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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 started the blog because we wanted to practice writing stories, and to talk about what writing (and reading) means to us.  Over the last few years we’ve showcased a number of short stories of different lengths, genres, voices, and you can find these via the Index.

We run a monthly prompt for #FlashFiction (used here in both senses: a short story that can be read quickly, and one that is written within a short period of time).  We like to go with quirky prompts (again, have a look at the Index!), and we mix in a few photo-prompts together with one of our USPs, the Gutenberg Prompt – have a look out for these.  We’d love to get more people involved with these, so do spread the word.

We post every Sunday, following a regular schedule.  Our schedule revamp for 2021 is the addition of an #IndieSpotlight feature as part of the options for the 3rd and 4th Sundays. We’ll continue presenting our stories, and one of our other USPs, #SecondThoughts, but we’ll be adding some features on the items on our Resources page, together with a new series of articles written by guests on how their chosen genre is entwined with their normal life.

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 (revised) regular schedule

1st Sunday #FF Prompt – submission deadline the next Sunday @ 8 am GMT
(or use our #TortoiseFlashFiction page if the deadline is too tight)

2nd Sunday #FF stories

3rd and 4th Sundays


A #SecondThoughts piece.


A focus on a Resource for writers (or readers), or something else of writerly interest.


An #IndieSpotlight piece, where we feature the work of an indie author via a book review, by hosting a part of their pre- or post- publishing publicity – for example a cover reveal, or… well, this is a new feature, so we’re open to options.


Occasionally a short story from one or another of us.

Exactly what turns up will depend on what we’ve been doing, and what is going on in the wider world.

5th Sunday On the occasion when these occur, we’ll be posting our guests’ musings on the intersections between their life and their chosen genre. (Do get in touch if you’re interested in writing one yourself).  The post that kicked it all off is here.

#SecondThoughts: Historically accurate female characters

I’ve been watching “Life on Mars” – the time travel (or is it) tale of a detective from the 2000s who finds himself back in 1973 after being hit by a car. Much is made of the changes in attitude between now and then – the everyday misogyny and racism for example, the casual violence and the “fit ‘em up” attitude of making sure the bad guys go down even if they aren’t guilty of the crime they’re being framed for. Of course, there’s also the use (or not) of science, forensics, and the (lack of) availability of databases for use in investigation, let alone the cars and the fashion.

I’d not seen it before, but remember all the chat at the time of Gene Hunt (the boss cop) being a popular character – full of banter and prejudice, cocky and loud-mouthed, on the take but basically decent. Indeed, it was so well loved, the actor even went to reprise the character in television advertisements.

In the 30 years between the 1970s and the 2000s, the contrast in attitude was marked. We’re now an additional 20 years on and we’ve not stood still – especially in the world of gender identity. Earlier this year, we had a nationwide census here in the UK where there was much discussion over whether the standard gender question would be expanded from the two traditional options. In the end, they included an optional additional question as a work-round, which probably pleased no-one. Regardless of the view you hold about gender identity, it is a major issue of the 2020s which could – even should – have been properly captured for posterity within the census.

When seeing the change in the area of gender within the last 50 years, what about the changes in the 20-30 years before that? The second world war brought many changes in this area. Women did men’s work while the men went to fight. When the men came back, some women were happy to return to their old lives, others were not, and the seeds of the women’s liberation movement were surely sown.

Our story, The November Deadline, is set in the late 1940s, when it was still a most different world to the one we live in now. In order to remain believable yet able to include a couple of strong female characters (one primary, one secondary), our task has been made easier by dint of their being from a different – matriarchal – culture.

Lady Michaela is skilled at navigating life with a foot in each world, while Juliet has yet to learn those skills. Michaela’s confident manner could be considered inappropriate or out of place were she not also the possessor of a title, but it remained important for us to demonstrate the practical means which would permit her to work in a traditionally male environment – engineering. Despite it being an area in which she is highly skilled, her financial independence is important, but it’s her friendship with Jack which provided her an out-of-sight workshop in which to pursue her passion.

