Within the pages of “Days Pass like a Shadow” are thirteen dark tales covering the theme of death and loss. At the centre of every story is a beating heart. For the reader to make the journey to that centre, along the flowing veins of the words, all they need is a few minutes during a lunch break, or at the end of the day. The reader will be introduced to a rich and diverse collection of characters – a gardener, a serial killer, a time traveller, a sleepwalker and many more.
“On the Streets of Kabul”, which is set in Afghanistan, a soldier faces a life-threatening situation while searching for his missing comrade and childhood friend among the narrow alleys. “Perfect Justice” finds a secretary planning a murder. “Shelved” takes a reader into the unusual librarian’s office, while “Burning the Midnight Oil” has a son uncovering the truth about his dying mother. So put your feet up, relax with a cup, or glass of your favourite beverage and let’s begin with “The Meetings”…
Also included in the collection is the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival/ Writing Magazine overall winning short story, Roofscapes. Roofscapeswas the inspiration for my novel Stone Angelswhichis now available to preorder on Amazon. Here’s the link, Stone Angels
In 2011 I entered a writing competition run by Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and the Writing Magazine. It’s prize was a Weekend Break Package for two, at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate for 3 nights. Two weekend rover tickets for access to all the festival events. To enter the competition, you had to write a short crime story (maximum of 1,800 words) with the theme Ten. The winning entry would be judge by the bestselling and internationally renowned crime writer Mark Billingham. I wrote a story, about an artist’s and his ten paintings, called Roofscapes, in time for its closing date 27th January 2012. The final winner was to be announced in the April.
My husband and I had arrived home from the Whitby Goth Festival on the 30th April. Just before going to bed I decided to check my email. To my amazement, I found one that said my entry Roofscapes was the overall winner. I was left stunned. My story was then published the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival site online and in the Writing Magazine. Roofscapes remained on the site until 2019.
For two years, I handed out my business card with details about where Roofscapes could be read online. I received an email in November 2012 from the one of the organisers of Crime Writing Festival to say my story had created some great interactivity on their website. Many of the readers asked when was I going to turn Roofscapes into a novel. To begin with, I couldn’t see how it would be possible, so I just forgot about it and focused on writing a sci-fi novel. When The Phoenix Hour suffered a few rejections, one being told by an editor that no woman would want to read my novel because of its subject matter, I decided to give up on sci-fi and try writing a crime novel instead.
So began the birth of Stone Angels. To start with I knew I couldn’t lengthen my story, that I needed to write the novel from a different point of view. While driving up to Whitby for the Goth Festival, I started thinking outside the box, and came up with an idea to tell the novel from the artist’s point of view. Most crime novels are either told from the victim’s or the police’s point of view, very few from the killer’s.
After many rejections, rewrites, and edits Stone Angels has now found a publisher in Darkstroke and will be available to read on the 11th August 2020. It has been a long journey, but I would gladly do it again.
Supply and Demand. If there’s a market and you have what it needs then you’re one step ahead. Hmm, but how do you know whether you have what the market needs. This is when you need to create a new need. The market must want what you have on offer.
Take the gamble. Does the market need another crime writer? Does the market need more books or authors? We’re back to the question about supply and demand. I think it’s about points of view. Readers are always looking for something new. When a writing style becomes familiar to them, and they can guess where the author is taking them, then this is when they begin to look around for a new writer. I know, as a reader this is what I did. Remember, there’s something intimate about the relationship between a reader and an author.
It’s exciting when you first meet. There’s that hook in those first few words, you share. You realise there’s a vibe that won’t let go, just another sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, then you must really break it off, until the next time you can have a few stolen moments. ‘Don’t worry, I will return, and pick up where we left off.’ You love the flow of their words. Their style. You get them, you feel safe as they carry you along on a journey of discovery. You can’t wait for the next rendezvous. Will it be as good as the last? You pre-order your next encounter. You count down the month, the weeks, the days… then the book arrives.
You plan everything for that intimate moment together. Soft light, wine, uninterrupted time. Just their words, your fingers caressing the pages. Your heart racing as the journey begins. Line by line, emotions in free fall. As you climb the peaks of tension and smoothly descend. A knot grows in your stomach as you will them to keep the flow and and excitement going to the very end. Then horrors of horrors, it’s all over. You toss the book aside as you are left unfulfilled. The magic is over! You’re disappointed and begin to look around for a new relationship. That’s when a new author can give the reader the excitement of something new, something undiscovered.
