Featured

Welcome

Hello! Thanks for stopping by!

Advertisements

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 – Book Awards

I spotted a comment that recent Hugo awards were not such rich pickings for a particular reader as in the past. Not being a regular reader of science fiction or fantasy, I didn’t feel able to comment, as all I could offer was the fact one of my oft recommended reads To Say Nothing of the Dog was a past winner.

My own previous go-to book award as a reader was the Booker, but I started to fall out of love when it was opened up to writers from the USA, thus limiting the offerings from commonwealth countries – and as a child of the commonwealth, those are the types of books I am especially drawn to. I’ve cast about a bit for a replacement and – this year – thought I’d struck lucky when realising a number of the books I’d been earmarking on my “want to read” list were candidates for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. But, whilst a good read, I wasn’t blown away by the winner – An American Marriage. The only other shortlisted candidate I’ve read so far – My Sister the Serial Killer – was a decidedly enjoyable read, but I wasn’t blown away … and I’m generally blown away by Bookers. Indeed, I may judge Booker candidates more harshly than most for that very reason.

I’ve not found the Pulitzer a good hunting ground either. Donna Tartt’s first two books are among my favourite reads ever but The Goldfinch was a massive disappointment; I’ve hugely admired the works of Elizabeth Strout but Olive Kitteridge wasn’t amongst them. Interpreter of Maladies and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay were both enjoyable reads, but neither gained 4 stars from me – and without a 4th (or 5th) star, I remain in the not blown away camp.

So I empathised with the person making that comment, for I could see that it came from a place of loss. As a reader, it’s great finding an author you love, knowing that there’s years of joy to come from future works (or a backlist if you’re late to the party). It’s even better having a regular source of new books (and potentially new authors) that are right up your street – and book awards can be one such source. Until they change, that is …

When I last bemoaned the changes in the Booker, a blogging friend pointed out the dearth of awards for non-literary works – children’s literature in particular – and there is no doubt that literary fiction is better served. Still, I am left wondering about the value of book awards for the reader.

As a writer, there is no doubt that winning awards not only increases your profile, but also your sales. Increased sales can be measured from the moment a book appears on a longlist, and candidates progressing to a shortlist see a further uplift. Previously unknown authors, unsurprisingly, benefit the most. For more facts and figures on this subject, here’s a post I wrote elsewhere on the subject.

As a writer, who doesn’t dream of their first published work being considered for an award? Actually, who am I kidding, who doesn’t dream about any of their published works being considered for an award? We all do – and we’d be foolish not to.

But is it possible that readers are turning elsewhere for new sources of inspiration rather than book awards? Are celebrity book clubs such as Oprah, Richard & Judy and Reese Witherspoon proving a more fruitful hunting ground? Are the regular reading lists released by the likes of Barack Obama and Emma Watson finding growing audiences? Is reading to a theme another way to go?

In all honesty, does it matter? Despite a number of readers being drawn to book awards for their next reads, they’re surely not in the majority, for how often does a Booker or Hugo winner top the bestseller lists? I’ve long assumed that alongside the support and acknowledgement of authors, the important factor about book awards is to elevate the sales of non-bestseller type books?

Just so long as readers keep on reading, and loving what they read … eh? Personally, I have to admit this year’s Booker shortlist is calling me again.


© Debra Carey, 2019

We nearly ran him down …

The old man crossing the road that is. I wasn’t driving fast – luckily as it turned out – for he just stepped right off the pavement in front of us, pulling his wheelie suitcase right behind him. I slammed on the brakes and my car did that cartoon thing of almost standing on it’s nose. But we didn’t hit him, or his suitcase.

He looked surprised to see us, but I thought the fact he was heading towards the old people’s home may’ve been a clue. We stayed in the car and watched his slow progress across the road, up onto the pavement on the other side. He had a fair bit of trouble with that case, so much so my boyfriend was nearly out of the car to give him a hand till a couple more old men rushed out and helped him with it, waving us on our way.

So, we did just that, we went on our way.

The local news channel ran a story a few days later. Police were investigating the copious amounts of blood found in the village reading room. The odd thing was there didn’t seem to have been any attempt made to clean it up, but there was no body to be found. Given the amount of blood, they expressed surprise there’d been no bloody footprints at the scene either. The public were asked to contact them if they had any information.