Juliet (spoiler alert) is being trained to have a most unusual life – different in every way from that of the normal young woman in the late 1940s. She will have to learn quickly that not all men are like those who train her. Isaac, laid back and quietly spoken, will hopefully be able to teach her interpersonal skills alongside those of self-defence, armed and unarmed combat. Her hot temper will doubtless cause conflict with the more typical 1940s male she will encounter, and it will take the combined skills of all her trainers to fully prepare her to meet that task.

But what’s kept it real was David’s introduction of the minor character of Viv. Viv is a more typical female character of the time – a traditional stay at home mother who’s had to go out to work when her husband is posted as missing during the war – and through her we’ve been able to introduce some of the social history of the time. London – the east end in particular – has such a proud history from the war years that it would be a crime not to weave it into our tale in some way.

Our book is a work of fiction, but I believe that incorporating historical details, including those of social history, helps to keep it feeling real. Or maybe that’s just my excuse – for uncovering what was there then which isn’t now, has been a fascinating and most enjoyable work of research.

© Debra Carey, 2021

#FlashFiction: Now with Added SciFi – the stories

From DebsI’m a science duffer, and while I enjoy reading science fiction and SciFi (with space opera being a particular favourite at the moment) my story is a bit like me…

“I thought this was a creative writing class – why is the reading list wholly science-based?”

Melissa’s hand had been up for quite a while before the tutor got round to her. She spotted his eyes roll and the unmistakably brusque tone in his response.

“If you’d read the syllabus notes in advance, you’d have noticed the first piece of writing is going to be science fiction, and the one thing that will ensure you alienate your readers is if you get the science wrong. That list also includes successful authors, who’ll showcase how to do it well.”

“But the module is entitled Research. Oh… I see.” Melissa started to argue, before tailing off in a shamefaced manner.

The class broke up in a buzz of excitement, for all but Melissa were geeks or nerds, appearing to be well in their element with this one. Melissa, with aspirations of writing literary fiction, felt like the proverbial fish. The rest of the day passed in a blur of self-pity and disappointment, so Melissa felt positively entitled when she picked up that bottle of wine despite it being a school night. Pouring her first glass as she threw together a pasta dish, she multi-tasked as was her wont by checking her email. To her surprise, there was one from the creative writing tutor.

“I wanted to re-assure you it’s pure bad luck you’re the only non-science person in the class as the first module on this course has always been a piece of science fiction. I know you won’t feel it now, but you’ve actually got the best chance of high marks. What you need to do is to demonstrate you know how to use research in your writing. Honestly, most of the others will think they know enough and wing it, whereas my marking will be based on what each of you make of the same research materials. And yes, that fact is also in the syllabus notes.”

Melissa put her wine glass down in a hurry to read the syllabus notes properly, before logging into the campus library. Swearing under her breath, she saw he was right on both counts. And no-one else had booked the items on the reading list, despite there being multiple copies of each. Putting the wine bottle away, she resolved to drive the next day rather than having to lug the pile of reading material home on the bus.

Home again, she started with fiction, and was surprised to find one of the offerings absolutely engrossing. Yes, it was science, but the story had great characters and a good plotline. Melissa began to see a glimmer of belief. She might be able to produce something which showcased her own preferred style, but in a science fiction setting.

Her joy ended all too quickly when she came crashing down to earth after reading the non-fiction. There was so much which went over her head, it was all such dense learning and she felt utterly overwhelmed.

Taking herself out for a walk to get away from the wine bottle, she pondered how on earth she was going to choose what area of science to incorporate into her work… when she remembered. The first work of fiction she’d read had been unremarkable, but she was sure it was in there. Rushing home to re-read it, Melissa gave a little “yes!” before stopping to make tea for fuelling a long session of copious note making. She was right, she had spotted a McGuffin – one she thought she might just be able to use.

