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Hello!  Thanks for stopping by!  Fiction Can Be Fun is a writing project run by David @breakerofthings and Debs @debsdespatches.

We run a writing prompt once a month to which all comers are invited to participate, we each post a piece of fiction every month, and we’re the originators of #secondthoughts. #secondthoughts are reflections on writing, responses to writing and…well, take a look and you’ll see!

If you’d like to find out more/get involved, please do take a look at the About page.  Or you can send us a message via the Contact page or our Twitter handles (above).

Our regular schedule

1st Sunday #FF Prompt – submission deadline the Friday following @ 2 pm GMT
(or use our #TortoiseFlashFiction page if the deadline is too tight)

2nd Sunday An original short story from Debs

3rd Sunday A #SecondThoughts piece from David or Debs
(except for those occasions when we’ve been able to persuade a guest to write one for us!)

4th Sunday The next edition of David’s 2019 Writing Experiment

5th Sunday On the occasion when these occur, we love to host a guest post, so do get in touch if you could be interested.

#Secondthoughts : Raised Expectations

When something is hyped, is that the kiss of death for you?

Something happened recently which made me ponder a while on this subject. For one reason or another, more time than usual has been spent chez nous, resulting in much catching up on TV box sets, a fair bit of reading, a whole slew of YouTubes and the odd film. One of those films has caused many a friend to spout superlatives so, when Himself unveiled it, my mood took a little lift. Sadly, that didn’t last long. I’ll return later to the who and the why, but first I’d like to take a look at the subject of raised expectations as a whole.

Where books are concerned, I feel I’m generally pretty good at managing my expectations, because I’m well used to not liking the same books as most of the people I know. That said, I have to admit having recently written a couple of reviews where I’ve admitted being disappointed … following high expectations. Two which fell into this category – where I was the only guilty party in the expectation raising – were Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage & C J Samson’s Tombland. I’m a big fan of Murakami and just love his crazy style and I’ve found every one of Samson’s Shardlake books to date a real treat. Yet both, somehow, lacked. Could it be that – in both cases – I’d spent too much time in anticipation, something neither could really live up to?

Live events are another area where there can be hype and expectations. Not a fan of football, I’ve nevertheless had excellent experiences on the only occasions I’ve attended live games. Manchester United featured in both, so you could posit that the play wasn’t at all shabby, or was it that I found much to praise about the experience because I went expecting so little?

Therefore, I have to ask, is disappointment a foregone conclusion when expectations are raised? Not always it seems. I caught up with modern classics All Quiet on the Western Front and Things Fall Apart absolutely eons after everyone else.  Yet both totally & utterly blew me away.

On then to The Greatest Showman – where Hugh Jackman plays the great P T Barnum. A successful stage musical, now transferred to celluloid, this is the film which trigged my train of thought. Multiple friends professed their love for it, posted about attending the cinema multiple times to watch it, to have purchased the soundtrack for repeated listening … yet I found it entirely forgettable. And I consider myself a fan of musicals.

So, what was wrong with it? Leaving aside the fact the film did nothing to develop the stage show visually (by which I mean that the scenes still looked like theatre sets) the songs were unremarkable, as were the singers, and the choreography was simply frantic. Worse, the story was pure hokum. Whilst I don’t object to some bending of the truth, this played fast & loose with the true story, was utterly laden with trite tropes and filled with plot holes. I’m sure the aim was for it to be fluffy, feel-good, family entertainment – so perhaps as a 60-something wannabe writer, I’m not the target audience.

Still, I’m glad I’ve seen it. It reminded me that taste is very personal and to trust reviews only from those I know share mine. I’ve given considerable thought to whether I’d have enjoyed it without having my expectations raised … and the answer is still no. But it would probably be true to say that I wouldn’t have felt so deeply disappointed.


© Debra Carey, 2019

My mother’s home

There’s a muffled sound, rhythmic and regular, but I’m still in that land between sleep and awake. There’s also a light breeze drifting over my left cheek, my left shoulder, my left arm. My eyes open and close, just a crack, but enough to allow a faint glow of light to enter. The light is bright, but with a covering of haze. I close my eyes and turn over, turning my back to it. That light breeze drifts over my right cheek, shoulder and arm instead. But the light is fighting its way in and forcing my eyes to open more and close less.