That night, I lay in bed with my boyfriend and we speculated. Had those old men and that wheelie suitcase anything to do with what had happened? He’d been right outside the reading room when he’d stepped out in the road in front of us. We speculated if the missing body had been in that suitcase and whether that’s why he’d had so much trouble getting it up onto the pavement. We pondered back and forth for a few days and finally decided it was better to say something than keep stum.

They didn’t seem to take us seriously – the police – and who could blame them? But they did follow it up – or so they said. To be honest, we forgot all about it once we’d done our civic duty.

The following summer we were at the airport, waiting for our flight – delayed due to the French traffic controllers being on strike. It was a regular occurrence, so we’d gone prepared. We were reading our books in the coffee shop when they came in – those three old men. I thought I was imagining things until I saw the look on my boyfriend’s face. We sat whispering to each other, feeling really daft. But we couldn’t help ourselves – one or other of us kept a watch on them. Until our flight was called that is, when we decided enough was enough, we were going on holiday and would forget all about it.

We duly checked in for our flight. I’d all but put it out of my mind when we passed the first class check-in area, and there they were – with their brand spanking new luxury luggage, and not a wheelie suitcase in sight.

I swear he winked at me too – the one I’d nearly run down – but I must’ve been imagining things …


© Debra Carey, 2019

Now with added Sci-Fi

Regular readers will recognise this as the story that I wrote for last month’s ‘Cluedo’ prompt – but now with added #scifi.

The Colonel lightly waxed his moustaches with 4D kinetic product, and the smart long chain polymers caused the hair to twist and curl up at the ends.  He’d been playing the role of a slightly bumptious senior officer for so long that it came as second nature these days.  He looked in the e-mirror, through habit rather than necessity.  As he knew they would be, the moustaches were perfectly even. He was more concerned that his hair seemed to be even thinner than ever, although he’d turned off the mapping function that would have confirmed this.  It might be time to start a treatment.  Either that or he should shave it all off.  He didn’t like the idea of that though, because it would show off the implant scars, which he really didn’t want to do.  At least his clear hazel eyes still held the bright alertness that had earned him his nickname all those years ago: he’d always been as keen as mustard, so Mustard is what they’d call him.

He’d had a different code name during the war of course, but that had been rarely used. Ostensibly he’d just been a junior staff officer, supporting the General Staff to the best of his humble ability – the hackneyed phrase was engrained in his mind, the number of times he’d used it in conversation over the years.  In practice his was a Security role, ensuring that no undesirables got close to the plans that were being formulated for Africa, the Middle-East, the Med, and finally France… In some respects, it was impossible to know how successful he’d been.  Who knew how many attempts had been made to access this vital information?  He’s been responsible for blocking a few agents, uncovering a few moles, but he had a lingering suspicion that there’d been someone, a ghost, who’d managed to evade him.  Had they been in the background directing the operations against him?  Or had they been actively probing the defences he’d put in place, penetrating this cordon, but ultimately unsuccessful in finding anything of use?

He gave his head a shake, as if to dislodge this thought.  Time to dress for dinner.  Things had changed since the War, no doubt about that, but Septimus Black was an old fashioned cove and he liked things to be just so.  There’d be a cocktail hour or so before dinner, and a very good dinner it would be too.  All sorts of things that were difficult to get hold of under the current legislation, like meat, were standard fare for Black.

The Colonel completed his preparations.  A vague sense of uneasiness had encroached as soon as he’d received the invitation for tonight’s dinner, and it had only got stronger as the week progressed.  Now it was a positive itching of his subconscious.  True to form, with only a few minutes before he needed to leave, he placed himself at the writing table and dashed off a note to the Chief Constable.  Colonel Gregory was an old friend and thoroughly deserving of his current appointment.  There were any number of ways that the information could have been forwarded, none were terribly secure, but the Cardinal cypher was as close to unbreakable as you could get, especially on the limited timescale available.  The Colonel rang the bell and whilst he was waiting for an answer to the summons, he withdrew a gun from the drawer of the desk.  By rights it should have been his Service blaster, but the Webley 500Z, whilst able to drop a battle-droid at 30 meters  was too big and bulky – it would have complete ruined the line of his jacket as well as being rather obvious.  Instead he slipped a slimmer Beretta Sorpresa into his jacket pocket.  This was more subtle, elegant even, if no more civilized: this was a flechette pistol, recoil-less, and capable of delivering either a single large needle at a velocity that the Webley could only dream of, or a cloud of smaller needles so fast it would make a fighter pilot’s head spin.  In for penny, in for a pound: he slipped a couple of spare ammunition clips into the opposite pocket.