But… Yes, there’s always a but. It is the gamble of not knowing whether your book is going to find it place in a crowded market, full of other shiny new authors all wanting that intimate relationship with a reader. This is the area I’m going to have to step into and rise above. I’m in a good position as I already have a crime novella out there. The Funeral Birds was published by Demain Publishing in February. All signs are looking good as far as selling and reviews are going. The novella is like a taster to my future readers, as I’m not asking them to invest a huge amount of their time into reading a novel. So far the reviewers of The Funeral Birds all are in agreement that I need to write a novel using the same characters as in the novella.
So now, I have two problems. First, my new crime novel Stone Angels isn’t like The Funeral Birds as it is a much darker novel told from a serial killer’s point of view. The Funeral Birds is a dark humorous crime novella about a failing investigation agency, a witch, and a pair of nest owls in a ruined church.
Oh and before I forget, my second problem is the Dave and Joan book isn’t written yet. That’s what happens when the unexpected catches you off guard. I do hope you will keep me company as I tackle the next apart of my writing journey.
Yes, you did read that right. No, not a brand of soap powder, or coffee, not even a type of trainers, but in this age of commodities, I must become a recognisable brand to stand out from the crowd. On seeing my name hopefully, a reader will automatically know what type of story they are getting.
Think of all the other well-known writers and you know what type of book you’ll be reading. King, Austin, Rendell, Dickens, Poe etc. This is clever marketing. Just hearing their surnames, you know what type of book you will be reading. Horror, Historical Romance, Crime, Social History, Dark Mystery.
When I first started writing back in 2002 I was very much aware of who I wanted to be as a writer. I knew that I had to be sure of what sort of books/stories I wanted to be known for, as once I became an established writer it would be difficult to change direction once you’ve built a readership. As a reader, I couldn’t imagine King writing romance or Austin writing horror.
In serving my apprenticeship, I’ve written a wide range of short stories. By doing so I’ve found out what I’ve enjoyed writing the most as well as building a backlog of work. Once you have found your writer’s voice it is hard to lose it. Having always been drawn to mysteries in my reading tastes, though crime and some horror have always appealed to me, too. I’ve always read a wide range of books, if the story has appealed to me.
I learnt a lot from my dear friend, Ivy Lord, aka Maggie Ford. Ivy writes romance and family sagas, set in the East End of London where she grew up during the war years. Some of her novels were set in the 1920’s an era she loved. The one thing she always said she would have loved to have written was a crime novel, but was told by her publishers that her readers wouldn’t expect that kind of book from her, so never had the opportunity, too.
When I first started to submit my work, I did try writing for People’s Friend Magazine and other women’s magazines as I built up a body of published work. Though I received positive feedback from them, they never accepted any of my work. In a way I’m glad that my writing style didn’t fit their market as I wouldn’t have been true to myself.
In June last year, I discovered my true calling. As you can see it has been a long journey, to reach my final destination. I always knew what I wanted to write, not quite horror but enough for readers to question my sanity. Too often when I tell people, I write they assume by looking at me I write romance.
I have cultivated an image, too. My sort of trade mark, my brand, ready for the next stage in my writing career. My image is Gothic to portray my dark side. I know Anne Rice of the Vampire novels cultivated her dress style, while doing book signing as she often wore a black silk wedding dress.
Of course, you have to be very careful when choosing an image or brand for yourself. Remember to choose something you can live with for a long time, and you can adapt to grow with you. Just remember what ageing rock stars look like as they try to keep their teenage looks alive in their seventies and beyond.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas to think about as we set out on this journey together. Have a great day, and keep writing.
It seems almost impossible to believe at the beginning of the year I had shelved my novel, Stone Angels and was busy focusing on other things. I hadn’t given up on my novel, I was just giving myself a little head space. There is only so many rejections you can deal with at one time. Once you have put in enough hours of editing, rewriting and re-reading your manuscript there’s only one option left open to you and that is to set it aside, and give yourself and it space to breathe and settle.
