all that changes as they become older is their tastes in books!

While I’m sure it does happen, the majority of readers don’t suddenly go into a bookshop and pick out a book to read.  They are going into stores or ordering books online because they already have a love of reading they are developing further.  That love of books nearly always starts in childhood with the classic children’s stories.

This World and Others – What Makes a “Fully Rounded Character”?

You hear the phrase “fully rounded characters” a lot, well I have (!), but what does it actually mean? My take on this is:-

1. You can identify with the character.
2. The character has clear virtues and flaws. (This is usually why you can identify with them!).
3. The character makes mistakes and, usually, learns from them. Often they make the same mistakes more than once before they learn from them, but then so do real people!
4. Their behaviour and attitudes make sense, given the way the writer has portrayed them.
5. You can imagine how this character would live outside of the constraints of the story.
6. They interact with other characters in a way that makes sense, even if the interaction itself isn’t good. (This could be because the character really does not get on well with others or the other characters aren’t great at “people skills”).
7. The character has feelings, tastes in music, food etc so you would feel they “could be” a real person if somehow characters could come to life.
8. The character has emotional depth. Basically this means the reader can see if the character is shallow or is capable of more complex emotions and attitudes. Shallow characters can be appropriate to a story. It’s just their emotional depth isn’t very deep!
9. You can’t imagine the story without them. (Always a good sign).
10. The character has real struggles and difficulties to overcome and finds different ways of overcoming them. (Unless they are a shallow creation, they don’t give up at the first hurdle).

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LIGHT BULB and OTHER MOMENTS

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It was another get some writing done on the train day on Saturday. Managed to draft most of my next Chandler’s Ford Today post and two new flash fiction stories. On the way back, feeling more than a tad tired, I managed to get some editing done. So pleased with what I achieved!

Let the train take the strain? Yes!

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My CFT post later this week will reference one of my favourite series of books when I was growing up – the Famous Five by Enid Blyton. I never really read any of the Secret Seven and as for Noddy, the less said the better. (In fairness, by the time I discovered Enid’s works, I was way beyond the age range for him!).

Much as I enjoyed the Five’s adventures, I never really did “get” their love of ginger beer. Oh well. I collected the books as the local independent newsagent got them in regularly, which was fab. Back then, most newsagents had a reasonably sized books section (and it wasn’t just W.H. Smiths or Menzies either). I do miss that.

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The lightbulb moment in any story for me is when I have to find out what happens to the main character in it. Then you know you’re hooked! Doesn’t matter what the length of the story is but the characters have to interest you enough to keep you reading.

Plots in themselves aren’t enough. They have to be driven by the right characters. It is possible to have a wonderful plot let down by characters that simply don’t hold the readers’ attention. Get the characters right and the plot will come from them. Why? Because the right characters will find themselves in conflict(s)(they’ll be unable to help themselves!) with something or someone and that’s where the story really lies.

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Hope to submit some more flash fiction stories during the week. Very pleased to be making progress on what I hope will in time become my third book. Train journeys are great for drafting stories. I’m usually far too tired when I get back to do much writing done then, as I normally would, so not only do I feel like I’ve made progress, I feel as if I’ve made the most of the time available to me. I always like that.

I did wonder when I got the smartphone how I would get on with a stylus for writing. No problems! Just hope I don’t lose the thing…!

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I love that moment when I’m drafting a new flash story when you can feel the tale “coming together” and you know exactly how it will end.

I outline my stories but deliberately don’t set everything down to the “nth” degree as there has to be room for the old creative juices to flourish and “do their stuff”. But when you’ve written the ending that comes to you and you look back at the piece and think “yes, that works”, that is a good feeling.

It’s an even better one if you need a bit of encouragement to keep going. It reassures you that you are coming up with the ideas. So keep going!

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Flash fiction can be a great mood reflector (of the main character that is!). I know I wouldn’t want to read page after page of a character’s introspection but a brief flash story showing what a character is feeling and why is fine.

Of course, there is nothing to stop you then expanding that idea out and having a standard length short story which shows how the character got into that state (and ideally out of it again if the state is not a good one. I feel a good story of this kind has to have some sort of hope within it. This is why I personally can’t get on with “misery stories”. There has to be something uplifting, even if at the end of the story, the character has just found what they think may be a way out a dismal situation).