Checking the author hadn’t written anything more on the subject, Melissa threw herself into outlining her tale. Her story would be a prequel, ending where the McGuffin is uncovered in the original book… but with entirely different characters, a plotline, and maybe even a timeline of its own. Of course, she had to ensure that her story would lead seamlessly into the already published work, for the link between her world and that of the published work would need to be believable.

On the reading list, Melissa found was a fascinating book on worldbuilding, quickly becoming buried in creating the world her characters would inhabit. Religion, culture, clothing, politics, geography, geology, gender identity, hobbies, transport, education – nothing escaped her. As she researched each subject, she found ideas for building the direction her plot would take.

As she developed her plot, she kept returning to the original ethos – her storyline mustn’t jar with that of the published work, it mustn’t be a copy, but it must have a believable link. Whenever Melissa faced a conflict in what direction to take her story, she returned to this important requirement.

Slowly but steadily, Melissa saw how it would work. Producing a detailed plot and full character profiles, she wrote the beginning and the ending. Now she just had to make sure she had enough understanding of the science for the middle. It would be a struggle, but she was fortunate in having an entire class filled with geeks and nerds at hand, most of whom had appeared terribly keen to display their cleverness to her.

Melissa smiled. This could work.

© Debra Carey, 2021

From David – I’d probably be one of the nerds and geeks in Melissa’s class who would try to wing it, if I’m honest, although Debs will tell you that I’m also likely to go digging after a detail to ensure verisimilitude – I hate unintended anachronsims! Creatively, I’m in a funny place at the moment, so I hope you’ll indulge me in the fact that I’ve written two shorter pieces rather than one longer one. I think they both meet the brief. I’ve put the slightly more dystopian one first, and the absurdist one second…

Testing times

The alarm goes off.  Just once I’d like to be able to say that with enthusiasm.  I spit onto a fresh test, spike a finger with another and head to the bathroom.  They say that it doesn’t really matter when you do it, but I figure it’s best to get it out of the way early.  It’s not like it’s a treat to hold on for.  Once or twice, when I was younger, I tried to get out the door without doing the tests.  They’re supposed to be voluntary, after all, but the increasingly serious warnings as I delayed spooked me too much, and I caved in. 

I’ve timed my ablutions to perfection, thanks to experience.  I’ve no idea what the results are, but I touch the tests to my watch and it tells me what my meals for the day will be, what supplements to take, what exercise to do.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to catch something – not fatal obviously – and to see my meals emerge from the slot in the wall, but I’ve always been sickeningly healthy and so, as usual, I wend my way down to the hustle and bustle of the refectory.  All the adverts make them look glamourous and lively, try and get you to move to a new Residence on the basis of the great meals you’ll be served.  There’s only so much you can do with yeast and myco-protein though, and every refectory I’ve ever been a member of serves the same series of drudge-fare.  There are one or two choices on the menu that it’s worth getting excited for, but usually the biggest buzz about the menu is when they decide to change the order.  I’ve heard stories of places that added something new to their menu, but I think they’re just urban legends.  I’ve never met someone who’s seen a menu change, they’re only ever stories from a friend of a friend.

The refectory is still filling up at this time of the day.  I collect my tray and look for somewhere to sit.  Some people favour corner seats as there are fewer people around you, but I tend to avoid them as you get more people passing by.  There are a few seats though that are optimal.  My favourite has been taken, but my second favourite is free.  Some would see this as an omen for the day. 

There are rumours that refectories may have to bubble eating groups.  Idly, I wonder how one would ensure that you ended up with an optimal seat, how you would ensure that you had a good mix of chat-friends. How long before the lack of change would stultify conversation.  I wonder if they would allow changes to the bubbles over time? The self-elected table monitor is talking about an article they read of old villages, no more than 250 people, how the brain is wired to remember this many people and struggles with more.  I wonder what it would be like to know that many people so well.  I know more people than that – there must be at least a 1,000 people in the Residence alone, but how many of those do I know well?