Capes had come back into fashion for some reason, and his valet entered with a plain black one draped over one arm, anticipating that his Master was ready to leave.  Plain it may have been, but it could absorb the whole gamut of physical threats, however much kinetic energy they had on arrival.  The valet, as was traditional, was his former batman, not so much reprogrammed as…augmented.  The Colonel swapped the letter for the outerwear, walked down the stairs and out of the front door and into the summonsed taxi-pod.  It would be some time before he returned home.

© David Jesson, 2019



I went for a different tack to David, writing a new story. A normal one – for me – about people, life, emotions … and then added a #scifi event. That’s the great thing about prompts & writing – we all go off in our own different directions :o)

The nausea in the pit of his stomach was back – ever present at this time of year. Angus absolutely hated September, for with it came the first day back at school. An army brat, Angus had never experienced anything other than being the new boy. Everyone else had been going to the same school all their lives and knew each other. Knowing they’d soon be off again, local kids largely ignored army brats. After all, there was little point making friends – unless you were looking for a pen friend.

Lots of army families bought a house near one central base – giving wives the company and support of their peers, their children a settled run at school and the opportunity to develop friendships – while fathers travelled to ever changing postings. Angus had begged his parents to do so this time last year. His Dad had seemed to understand, but his Mum just said “maybe” and “your Dad ‘n I will think on it.”

The next day, his Dad said “sorry mate, I tried …” before heading out. Angus pursued his Mum, trying to talk about it, but she kept fobbing him off. Desperate, he locked himself in his room, refusing to come out, to eat or drink. His Mum just kept saying is “you don’t understand”. Finally, the CO’s wife visited. She’d made it clear he had to support his Mum as she was having a difficult time. Angus had no idea what she was talking about, but he was army, and when the CO or his wife spoke, you didn’t argue.

It’d been a quiet summer in the new posting. With his Dad away on exercise a lot, it was just him and his Mum. She was off doing stuff with other wives, spending evenings at the NCO’s mess, so Angus was left largely to his own devices. They’d bought him off with the promise of an X Box for Christmas but, till then, he’d been making the most of the local library. When the weather was half decent, he’d go off on hikes. The surrounding countryside was made for walking and the library was stocked full of books about local places to explore. Catching the bus with his rucksack packed for the day, Angus often didn’t get home till just before dark. His dinner on the kitchen table with instructions for warming up, he’d go to bed having spoken to no-one all day. Sometimes he’d catch himself staring at the other kids on the bus, joshing and joking amongst themselves, almost overwhelmed with loneliness.

His parents were arguing a lot. But one night it all blew up. Starting out as a low rumble, it quickly became scarily loud. Soon the neighbours were round, knocking loudly on the door. After a while, things calmed down and he heard his Mum leave with Jennie from next door.

Angus didn’t sleep much that night, so was up early the next morning. Finding his Dad’s by the front door, his stuff all packed up, he’d cried out “why’re you going back on exercise so soon Dad?”. He’d got a shrug from his Dad and a “I’m sorry son, you know it’s got nowt to do with you, don’t you?” Without the faintest what his Dad meant, Angus stood there bewildered – how could his Dad going away on exercise be anything to do with him? “Your Mum’ll come over when she sees I’ve gone – she’ll explain.” With that, he gave Angus an awkward hug and left.

It wasn’t his Mum who explained in the end, but Jennie from next door and the CO’s wife. His parents were having a trial separation. If things didn’t get better, there’d be a divorce. Hiding in his room, Angus kept away from his Mum for the rest of the day. When she went to the NCO’s mess with Jennie that evening, the CO’s wife appeared at the door – this time with a scruffy young lad by her side. She introduced him as Matt – her nephew – staying with them for the next few months. She asked Angus to take him out on a hike the next day.

While out there, they got talking. Turned out Matt’s Dad was in the army too. He’d been sent home with a serious injury, so Matt was staying with his aunt and uncle to keep him out of his Mum’s hair. Angus could see Matt was pretty cut up about it, so shared his own bad news.

Having someone in the same boat as him – in the same class – made September an easier experience. He and Matt got along pretty well as it happened. Matt was a reader and a walker too. He’d gone camping regularly with his parents, so they were soon allowed to get away on overnight camps at the weekends – so long as they’d done their homework.