Of course, flash, like any story, can reveal something of the author too so you may want to watch what you write!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Likes, Dislikes and Using “Dead Time”

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My latest CFT post is Part 4 of my 101 Things to Put into Room 101. I’m up to No. 60! Tonight’s “delights” to go into the vault of doom include rats, overpriced clothing for those of us with height issues (in either direction) and those people who dislike fake flowers. I bet they don’t suffer from hayfever!

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Am planning to get on with some flash fiction writing whilst out and about on the train tomorrow. Great use of dead time and on my last trip out like this, I managed to write at least five stories (which are in the second collection I’ve submitted to Chapeltown Books). I can’t give you an exact number as I stopped counting after that.

One lovely thing about writing, regardless of genre or whether you write fiction, non-fiction or both, is you are never short of things to be getting on with while out and about on public transport! I also use dead time like this to draft future ideas for Chandler’s Ford Today and Association of Christian Writers’ blog posts.

Am I a convert to the smartphone? You bet! Picture below from one of my CFT posts from late last year but given the topic of this post, I thought it apt to use it again!

Fairytales with Bite – Character Likes and Dislikes

In my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, I consign various items to Room 101. Amongst the items in Part 4 of my series are rats, people who dislike fake flowers, and overpriced clothing for those of us with height issues (in either direction.  Am not unbiased here!).

I love fake flowers because (a) they are of a much higher quality than they once were and (b) I’m a hayfever sufferer!  Thinking about this made me wonder about what quirky likes and dislikes your characters have.  I’m thinking of those things that would really make them stand out to a reader.  It is vital readers can tell characters apart and distinctive personality traits, likes and dislikes are great ways to achieve those necessary differences.  We’re not all clones after all, so our characters mustn’t be either.

Think about also why your characters have their likes and dislikes.  (Yes, people can and do have irrational likes and dislikes but, in fiction, you have got to convince the reader your characters are believable.  I find having a good reason for them to be the way they are, which would include their tastes, is a surefire way of achieving believability).

Part 4 - I'm all for stopping spam, the electronic and the meat kinds

I loathe spam – the electronic or the meat kind! Image via Pixabay

Part 4 - Success is one thing but being famous for being famous is beyond me

Success but should it be because you’re famous for being famous? Image via Pixabay

Part 4- Ambition is not the same thing as talent or being famous on merit

Ambition is no substitute for genuine talent. Image via Pixabay.

Part 4 - Wastefulness

This sums up humanity’s wastefulness. Image via Pixabay

This World and Others – Using “Dead Time”

Using “dead time” in a more efficient way so I can get more writing done is something I have improved on in the last six months or so. This is partly because I’ve finally got a smartphone (!) and I also use Evernote as an app to draft stories, articles etc when I’m out and about on train journeys etc.

The nice thing with this is not only do I get more work done, I haven’t got the distractions of all I have to do at home getting in the way. I can focus purely on writing for a while, which is bliss. One lovely thing about writing, which I touch on in a Facebook post tonight as well, is that whether you write fiction, non-fiction or both, there are always things to work on, edit or write!

On my last big train journey, I managed to write at least five flash fiction stories (I admit I gave up counting after that). So think about your pockets of time that can easily be lost. How could you use those? I remember being annoyed when I took my car in for service as I was happily drafting stories while waiting for that to be done. I was well into the writing zone when they told me the car was ready!

Main task for me now here is to submit more flash fiction to Cafelit as well as get on with ideas for my third book. My second book is in with Chapeltown Books now so fingers crossed!

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Flash Fiction, Top Five Favourite Books, and Guest Blogging

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Good news – another of my flash fiction tales, The Art Critic, is now up on the Cafelit website. Anyone who has had a bad review or hated a piece of artwork will sympathize with my heroine in this one. Good fun to write. Hope you enjoy reading it.

I’m outlining ideas for another collection of flash fiction tales and I hope some of these will also end up on Cafelit in the meantime. Many of my stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again started life on Cafelit. A number of Chapeltown Books authors can say the same about their flash stories – and I’m willing to bet we’re all pleased about this!

I loved the old James Garner films, Support Your Local Gunfighter/Sheriff etc. Maybe we should have something called Support Your Cafelit! In all seriousness, online sites like this are an immense help to writers including me. They give us somewhere to put our work, it can (and in this case has) led to publication opportunities, and feedback is also possible via the comments section under each story put on the site.

So give online story websites like Cafelit a try. You may well come across a form of fiction you might like to try writing. Certainly, you’ll like the stories already up there. Happy reading and writing!