I’m clearing my tray when the police-nurses file in and seal the room.  Such stories play out on the news every day, but again, never to anyone you know.  They call out a name.  It is the self-elected table monitor from a table on the other side of the refectory.  Something is jabbed in their arm and they are taken away, dangling between two police-nurses.  The remaining police nurses escort us back to our rooms, a table at a time.  Senior police-nurses sequester those closest to the person who has just been removed.

I miss the rest, but can imagine the process of testing and injecting, as our table is escorted out of the refectory and back to our rooms.  I’m handed a test kit, and the door is locked behind me.  It will open to the touch of the test – if all is well.

I’ll have a story to tell, maybe.  I wait for the results.

Designer Pets

“So what are you going to call it?” A useful phrase, in the right circumstances, although a less self-involved person would have noted the lack of enthusiasm and an overabundance of doubt.

“I had thought of ‘dig’ or ‘pog’, but I’m not really sure.  I think I’ll hand that over to the PR people and see what they suggest.

“Probably wise…although I think they might have some bigger issues to deal with first, like the fact that you’re not licensed as a genetic engineer, not anymore, not after, you know…”

“Details, details.  I couldn’t let all that expensive equipment sit around idle – “

“You could have sold it.”

“- and the point is, it worked!  The Institute will be begging to give me back my license!”

“Maybe…” Still more doubt than enthusiasm, to be honest.

The creature before me was, basically, a dog.  A very enthusiastic dog, with a long, licky tongue, and bottom that was shuffling back and forth as its tail whipped back and forth in a creditable attempt at a vertical take-off.

“I used a Labrador, to begin with, for obvious reasons, but the process would work with any dog type.  I can imagine it being popular with police forces and the military if we make the splice with Alsatians and Dobermans and so on, and we could make quite a cute handbag version for the fashionistas.”

I really wasn’t sure cute was a go-er.  One of the things that I notice about dogs is that they don’t have teeth, they have fangs.  The creature before me had tusks, not like an elephant but more like –

“Similarly, I used a Gloucester Old Spot for the pig part, but again we could probably use other types if there are other characteristics we want to go for.  I quite fancy trying to resurrect the Lincolnshire Curly Coat.  I shied away from wild boar-”

Uncharacteristically restrained of you, I thought.

“-but that might be good for the military version, perhaps.”

Ah, there we go.

“I feel like I’m missing something.  Does the world need a dog-pig or pig-dog or whatever this thing is?”  Its hard to use the word monstrosity when the thing in question is looking at you pathetically, licking your hand and drooling over your shoes.

“Ah, but here’s the really good bit!  It’s not just a dig or a pog or whatever we call it – it’s a living biorefinery!  You can feed it on just about anything organic, and some stuff that isn’t.  And then, you can tweak a few genes or the gut flora and it will produce whatever chemical you want.  Medicines, turpentine, alcohol, petrol, spider silk…”

“Forgive me, but aside from questions of scale, I really can’t see aspirin extracted from a pog’s backside catching on.  Further, can you imagine the havoc reeked by porco-canine produced illicit drugs?  And whilst it might be great that pigs will eat anything, pigs eat EVERYTHING.  I can’t see that being great round the home, frankly, not to mention all those mob hits and crazy farmers where they disposed of the body using porcine reclamation.”

The noise he made in response wasn’t quite rude, but was somewhere on the raspberry spectrum.

The creature looked up at me with pleading eyes.

© David Jesson, 2021

#IWSG: What would make you quit writing?

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. It’s an opportunity to talk about doubts and fears you have conquered. To discuss your struggles and triumphs and to offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

July 7 question – What would make you quit writing?

Honestly? Nothing short of physical impairment.

While I’m no different to any other writer in my hopes and dreams, I’m not sure I could stop writing, even if I knew those hopes and dreams were never to be fulfilled. It’s now such a huge part of my life, of who I am, I’d almost say of my DNA… all this despite having only started to write in my 6th decade.