As the weather turned cold, Matt’s aunt insisted their camping trips would soon have to stop so they decided on one final trip to a favourite destination where they could shelter inside a cave. Having gathered a huge amount of fallen wood their previous visit, they’d be able to keep warm and dry. Packing up their supplies, they were successful in cadging a lift from the CO’s driver so didn’t have to lug their heavy supplies too far.

The little stream which ran past the cave was useful for fresh water, but – as Matt mused out loud to Angus – it didn’t half make you go more often. Laughing, they’d gone off to their separate spots. Hearing Matt yelp, Angus assumed he’d tripped over something and chuckled, till he heard his name being called repeatedly and urgently.

Hurrying to Matt’s spot, Angus found him crouched down behind some brush. “What’s going on?” his voice sounding more high pitched than he’d like for, while they both carried mobile phones, the signal wasn’t always that great near the cave. Matt pointed into the darkening distance. Angus could make out some lights – pulsing regularly on and off. But they were white, rather than blue or red – so, not emergency vehicles then.

“What is it?” he hissed.
“Dunno. It came in over my head, ‘n made me jump …” Matt pointed to a wet patch on his lower leg.
“Eew!”
“Yeah I know, but … what should we do?”
“Hide? Call home? I dunno, what d’you think?”
“Shall we get closer and try to take a look?”
“Is there an exercise going on?” With his Dad living in baracks, Angus had no idea when exercises were scheduled.
Matt shook his head “Nothing planned, although could be one of those snap inspection thingies.”

They retired to the cave and stoked up their fire, agreeing to take turns to keep it going. If there was an exercise – for what else could it be – that would ensure they were seen and be safe. Neither slept well, to be honest, so when dawn arrived, they ventured out to the brush for a look see. There seemed to be a fair bit of activity in the distance. They still couldn’t see much, but they could hear the sound of vehicles and people moving around.

Agreeing it must be one of the snap exercises the army is so fond of, they returned to the cave for breakfast. When it was properly light, they took their day packs and headed off to investigate, being careful to stay in clear sight. Striding along the path, chatting quite loudly to each other, they found their path blocked by a couple of guys in NBC suits as they rounded a corner. Stopping and holding up their hands, they expected masks to be ripped off and a bollocking to follow. Except, it didn’t. Gesticulating with their weapons, the like of which neither boy had seen before, they were frogmarched into a clearing.

In the clearing were loads more men in NBC* suits, all rushing about. Several turned and looked at the boys, making Angus wonder if one was his Dad – with those suits on, you couldn’t recognise anyone. Passing a bunch of strange looking vehicles, Angus realised why they were so odd – none seemed to have wheels. Exchanging decidedly worried looks, they were dragging their heels now, Angus admitting to himself he was actively hoping to face an angry Colour Sergeant, even a furious CO.

Pushed right into the centre of the clearing where there was a veritable blur of activity, they saw brush and branches dragged and heaped up over a large … something-or-the-other. On and on they were pushed towards the something-or-the-other, through an opening to face lights so bright they were blinded. Shading their eyes with their hands, they were pushed through a doorway, and pressed face-down onto separate bunks. As Angus tried to turn, he became aware of a prick in his thigh and … the world went dark.

When Angus came to, the lights had been muted. He saw Matt stirring and swung his legs over the side of his bunk to walk across. An ear splitting alarm shrieked out, not stopping till he lifted his feet clear of the floor. Matt, now fully awake, Angus warned him the floor was alarmed. Both boys started fidgeting. “Need to go?” asked Angus, Matt nodded. The door opened, an NBC suited man walked in and handed each some sort of bottle-like receptacle, gesticulating how they should be used. The man waited till they had, then took both away.

When either spoke a need out loud, they were met by a wordless NBC suited man. No explanations, no questions. Just silence. At what seemed the end of a day according to their watches – two men entered. Folowing a brief prick to the thigh … darkness. This happened for three days. On the fourth day, having finished eating, their NBC suited visitor was collecting their plates and glasses, when – much to their surprise – he dropped everything and ran. “What’s going on?” Angus exclaimed just as Matt – nearest the door – asked “Was that gunfire?” Deciding the safest thing to do was lie flat on their bunks, the boys waited.

They heard a lot of noise outside but, it being muffled, they couldn’t make head nor tail of what was going on. Both hoped it would lead to their release – but from what and who exactly – they’d no idea. Eventually, the door started to glow as a small opening was cut. It seemed like an interminable wait till the hole was pushed through, setting off that ear splitting alarm. “Now” yelled Angus, and they rang for it, climbing rapidly through the hole.