I’m lying in a small iron bed right under an overhead fan. Ah, that’s the source of the muffled sound and the light breeze. But what of that light? When I turn again and open my eyes for a few seconds, I see that white wooden shutters are still covering the windows. Slowly, I roll onto my back and open my eyes once more. This time I see that small upper windows are uncovered. They are high, very high when you are only 10 years old and still lying in bed. But the sunlight is streaming in through them from two sides of the room. The light is coming into the room in what looks like beams – the sun is highlighting the dust in the air. I’m not at home, I’m in Shirlyn – in the house where my mother grew up, in the big upstairs bedroom.

Lying there is bed, covered with a sheet and a light blanket, all is peaceful. I watch the hazy light, the dancing dust which is whirled around by the air of the overhead fan as they mix. I become aware of the sound of my parents in the upstairs sitting room. They are probably having coffee waiting for my sister, or me, to wake, before we go downstairs to breakfast. My sister is still breathing regularly, as is my grandmother in her big bed behind me. My grandfather will have been up for some time and will probably already be at work. He will be back later to join us for breakfast, – he always is. I leave my parents to enjoy the early morning alone together. I know they are talking – I can hear the low hum of their voices through the huge tall wooden double doors – but I can’t hear what they’re saying.

So, I lie there and drift …


© Debra Carey, 2019

#Flashfiction: Fingerprints

The prompt:  Imagine one morning you woke up and your fingerprints weren’t your own anymore. Why not? What happens next?


Steve woke up slowly, one bit at a time.  Outside his window, a blackbird was singing its little heart out.  Normally Steve loved this achingly beautiful start to the day, but after the night just gone, it was his head that was aching, and not in a beautiful way.  Whilst his ears were most certainly awake, his eyes were categorically on strike and his brain was trying to pull a pillow over itself and was pretenfing not to be in.  He didn’t have the energy to actually pull the pillow over his head though.  A foot, the one sticking out from under the covers and decidedly chilly, twitched.

He was clearly not going to be able to get back to sleep, and given the bright sunlight streaming through the gap in the curtains, it was clearly later than he would normally get up.

With an exhalation that was part sigh and part grunt, he pulled his face away from the pillow: this was easier said than done because his sleep-drool was in the process of setting like superglue.  In the same motion he reached out, grabbed his phone and flicked it open.  Back in the day, he’d used to carry a zippo lighter, not beacuse he smoked, but beacause it had been useful to have one on him, and he’d learned the trick of opening the lighter and sparking it, so that it seemed to be alight as it opened: a neat little optical illusion that had impressed more than one girl.  Back in the day.  These days, he didn’t bother too much with the lighter, but he’d translated the skill to his phone, sort of.  The cover flicked open and his thumb sought the fingerprint scanner.  Nothing.  It was a good trick, but the scanner could be flakey.  He tried again.  Still nothing.  Another deep sigh and he unlocked the phone with the passcode instead.  There might be some follow up from the operation of the night before, thhe one that had required three fingers of bourbon before he crawled into bed at 3.37 am.  Nothing.  He could afford to take it slow. There’d be a de-briefing in the afternoon, no doubt.

He looked down at his fingertips and recalled the time when some joker had tried to remove them.  They didn’t look unsual.  They weren’t even clogged with adhesive as sometimes happened.

Shower.

Half dressed.

Coffee.

Toast.

Finish dressing.

Shoes…in need of polishing.

Curse.

Polish shoes.  Not a proper polish of course, but a quick wipe with a damp cloth and then the liquid stuff with a sponge on the end of the bottle that he kept for emergencies.

Check the phone again.  Curious, it’s still not opening to the thumb applied to the reader.

An hour later and Steve was parking in the underground garage.  Two minutes after that he is at the Security Checkpoint, and the first real misgivings start – the hand applied to the never-fails, impossible-for-it-to-go-wrong scannerhas tripped a red-warning light. The man on the desk invites him to have another go, and the same thing happens again. Not good.