I write not only because it gives me pleasure – I write to express myself, to work out feelings, to expel negative emotions, to engage with other lovers of the written word, to keep my brain sharp, to tell stories, to pull together an idea from spark to fruition.

Writing forms a massively important part of the process by which I support my mental health. If I didn’t write, I’m confident I’d cope with the tribulations of life less well. As well as giving me an outlet, it engages the creative side of my brain, providing a great form of relaxation and balance to my life, as my day job mostly involves almost entirely left-brain activity – not my favourite sort.

In short, I believe I will always write – even if only for myself.

Does writing play more than one role in your life?

The awesome co-hosts this month are Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, and Louise – Fundy Blue! – do take a moment to visit them.

While you’re here, can I tempt you with a #FlashFiction prompt?

Every month, we run a different #FF prompt and this month it’s based on a brilliant idea from fellow IWSG member James Pailly. A couple of years ago, James wrote a wonderful piece for us, which spawned both a new series for us, as well as a writing prompt.

We had great fun with this prompt last year and decided to reprise it. The basic premise is to take a story and simply #AddMoreSciFi. Whether it’s a new story you write in a SciFi environment, a twist in a seemingly non-SciFi tale, or a re-working of an old story in a new environment – work the prompt any way you like. If you fancy giving this a go, you’ll find the details here.

© Debra Carey, 2021

#FlashFiction Prompt: Now with Added Sci Fi

A little throw back to James Pailly’s post that kicked off our #NowWithAdded series. A simple enough premise: look around you, think about your life…what would the consequences be if something ordinary became a bit more SciFi?

Word count: Approximately 1,000 words
Deadline: 8am GMT on Sunday 11th July 2021

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

A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line – you retain the copyright.

One caveat, if you want to go down this route: this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.

Whither goest thou?

“Quo vadis?”

It’s a busy day today.  There’s a long line of people struggling up the steep hill to our gate.  Our optio, Marcus, delivers the traditional challenge.  The voice in my head always wants to shout out “It’s bloomin’ obvious, they want to get in, don’t they?”.  But rules are rules, and the optio must challenge the travellers, and the rest of the squad must look smart, two with ceremonial spears blocking the narrow archway into the building, two to pat down the supplicants, and apply the wands that check for illicit chemicals and EM signatures.

That’s me – the spear-holder to the left of the arch, attempting to look impassive, disguising the fact that I’m clenching my buttocks in time to show tunes to keep the blood moving around my body whilst I stand here.  It also helps to alleviate the boredom, a little.

The optio is a twenty-year man.  He’s mulling over whether to stay on for another twenty years or take his land-grant and retire.  He looks good in his uniform.  His skin is leathery from years spent out under suns on myriad worlds, but it contrasts nicely with his body-armour, the chest plate embossed with the traditional abdominal six-pack, the golden emblems indicating his rank, length of service, valour.

Me?  Yeah, I’m the odd one out for sure.  I’m not from Nova Roma.  I’m a refugee.  Military service seemed like the simplest way to gain citizenship, although who knows what that will mean in the long run.  I’ve been lucky though – no off-planet wars to fight in so far.  Instead, gate-duty.

It’s strange how quickly you get institutionalised though.  This guy here, with his super glossy black hair – he’s not a local.  It’ll be subtle, but he’ll get worked over just that little bit more than a home-grown Citizen.  The next senior person in our squad is Francesca, and she really doesn’t like off-worlders.  Yep, there it is, an extra pat down, legs kicked a little further apart.  She’s not going to get promotion though – she’s a good enough soldier, but not leadership material.  Cassie will get promoted before her, but new optios don’t get the squad they came from, so if we lose Marcus and Cassie, there’s a good chance they’ll break us up and ship us to different squads, possibly completely different postings.

Titus is the poet.  That’s him, with Francesca, doing the pat downs.  He won’t do the full twenty.  He’ll probably just do his National Service, get his SPQNR stamp on his docket and…he says he’s going to travel, but I reckon he’ll just end up back in the family bakery.

