Flash Fiction – Two Examples

For more than two years, I wrote a flash fiction story every week. As I love alliteration, I wrote the story on a Friday so I could call it Friday flash fiction.

I stopped because I wanted to concentrate on writing books. My imagination is finite. If I use it up on short stories, there’ll be less left for books!

However, last Friday a member of a group I’m part of wrote a lovely little tale about the founder of a flash fiction group on LinkedIn. I couldn’t resist it… Here’s the original story and my response.*

The Painting Problem, by Russell Conover

The painting club was enjoying a weekly meeting, with one exception.

“Great to see so many faces here,” Bob said with a smile.

“Yeah, but I miss our founder Jill,” Ted lamented. “Wonder what happened to her?”

The painters looked at each other and shrugged. Jill had occasionally been in touch with brief updates, but compared to her flawlessly regular masterpieces before, she’d all but vanished.

“Hey–why don’t we work together on a tribute painting for Jill?” Betty suggested.

“Awesome!” Tanya exclaimed. “Then she’ll know we miss her.”

“Let’s do it. We owe our founder a shout-out.” Ray smiled.

The Wobbly Glass, by Emma Baird

“Jill? Jill? Are you there?”

In extreme circumstances, Ouija boards served a purpose. The glass whizzed across the board to the letter Y.

Ray smiled. “Okay, so she went over to the other side.”

Betty looked puzzled. “She sounded perfectly well the last time I spoke to her.”

The glass wobbled ominously. It moved from letter to letter so fast, it was impossible to keep up.

Ray nodded slowly. “I think I know what this other side is. Clarity and precision are no longer our founder’s watchwords. I think she’s been kidnapped by the stream of consciousness crew.”


For more Friday flash fiction, see the WordPress site, Friday flash fiction, and the website of the sane name.

*I’m duty-bound to report that there was a typo in my story. I wrote “steam of consciousness”, rather than “stream”…

Podcasts for Writers: the Self-Publishing Formula

self-publishing formulaDo you listen to any podcasts about writing? I stumbled across the Self-Publishing Formula podcast* recently and I find it very useful.

I say “stumbled across” but if you listen to the podcast, you soon realise that its presenters put a huge effort into ensuring people do find it. My stumble across was nowhere near accidental.

Two authors present the Self-Publishing Formula, one a huge self-publishing success and the other starting out. Mark Dawson is the best-selling author of the John Milton, Beatrix Rose and Soho Noir series. He’s a six-figure sum, self-publishing success story. A lot of that success is down to targeted, skilful marketing. Dawson is known for using Facebook ads to good effect and runs courses for authors on how to do so too.

Interestingly enough, the author was originally traditionally published. His first book, The Art of Falling Apart, was published by Pan Books in 2000. The book didn’t sell well at all. He later self-published a thriller, which again didn’t do well.

However, he then decided to give the book away for free. At that point, his sales took off. These days, he’s a hybrid – self-published in this country, traditionally published in other places.

The podcast is co-presented with James Blatch, a writer setting out on the self-publishing journey.

Here’s what I have learned from the few podcasts I’ve listened to:

  • A good story should be plotted like a film.
  • Psychological thrillers are selling well at the moment.
  • You need to have a few books to your name to be successful.
  • A cover is really important, but not that important. Mark Dawson’s readers often chose his books based on the blurb.
  • It’s not easy to write your own blurb.
  • Permanently offering one of those books for free is a good tactic.
  • A mailing list is a must. As any modern marketer will tell you, email newsletters provide the best return on investment.
  • A healthy Twitter following will help you get more subscribers to that list. Offer them a freebie – a free book or a free ‘how to’ guide to get them to sign up.
  • How do you get more Twitter followers? Go for the “if I follow them, they’ll follow me back” rule. Target people in the same industry, use automated tools to help you find followers. The author Ian Sutherland has a book for authors – Advanced Twitter Techniques for Authors.
  • A reader survey is another good idea. This helps you target marketing appropriately and work out what’s the most worthwhile material to write in the future.


*Anyone else been wondering how to leave a podcast review on iTunes? Me too. iTunes befuddles me completely. If you want to review a podcast (or a book) on iTunes on your desktop, here’s how –

  • Open iTunes > the iTunes store > Podcasts
  • Find the podcast you are looking for (the search function is on the right-hand side)
  • Click on ratings and review
  • Click on write a review
  • Voila!



Golden Hill – a Review

Golden HillGolden Hill by Francis Spufford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Francis Stufford’s Golden Hill was the first novel award winner in 2016’s Costa Book of the Year awards. I haven’t read any of the other winning category books, but this one blew my socks off.

Set in the mid-18th Century, a young man called Smith arrives in New York with an order for £1,000 in his pocket. Can he be trusted? What does he intend to do with the money once New York’s merchants are able to honour the order?

The book is rightly described as a page-turner and you’ll find it impossible to put down. Smith is the most appealing male main character I’ve read in a long time. The exchanges he has with the book’s other characters are a joy to read and his thoughts on the then colony of America are beautifully descriptive.

Description isn’t something this book lacks. Vivid colour paints in pictures throughout. Stufford makes liberal use of 18th Century terms and language to add to the effect. The insults have a particular 18th Century feel to them and there are splendid ones thrown about. The beginning of the book acknowledges the novelists of the time – Tobias Smollett, Laurence Sterne and Henry Fielding – and it has awoken in me a desire to read those books.

Often, when a novel holds a mystery in its centre, the final revelation is disappointing. While small clues were dropped along the way, the final reason for Mr Smith’s visit to New York and where the money came from is still satisfying. The last chapter is another bitter-sweet surprise.

Read this book. It’s amazing.

View all my reviews

Alternatives to Shaking or Nodding Heads

wordcloudWho doesn’t love a wee word cloud? I came up with this one to help myself and to help you.

Some time ago, I found an interesting discussion online about characters forever shaking or nodding their heads. “Aha!” I thought. “Me too! Yes, my characters have become flippin’ marionettes.”

Or characters from a Twilight novel. I can’t confirm that last comment as it’s a long time since I read any of the Twilight series and at the time I didn’t look out for excessive head nodding or shaking.

When you’re writing communication scenes, the first technique you use is dialogue. But if you have ever watched people communicate with each other, you soon realise the words they speak only make up a tiny part of communication.

(70 percent, I was told once.)

The rest of it is body language, tone of voice, pitch and what the eyes are doing. And yes, we all nod and shake our heads frequently.

So, how do you make your writing less repetitive? You find other ways for your characters to communicate non-verbally. Other examples include – she signalled her disagreement or agreement, he acknowledged the truth, she moved her head up and down, he moved his head from side to side, he saw that she didn’t want to accompany him…