The CO and Angus’s Dad were in the group of armed men waiting on the other side. The boys were whisked away in an armoured Land Rover, spending the next week in the Medical Centre, being poked, prodded, having blood taken and multiple x-rays. In between all the medical activity, they were asked a lot of questions by the CO.

It rapidly became clear that although they were curious and had seen some stuff, they didn’t know what it was. He told them very seriously that everything they’d seen was Secret. They’d have to sign The Official Secrets Act and couldn’t talk about it – to anyone. Not even to their parents.

“Was it a flying saucer?” Matt asked cautiously.
”Is that what you saw?” replied the CO.
Matt nodded “When it first flew over.”
The CO looked enquiringly at Angus who shook his head. “I never saw it properly – it was either dark, too far away or covered up. Are they gone – the … people?”
The CO nodded.

Life returned to normal, as it’s wont to do. Matt’s parents came to collect him and Angus’s parents got divorced. Angus attended the same school for the next 5 years, before heading to University – where he joined Matt. For they’d become firm friends.  They’d shared something big – very big – and they couldn’t talk about it to anyone else.

They’d returned to the cave to camp every summer since. They’d never admit it to anyone else, but there was hope – a small one – that they’d be there to witness the return visit. For they were sure there would be one.

© Debra Carey, 2019

*NBC suits are protective gear worn in the event of potential nuclear attack.

#FF prompt – Now with added Sci Fi

Back in November 2017, we set our first picture prompt (a rather lovely nightscape of Durdle Door in Dorset, with a particularly science fiction/space opera feel to it).  In October 2018, our friend James Pailly said that he’d started a story based on the prompt, and it hadn’t been working for him, and he left it to mature and eventually come up with a three part story due to his new writing rule: ADD MORE SCI-FI.

Make of this what you will…

 

Word count: up to 2,000
Deadline: by 2pm (GMT) on Friday, 7th June 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 8

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, a mere 26 miles away for a theoretical crow, the retreating Landrover made its way off one giant TV screen and onto another, as it left the field of view of the art gallery’s external security camera and was picked up, briefly, by a traffic camera.  The Landrover disappeared from view completely: the coverage out in rural Wales was less than complete.

A withered hand reached forward, fighting the cocooning embrace of the large leather chair, and picked up a phone handset.  An extended finger pressed a single button, and two floors below a phone rang.  The duty supervisor picked up the receiver.

“Hello, sir, how may I help?”  There was only one person who had this number.

“Are you tracking the car?”  The quavery voice matched the liver-spotted and boney hand.

“We’re doing our best sir.  There’s no visual at the moment, but Maddox planted a device, the signal is very weak though.”  A bank of plasma TV screens filled an entire wall some 20 metres in length.  Five people watched intently.  Three were dealing with other matters, whilst the other two were flicking through various camera views trying to locate the Landrover. On a single screen a map showed a large-scale map of Brecon and environs.  A red pin had been placed where Meredith’s spaceship had landed.  A blue pin marked the art gallery.  A dull ruby red dot pulsed faintly as it moved along the A40.  The dot suddenly became a lot brighter.

“Ah, the signal seems to have improved.  They’ve turned off the A40 and onto the A479 towards Talgarth.”

“What’s that?”

“They were heading North-West, ish, and are now heading in a more Northly direction.”

“Pah.  You’ve lost them.  That fool Maddox must have put the device somewhere it could be found.  They’ve put it on another vehicle to try and fool us.  Get a visual – NOW!”  The phone slammed down as hard as an elderly hand could manage it.

As the supervisor pondered options, directing the two operators to find cameras on likely routes and wondering on the feasibility of getting a drone in the air, the old man returned to watching the art gallery.  The muscle were starting to pull themselves together and were being shooed out by the tea lady, assisted by an expertly flicked tea-towel that was adding further insult, not to mention pin-point accuracy injury, to that already suffered.  They shuffled outside quickly and discovered the damage to their car.  They would not be going anywhere in a hurry.   He watched as one pulled out a mobile phone and –

Ring ring!  A phone on his desk chirped to life.

“Er…boss… bad news…we…er…lost the alien…”

“I can see that you idiot.  Wait there for further orders.”  Again, the phone was returned forcefully to its cradle.