Focusing on new projects has help me to develop my editing skills. For the last few weeks I have been busy editing my novel with fresh eyes as I work with the publishers who has taken on Stone Angels.
Darkstroke are busy working hard to get Stone Angels ready for a pre-launch date. So I shall be keeping you up to date with the next stage. It has been long journey for my novel, but we are nowhere near the end of it. The next stage is marketing. This is where the hard work really begins. I hope you can join me and we can travel the route together. Sharing tears and anxieties as we pick our way through the minefield of marketing. I hope you will all join me in my next big adventure and that is to market my novel and drive it up the bestseller list. 📚
Remember to keep your dreams alive. There only one thing standing between you and success. That’s You! Oh, and finding enough buyers. Right, now I’m off to finish editing my novel.
One area of writing any new writer doesn’t think about when setting off on their writing journey are reviews. Reviews can be both heart warming and soul destroying. Of course, reviews are only a reader’s personal opinion, and that’s down to their personal taste in reading matter.
I find reviews interesting from a reader’s point of view. When I’m selecting a book to read I often check the reviews out of interest. Why? To start with, if the book has intrigued me enough in its blurb then I’m not going to be put off reading it. It’s mainly if I’m a little unsure if the book is the right one for me. I tend to look at the middle ratings.i.e fours and threes. I enjoy reading the most honest constructive reviews. Where the reader lists their likes and dislikes of the plot, characters etc. Whether they found the story engaging and had a satisfying ending without giving too much of the plot away.
My novella has received some wonderful and amazing Amazon reviews these have inspired me and boosted my confidence. When you set out on your writing journey you learn to grow a thick skin and become used to receiving rejections for your work, without much in the way of feedback.
Last week I received an amazing review from Sci-fi and Fantasy Reviewer for my novella, The Funeral Birds. This review was totally unexpected and I must be honest, it left me speechless. I had to read it three times and some more to make sure I had read it right. It certainly made up for all the rejection letters and emails I had received in all the years I’ve been writing. I just hope my crime novel Stone Angels is just as well received.
The most important thing any writer must take from reviews whether they are good or bad… Yes, I’m sure I will receive some of them, too now I’m a published author. Is that reviews are just for that one book, not for all your work. Reviews are down to the reader’s personal taste and every reader is different. As a good writer you must have read a good many books you didn’t like for whatever reason.
After days of being locked in my writing dungeon busy editing, I’m taking the day off and spending a few hours in my garden. I feel I need this to clear my mind and give my eyes a break too. The weather is supposed to be warming up next week here in England. We’ve had a few very cold nights and days which has held back the growth of my vegetables. I’ve planted potatoes, beans, butternuts out already and they’ve been undercover. I have more to go in, but held back in case I lost the ones in the garden to the frost. These have been growing in my kitchen. I’ve noticed too some of the trees and shrubs have shed some of their leaves as my patio is littered with leaves. In my cold frame, I’ve been growing tomato plants and they are doing very well.
The rest of my garden especially the flower borders now need tidying. As the spring bulbs have finished flowering and shrubs have put on growth which needs to be kept in check otherwise they will smother the other plants. Gardening is like editing. You begin to recognise good gardening from lazy gardening. With good gardening you know that cutting back and taking out the dead wood allows the real beauty to shine through. The hard work in the beginning gives the best results in the end. By doing the hard work in the autumn and before winter sets in improves the garden and creates less work in the future, but the real key to success is keeping it all in check. As one season finishes a quick tidy throughout keeps everything under control.
Like editing, gardening is about cutting back and making space for the good stuff. A visitor to my garden may comment on its beauty but they don’t see the real work that has gone into it with all the planning and the pruning. That’s the same with your editing. Readers will only see the end result.
After being so busy with editing my single collection and my crime novel I’d forgotten all about my Dark Moment, You Came To Me which can be read on the Black Hare Press site Dark Moments. These stories are drabbles. If you have time please check out mine. Right, now I’m off for a day pruning. Hmm, not much difference between yesterday’s editing 😂🤣 Have a wonderful day all.
Allison Symes shares her Facebook author page blogs, her website posts and Chandler's Ford Today magazine articles with links. She also blogs about her writing journey and shares thoughts and hints on flash fiction.