“If you’ll step into the office, sir, we’ll try the retina scan.  A bit old fashioned, bit it does the job, sir.”  In speech, the man has the mannerisms of that funny old man from the old TV show about the Home Guard and Steve is almost surprised that he has not said “Don’t Panic”.  In looks, he somewhere between an old teacher of Steve’s, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The mixture of too many large white teeth in an overly tanned face, balding with a fringe of startlingly jet-black hair has always seemed comic to Steve.  Until today.

A thin sheen of sweat formed on his brow.  He ran the fingers and palm of one hand together, and this too appeared to be slick with fear.   He bent forward and placed his eye to the proffered reader.  This too flashed a red warning.

“I’m sorry, sir” the Security man seems to be genuinely apologetic as he handcuffs Steve and presses the button for the guard to come and take him away.  “I’m sure it’s just a mistake sir, easily sorted.  Don’t panic!”

©David Jesson, 2019


 

Rowena had been having one of those mornings. Despite waking up before her alarm went off, somehow everything seemed to have gone wrong.

She was clutching her third mug of coffee, having spilt the first two. The first had gone all over her bed, forcing her to rip off the sheets to save spoiling her mattress. The second had gone all over the kitchen floor, but she’d only had time for a cursory mop up, so she didn’t slip and fall. To top it all, she’d have to drop into the cleaners on her way to work and shell out for their expensive same day service on her duvet – it was her only one and it was way too cold to go without.

An important part of Rowena’s morning routine was a leisurely hot shower and hair wash. But this morning, she’d dropped her soap and her shampoo innumerable times, forcing her to slow down even more, as she was afraid the bath surface had become extra slippery and she’d fall. The last time that happened, it had been spectacular. She’d managed to do a complete flip over and end up spreadeagled on the bathroom floor, missing – more by luck than judgement – both the toilet and the basin. Still, there’d been some very colourful bruising and more than one or two aching muscles for a week after.

Despite needing to get dressed while having breakfast so she’d make up some time, Rowena hadn’t dared do so in case she spilt that third mug. So she’d forced herself to sit down at the kitchen counter while eating her granola and yoghurt. Her coffee being still too hot to drink, she’d grabbed her phone out of her handbag, and promptly spilt the contents all over the floor.

Having managed to hold back tears, Rowena had shovelled the spilled items back into her bag. Unfortunately, her ID card slipped under the cupboard unoticed. Before she’d a chance to go through the contents carefully as she’d planned to do, she was distracted by the fact that her phone wasn’t opening in its usual manner. No matter how many times she’d pressed her thumb against the button, it wasn’t budging, and now it was demanding her passcode. That had caused the tears to flow. It was a new phone and she’d taken the risk to go without insurance. Had one of those mugs of coffee splashed it?

Tears done, Rowena’d stopped to take a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm down. Remembering her passcode, her relief when it worked almost caused the tears to return. Deciding against that third mug of coffee, Rowena’d focussed on dressing for work. Suited and booted, make-up carefully applied to hide the blotchy complextion from the morning’s tears, she’d stopped for a moment in the kitchen. Lucky she had – for that’s when she’d caught sight of her ID card.

Sadly for Rowena, there’d be more mornings like this one; so many it’d caused her to doubt her sanity. She’d see a doctor who, after running a battery of tests to no avail, suggested she see “someone”.  Nothing had helped, nothing that is, until the night she’d sat drinking in a bar. Drinking till she was so drunk, she’d fallen over and been arrested.

Then it had started to make sense. Well, to Rowena anyway, although everyone looked at her as if she were a specimen in a jar … for someone else’s fingerprints had been grafted over her own. They still didn’t know why, but now Rowena understood how come her fingers had felt like strangers.

And they’d promised to remove the strangers, so she could have her own back. Not yet, but someday soon.