A desk drawer was pulled open and a little glass bottle of tablets was brought out.   There were only a few in the bottle, rattling madly as the palsied hand tried to tip one into the other hand.  He would have to ask for some more, he reflected, and soon.  He washed the tablet down with a glass of water and slumped back in the chair.  Five minutes later, his eyes snapped open, and he sprang to his feet.  He gazed at himself in a large mirror with a garish gilt rococo frame.  The age had dropped away from him: he pulled out comb from his jacket pocket and placed a ruler straight parting into thick black hair which he swept back into place.  The chocolate eyes were no longer rheumy, and anyone could see for themselves the hard glint that was a characteristic of one of the hardest gangsters in Wales.

“Jenkins!” There was no infirmity in the bellow that summoned Rhys Probert’s right-hand man.

“Jenkins!”

Colwyn Jenkins was surprisingly average for someone who’s name was a byword for efficiency in the criminal community and was also known to be the only person that Probert would listen to straight away.   Jenkins was average height (although an inch or two taller than Probert), had an average face with no distinguishing features to hang a description off, and had the kind of average build that comes from not going to the gym, but rarely giving into temptation either.  He eased into the room, neither noisily nor oleaginously – just average.

“Yes, Mr Probert?  You called?” There was no inflection to indicate irony, obsequiousness nor any other emotional response that might be expected from an assistant when peremptorily summoned.

“Get them to get the car ready, and get the Gardeners on the road too.  We’re going to take charge of this ourselves.”

“Do you think that’s wise?”

“Yes, I bloomin’ well do!  It’s been a thousand or more years, but they’ve finally sent someone to collect their lost belongings and we can’t let that happen.  We’d lose all of this, for a start -” he gestured taking in the whole of the room and indicating somehow the whole of the elderly tower block that had been refurbished to modern standards. “It’s not what She wants either.”

“As you wish.  We’ll need to be careful though.  I’ve been interrogating the database on the basis of the information that we’ve managed to collect so far.  The agent that has been dispatched is actually of another race entirely to the original owners.  Shorter life span for a start so much more intent on the here and now.  Also, the database suggests that the agent is likely to be…tricksy…It won’t want to force a confrontation but will try and do things…elliptically.”

“Whatever. Tell the Gardeners to take it alive if they can but not if its going to cause too much trouble.  I don’t care what happens to the kids.  I want to be on the road in 10 minutes.”

Probert opened another desk drawer and pulled out a small pistol which he placed in one pocket and a taser that went into another.

© 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.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another.

I’ve been a bit pushed this month, so haven’t thought of what to poll on yet.  Will update when I know!  In the meantime, feel free to let me know if there is anything that you’d like me to expand on/any characters that you’d like to see more of.  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

 

#Second Thoughts: Maps

Maps hold an important place in fiction.  In the case of the Fantasy genre it almost feels obligatory, but there are any number of books in other genres that have been improved by the inclusion of a map, and as many again that might have been an awful lot better with a map in the front, or if the author had referred to one when they were writing a book in a real world setting.  (I can’t now remember the details, but someone who knew the area told me that Dan Brown made a pretty big faux pas in a scene in Angels and Demons because of a mistake in (urban) geography.  Mind you, Dan Brown made some pretty big faux pas in other areas too…).

Terry Pratchett famously once said that Ankh-Morpork could not be mapped – and then someone proved him wrong.  The Discworld maps are a real labour of love and are worth checking out.  In this case, the maps are a nice addition, but it doesn’t matter whether you have them or not.   On the other hand, there are some settings where you really need the map in order to keep a sense of what is going on – Middle Earth is an obvious example.  Although, that said, whilst the map helps the reader to keep track of where everything is going, anyone paying attention will spot some issues (even if we exclude the square range that surrounds Mordor).  I’m not going to go into that in detail, but if you are interested in an analysis then you might want to check out this article.

The map at the top of this post is one that I created for a story that I’m in the middle of.  It’s taken a while, but I’ve finished the first draft of something that was meant to be a quick 5k story and is now a 10k one, which might yet get bigger when I revise it.  So it goes.  Not the real point though.   On Twitter, you can come across all sorts of things.  Chris Marshall and Emma Cox  were having a conversation about Inkarnate, an online map making tool.  Chris and Emma, who are two very talented writers that you should check out, are also incredibly talented artists and used the software to produce maps of their worlds.  I’m not great at drawing.  There was this time in an art class…no, maybe I won’t tell that story.  Anyway, the point is I’ve tried to do a few maps before now, but the results are probably closer to that of Middle Earth.  Inkarnate is pretty easy to get started with though.  (There is a really good tutorial here; I spent a couple of hours on this and there is more I’d like to do to make it better, including following up on some of the tips in comments).