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Firstly, as mentioned above, my latest flash fiction piece, The Art Critic, is now up on Cafelit. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.co.uk/ but do check out the other wonderful stories on site.

Secondly, I am guest blogging on Amanda Huggins’s Troutie McFish Tales blog tonight. I talk about why I love writing flash fiction and for Chandler’s Ford Today and share some writing tips that have stood me in very good stead.

Thirdly, I’ll be appearing at the Hursley Park Book Fair due to take place in June. I’ll share more details nearer the time but author pics and bios are now up on their website, including for yours truly. See http://www.hursleyparkbookfair.com/authors

 

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My CFT post this week will be the resumption of my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series. Yes, I can find 101 things!

I’m using my diary more to plan out what writing work I do when and am finding that useful. It reminds me to block out time for specific tasks for one thing so I am hoping by the year’s end, I will have been more productive than I was in 2017. Not that I was lazy last year, far from it (!), but I’ve been aware for a while I could probably do more than I am and that will need scheduling if I’m going to make it (a) happen and (b) work!

I am making better use of dead time thanks to Evernote and a smartphone. I use time like this to draft out ideas for flash fiction stories and CFT posts. All useful stuff. It’s amazing (though not in a good way) just how easily time slips away and you find you haven’t achieved as much as you thought or would like.

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How can you tell if you have written flash fiction and not just a short story chopped down? Well, like any short story, a flash fiction tale must have a beginning, a middle and an end. Okay, a lot is implied, especially backstory, but everything in your flash tale must move the story onwards to what will seem like the inevitable conclusion (even if is a twist one).  If your story does that, then fine!

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What is the purpose of a story?

To entertain – definitely.
To sometimes convey truths in a more palatable way – yes.
To get a message across – yes.

To set puzzles for readers to solve – think Agatha Christie here especially.

To warn – yes (particularly true for horror I would have thought. If you decide you’re going to tackle Dracula, you’ve got to be prepared for the consequences!).

Flash fiction does all of this but concisely!

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Glad to report The Art Critic, my latest flash fiction piece, is now up on Cafelit. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.co.uk/

It was great fun appearing on Amanda Huggins’ Troutie McFish Tales blog. See https://troutiemcfishtales.blogspot.co.uk/…/guest-post-alli… Many thanks, Mandy!

I share why I love writing (and indeed reading) flash fiction and also what I love about writing for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Printers would have fun trying to print this - image via Pixabay

Let the ideas flow and let journeys encourage that! Image via Pixabay

Printing Press - image via Pixabay

The old method of printing. Image via Pixabay

Books can be one major key to knowledge - image via Pixabay

Books are the keys to knowledge. Image via Pixabay

The To Be Read pile - image via Pixabay

The To Be Read pile. Image via Pixabay

What new scenes will a book show you - image via Pixabay

What new worlds and scenes will books show you? Image via Pixabay

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What is the best thing about writing flash fiction? I always love that moment when I’ve come up with the “killer” last line that completes the story in such a way I know there couldn’t be an alternative ending.

Sometimes I do come up with a line I think will make a great ending and plot the story back from that. It’s an interesting challenge (and Agatha Christie was known to do it too).

Do last lines sometimes surprise me? Yes. I hope they surprise you too! I will think of a line I realize is better than the one I originally had in mind. For example, with Serving Up a Treat, the last line “He never got to take a second mouthful” not only sums up the story, (and you can get the genre from that line alone), but, taken with the rest of the tale, I realised later there was more than one way of this character meeting their fate. I had not originally plotted that but was glad it came about. (Yes, you will need to rest of the tale to find out!).

Maybe the art of being a better writer is in getting better at recognizing what works well and being open to changing your initial thoughts and ideas for better ones.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

What are your top five favourite books? They can be any genre, non-fiction or otherwise etc.

So often my favourite books do depend on my mood. If I want humorous fiction, I will read that. If I want crime, I will turn to that genre.

But I think for me the five that stand out overall are:-

1. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. This book is one of the few novels to ever change my mind about a historical character, in this case Richard III.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein. The sheer scale of Tolkein’s imagination is amazing and you won’t get a better good-v-evil battle in fiction, I think. Loved the film version too.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This was my first introduction to the use of irony in fiction and Elizabeth Bennett has long been one of my favourite heroines.

4. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett. It was hard to pick just one Discworld novel but I plumped for this one as, for me, it is where Sam Vimes really takes off as a character.