© Debra Carey, 2019


You can find a characteristically macabre take on the prompt by Stuart Nager over at Tale Spinning…

 

 

 

#Flashfiction: Fingerprints

fingerprinting
Image courtesy of joshsdh
on Flickr

 

 

 


Imagine one morning you woke up and your fingerprints weren’t your own anymore. Why not? What happens next?

Word count: no more than 1,000 words
Deadline is 2pm GMT, on 10th May 2019

Don’t forgot, if you miss the deadline, you can always post your story to our #TortoiseFlashFiction page


Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

Experimental Writing: Part 4

Enfys?  Eirian?  They both seemed a little too obscure – they were bound to attract the wrong sort of attention.  Meredith was perfect though – the subroutine was doing good work, although it was clear that care was needed if it wasn’t to develop a personality…more information was needed though and time was of the essence.  The sub-routine was given a metaphorical pat on the head and set back to work.  Yes, there – an electronic wagging tail.  Meredith sighed.

Meredith sighed, but immediately decided that this was out of character: a Meredith should be happy, optimistic, light-hearted.  In a word: merry.  Of course this wasn’t the proper translation of the name, but that didn’t really matter.  How many Meredith’s these days had anything to do with sea or were lords?  But a nickame – all this information had been supplied with the sub-routine’s analysis – such as Merry was very much in keeping, and when translated into grzzt, it wasn’t  million miles from the alien’s own nickname – although that was very much meant in a pejorative sense where it came from.  So it goes.

*****

It was a little after 8 am when Meredith found itself on the outskirts of Llangynidr.  First order of business, find some local currency.   Meredith gave a slight start of surprise when it realised that there was only one cashpoint local to where he was.  This was located at Walnut Tree Stores, which was described as a corner shop.  Clearly this must be some local idiom however, because when it had been located, Meredith found it halfway along the positively rural Coed-yr-Ynys Road.  Thankfully they opened early, and there were even a few cars in the car park, suggesting that there were a few people in there.  Meredith drifted in.  The helpful sub-routine provided a reference picture of the  cashpoint terminal and Meredith spotted it tucked in a corner next to the rack of magazines.

Casually, an arm slipped through one strap and the backpack was pulled round to the front for a quick rummage, which brought forth a wallet.  If anybody had been close enough, they would have just seen a credit card, which was slipped into the machine.  Thirty seconds later and Meredith had complete control of the cashpoint.  It would have been easy just to eviscerate the machine, taking every note that it contained, but the easy course of action would lead to problems sooner or later.  Pursuit problems.  Being remembered problems.  The card was spat back out, and £300 pounds popped out of the machine in a mix of tens and twenties seconds later.  What was left behind was an active programme that was covering Meredith’s tracks – it wouldn’t do for a discrepancy to be noted, so the programme would work its way back into a bank’s database and create a brand new account.  Good enough for the time being.

The card and the money went back into the wallet, save for one £10 note.  The alien navigated the shelves carefully, picking up a fizzy drink, some chocolate bars and something that the wrapper said was a pasty, whatever that was.  On the way to the till, the sub-routine popped its virtual head up again and pointed out something called a ‘pack of cards’,  apparently it had noted something useful, for which a pack of cards might come in handy.

“Bore da!  Will that be everything then?”

“Bore da.” The speech synthesiser managed to match the accent exactly.  “Er, yes, I think so…Oh I’ll just have this as well, diolch.”  A packet of chewing gum, from a rack by the till, was added.

“Very good then.  Do you need a bag with that?  Only I’ll have to charge 5p for that you know.”

“No, don’t fuss yourself, it’ll all go in here.”  The tenner was handed over and whilst it was rung up and change made, the backpack was once again swung round and the goods went into the bag.  A few coins were handed back and Meredith made a pretence of casually checking the change, without overdoing it so much that it caused offence, he selected a small coin and dropped it into the collecting box for the air ambulance that sat on the counter.

“Diolch!”

“Lawn!”

“Bore da!”

“Bore da!” Meredith said over one shoulder whilst walking to the exit.