Where am I going with this?  Well. Chris and Emma are meticulous in their world-building; Emma has even gone so far as to create divination system based on rune-stones that she has created specially, so they have a pretty good feel for their worlds.  This is just a way of expressing what they’re doing.  Most of my writing over the last couple of years has been short fiction, or on Earth in a relatively contemporary setting, or non-fiction, so I haven’t really felt the need to create maps.  This has been fun though, and whilst I’ve based it on what I wrote, it’s been interesting to add some features.  Given the nature of the story, I could have made lake and island perfectly circular, but that wouldn’t have been very interesting.  What it has shown up though is some large empty regions.  I know some of what happens in those, I just haven’t put the details in (yet).  Even so…perhaps there should be a wizard’s tower in that bit just there. 

So.  What next?  I can see myself doing a few more of these, and who knows, perhaps they’ll spark something rather than being a reaction to a story already underway.

What about you?  How do you feel about maps?

 

OCD, or is it?

Every Friday, without fail, we’d see him out there, washing his car and cleaning the interior. After every rainfall, he’d be there too, with his chamois leather, carefully removing each and every raindrop. He also had particular parking spots he prefered, not the ones near the bushes in case they’d scratch his paintwork. We always assumed he was parking illegally, for he looked hunted when he saw anyone in the car park. I genuinely believed he was expecting us to march over there and tell him off for his illegal use of the visitors spaces in our car park.

But it turns out, we were all wrong …

The other day, the sirens and flashing blue lights weren’t racing past us on the main road, they were flung at crazy angles all over our car park. Trying to get any of them to move so you could get out of the car park turned out to be wasted energy. There were more police crowded into our small car park than I thought existed in our neck of the woods, let alone all the people on their mobile phones. Sure, a small number were apologising to friends for the delay in their arrival and making arrangements for alternative transport, but most were videoing the scene, or ringing everyone they knew to tell them there was some sort of incident on their doorstep.

It took a while, but they got round to each of us in the surrounding properties, one by one. What did we know about the man with the grey car who lived in the corner house with his elderly mother? Had any of us spoken to him? Did he work? Did he have any friends? You know the sort of thing. Of course they told us nothing in return, except they were cordoning off our car park and none of us were to move our cars while they carried out their forensics analysis. The police’s well-known manpower shortage meant only one thing – it had to be serious – so was it terrorism, was it a sex-related offence … or was it murder?

Eventually we got our car park back after they towed his car away. One of the neighbours reported he’d been taken away in one of those cars with the blue flashing lights under cover of darkness while the rest of us were in bed. You could tell he considered us amateurs for having slept while there was juicy gossip to be had.  But when it came right down to it, that’s all he had too. He’d tried ringing the doorbell, but although he could hear the old dear moving about indoors, she didn’t answer. Then, just as he’d gathered a little crowd of us, a police car pulled up again – no siren and no blue lights this time. A female police officer got out, rang the bell and was permitted entry. About 30 minutes later, she emerged with the old dear, and they drove away.

They only just beat the hounds of the press too. Hordes of them were soon shoving their microphones and cameras into our faces, interviewing all and sundry. To be honest, they were a right pain. Their vehicles were crammed into our car park and as, most of us were receiving more visitors than usual – it being the site of the latest local excitement – tempers got a tad frayed. Eventually, having milked dry the very little we knew, they left.

Things returned to normal pretty quickly thereafter. A couple of months later, a For Sale board appeared outside the house. That guy – the gossip-monger – visited the estate agents, but they were either really professional, or they knew nothing.

Finally it broke. The story, that is. The reason he was so fastidious about cleaning his car was he’d been using it to transport dead bodies – quite a few dead bodies actually. Dectectives were still trying to figure if he was a serial killer … or a sad dupe.

Fairly soon thereafter, quite a few more For Sale boards appeared – it seems people don’t like living near any sort of a crime scene. Suited me, I was able to snap up a couple of properties for the price of one, and that got my little property portfolio started. I target neighbours at local crime scenes as a matter of policy now. They like the notoriety at the time, but the idea of living there afterwards … not so much.


© Debra Carey, 2019