5. The Best of P.G. Wodehouse Am I cheating here by going for a best of collection? Maybe! But I’m not sorry. This wonderful book shows off PGW’s fabulous array of characters.

So what would your choices be? Do you think they would change, say, annually, or be permanent selections?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conferences, Dead Time and Reading

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Thoroughly enjoyed the Association of Christian Writers’ day in Derby on journalism on Saturday. Love learning from writer events like this. Have found before that, even though I might not use some information now, I do end up using it later! Brought home some ideas I hope to investigate further and am not saying more than that for now.

On the fiction side, I am finalising a short story for a competition. I am also looking forward to sharing a two-part interview with a fellow Chapeltown Books author on Chandler’s Ford Today. Part 1 will be up on Friday.

Am getting better at using “dead” time. I spent my train journeys to and from Derby using the fabulous Evernote to draft a blog post for ACW, a future CFT one and some ideas for what I hope will end up being my third flash fiction collection. I also got to talk to a children’s writer on the train home. One of the lovely things about writing is, when you do meet up with fellow writers, you’ve got an instant topic of conversation!

Oh and you never get bored!

 

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The only problem with going to writing conferences is catching up with things again on getting home! Still, I can think of worst problems.

Sorry to hear about Ken Dodd. Never got to see him live but enjoyed his TV and radio shows. (Radio 4 Extra sometimes repeats the latter, expect they will soon. Worth a listen).

Priorities this week are to finish editing a short story and, as always, CFT. Why does editing always take longer than you think it will, no matter what your level of experience is?! Or is this just me? Answers on a postcard….

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Do you like short, sharp paragraphs or longer, more detailed ones? For me, it depends on the kind of story I’m reading or writing. I would expect a thriller to have the first kind of paragraph with a family saga having more of the second kind.

Overall, what matters is that each word, each paragraph etc moves the story on and genuinely can’t be cut from the tale without wrecking it. You know you’ve carried out a good editing job when you reach that point in a story!

Sometimes a more detailed paragraph can be used to indicate the time period a story is set in, given you would expect more “wordy” paragraphs in a tale set long before social media came in. Choice of words must be appropriate to the character, the time period and the setting.

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I’ve spent a lot of the weekend in Derby at an Association of Christian Writers’ Day on journalism (it was fab) so used a lot of the time on the train journeys scribbling away via the wonderful Evernote on my phone. Jotted down ideas for several flash fiction pieces and am really looking forward to writing them up.

I am getting better at using “dead” time like this and when I had to take my car in for service, while I was waiting, I wrote three flash pieces (which are part of my second collection now submitted to Chapeltown Books). I felt distinctly miffed when they told me my car was ready as I had settled down quite well, thank you. There was a tea and coffee machine, loos, and I was all set for further writing! The really great thing here? No distractions… ah well.

 

Most of us struggle to have as much time to read as we'd like - image via Pixabay

I think most of us struggle to find as much time to write as we’d like.  Image via Pixabay

Publishing has to start with a blank page - image via Pixabay

From start to finish here perhaps?  The blank to the printed page.  Image via Pixabay

 

The To Be Read pile - image via Pixabay

The to be read pile! Image via Pixabay

A few books to choose to read from here - image via Pixabay

Plenty to enjoy here! Image via Pixabay

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Do you start your story with a title in mind or do you write the tale and then the title comes to you as a result?

I find I must have a title to “peg” my ideas to but often have to change the title to a more suitable one, once I’ve got the story down. I have, on occasion, tried to work without a title but soon found myself feeling “lost” without one! So I take the attitude now it is all in draft anyway so it doesn’t matter if I change the title half a dozen times until I’ve got it right for the piece.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

I have spent many a fine evening re-reading favourite novels and short stories. For me, there is no such thing as a book beyond its “read by”date.

It has been my experience even books written in styles we wouldn’t use now have some entertainment value and I can usually learn something from the way the author has written their characters. I usually pick up something on each reading.

As for contemporary reading, I am reading a fair number of flash fiction collections, I love reading history (and historical fiction), as well as crime. I am reading far more non-fiction than I used to but I think this may be a reflection of the fact I’m writing non-fiction now as well.

Having a Kindle has increased the amount of reading I do too. I do like the “Look Inside” feature and have often used this. I was glad it was available on my own flash fiction collection. This has given me many chances to try books I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of trying.

 

 

 

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

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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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