*****

Meredith stopped for a moment outside as if checking the bag was closed properly.  In reality the AI was providing an update. Llangynidr was small and there was no cafe.  A 6 km or so walk was required to get to the nearest one.  The bus timings were irregular and unhelpful.  Meredith sighed and set out for Crickhowell.  Coffee seemed to be important on Earth, and it would seem to be a good place for a base for a least a couple of hours…and free wi-fi!  Sold!

*****

As Meredith walked along the streets, it didn’t notice that CCTV cameras were turning to follow it…

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.  So for example, you’ve helped me to decide that the story is science fiction, our protagonist, who is a rogue with a dash of ranger,  is an alien, but the story is set on Earth.  Right…what next?

Option 1: Coffee!

Option 2: Random encounter on the road.

Option 3: Coffee rudely interrupted!

Also, the sub-routine seems to be developing its own personality.  Any suggestions for a name?

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Numbers IV and V

They’d never been able to explain it – your parents that is – why you have the roman numeral IV on the back of your hand. It seems they’d tried everything too, taking you to doctors, psychologists, even a psychic, before eventually realising it was something they’d need to accept if you were going to. They’d done a good job of implementing that decision too, for it’d never bothered you. Sure you’d been a little curious, but that was it.

Until the day you’d spotted him that is. OK, not so much him, but the roman numeral V on the back of his hand. You’d tried to engage with him, but there’d been a queue and both he and the people waiting in line were seriously unhappy; some even started yelling abuse, so you’d taken your coffee over to the corner, and sat there watching him work.

Now the morning rush was over and you were still there. Why hadn’t you rushed back to talk to him? Well, because what on earth were you going to say? “Cute tattoo!” “Is it a tattoo?” “Were you born with it?” Or the question you discover to your surprise is the one you really want to ask “Do you know what it means?”

Problem is, you’re not sure what you’d like the answer to your question to be. If he says “yes” do you want to know? I mean, what if it’s something awful – I dunno, like that’s the order in which the city make sacrifices should one ever be demanded. OK, that’s a tad extreme, but you know what I mean. And if he says “no”, what then? Perhaps he’ll be all “so what?” about it, and you’ll have to slink away feeling like a real dork … and he’s pretty cute, truth be told. But if he’s curious, do you want to join him in some big old quest to find out? I mean, yes, he’s cute ‘n all, but what if it turns out to be dangerous? There’s just too darn many questions – and you don’t have the answers.

In all honesty, you were beginning to wish you had some sort of magic wand and you could chose to go back to your days of ignorant bliss.


© Debra Carey, 2019

#FlashFiction – Enough

The man slumped against a tree, propping himself up, preventing a slide to the ground.  Bone weary, he looked back down the hill, peering through the trees.  He was almost too tired to strain his ears: where were his pursuers?  Enough was enough, he could do no more.  He caught the sound of water tumbling over stones, away to the left.  More than a rill, less than a river: exhausted, he filled his canteen, drained it, filled it again.  The toddler in the papoose stirred but did not cry out. With new hope, new strength, he continued with their escape.

© David Jesson, 2019

 


“I’m done” Jess spoke quietly.
“But you said …”
“I would give it 6 months – yes. But you were only prepared to give it 6 weeks. That told me all I needed to know about your level of commitment.  I’ve tried, I’ve worked hard – really hard – and now you think … No, no more. I’ve done enough, I’ve given enough. And you haven’t.”
“But …” Tim’s voice cracked.
“It’s time you left Tim. I’ve changed the locks and booked movers for your stuff. It goes into storage unless you give them a new address by Friday. Goodbye.”

© Debra Carey, 2019

 


Her ma loved her, but born with a voice of crow-song, Naomi roams the forest alone, eating as she can and cawing her plaint. A fine young knight home victorious from the Holy Land hunts each dawn, his aim ever true until a harsh song causes his arrow to fly wild. It punctures Naomi’s throat and, salt tears spilling, he removes the barb and salves her wound with a kiss. The lovely lass arises to speak with human voice, and he vows his eternal love. Is love enough? How she yearns to fly off and rob a sparrow nest.

© Cecily Winter, 2019
www.cecilywinter.com