The guy with the thick black hair is waved on.  Cassie and I stamp to attention, spears to the upright to allow the man to pass.  He glances up at the aquila carved into the archway and makes his way inside the cool marble halls of the Senate building.

The next traveller steps up.

“Quo vadis?”

© David Jesson, 2021

#SecondThoughts: Social Media Curation

I recently spotted an ad for TweetDelete – a service for cleaning up your Twitter history – and wondered how many people might make use of a service like it. It wasn’t of interest to me, as I came to Twitter relatively recently and with a clear idea of how I intended to participate. I knew I wanted to use it for professional reasons – to network, to market, to learn – with entertainment or amusement being not only entirely secondary, but a very low priority. As a result, I’ve been careful how I use it. I don’t post anything with the mistaken idea that it’s private, and I make considerable efforts to ensure I don’t go viral for the wrong reasons (not that I’ve ever gone viral for any reason) 😀

Of course, it helped that I was already reasonably familiar with the online world and various Social Media platforms ahead of joining Twitter. In my early days of social media use, I was relatively relaxed about what I put online – as long as it wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have said to someone face-to-face, I didn’t see a problem. I’m not unhappy with that earlier decision, but used what I learned from those years in formulating my policy for use of Twitter.

I’m amused to recall that when my mother first started to hear about Facebook, she was convinced it was the work of the devil. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration… but only slight. She learned about it at the time when the mainstream media was full of ‘the evils of social media’. I tried explaining that it was simply a tool, and that many of those evils resulted from people using it in ignorance or without thought. Despite all that is not right with social media, I still believe that applies for most (not high profile) users.

So… as the tools and services exist, should we curate our online presence?

A common refrain now is that employers check Facebook (and other platforms) as part of their recruitment process. I imagine a serious mis-match between LinkedIn profile and Facebook page has the potential to cause problems, but… I guess the question is what are you posting? Are you expressing extreme views? Is there photographic evidence of you acting unlawfully? Or is it simply a slightly unwise proliferation of drunken episodes when your employer is teetotal, or videos of you swearing colourfully when your employer is straight-laced or religious, for example?

Of course, one option is to opt for the highest of privacy settings, allowing no-one who isn’t already your friend access to your details. But maybe you don’t believe it’s OK to have your private life judged by your employer? So long as you meet their personal and professional standards while at work, is it any of their business?

But, I don’t believe there is one right answer, for there are too many variables. How bad is the content? Regardless of how bad, are you ashamed of it? Do you wish to remove evidence of a mis-spent youth? If the answer to these questions is ‘very’ and ‘yes’, then social media curation could be for you, and there’s clearly a growing market for it, as I saw a business pitch on Dragons Den for this very service.

As someone who has carried out some curation on their social media (while I was training to be a counsellor, believing in the importance of presenting a neutral public face, allowing any potential clients not to feel in danger of being judged, and so able to express themselves freely should they choose to work with me) my belief is that there’s a balance to be found. Those items I deleted were reminders of happy times, and they’re not been easy for me to retrieve.

One last thought – any form of social media curation leads me naturally to the subject of branding. Among multitudes of training courses landing in my in box are “author branding” offerings. But how much should be brand and how much should be authentic? Like many of us, I follow a number of successful authors on Twitter. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that I don’t follow them because of their branding, I follow them for their authentic content.

Do you have any experience of curation or branding? Or do you vote for authenticity?

© Debra Carey, 2021

#FlashFiction: Project Gutenberg – The stories

Gray Hairs made Happy

Tuesday’s dawn was more subtle than the day before, the colours of the sun rising being gently filtered through the low clouds; they’d only dissipate once the sun was high enough in the sky to burn them off. Sat in her usual spot on the terrace, Edna put aside her shawl and reached for her café con leche. Yesterday’s churros were a touch stale, but perfectly adequate when dipped into the hot milky liquid.

She enjoyed the peace & quiet of Tuesdays and Thursdays – the in between days when Carmen didn’t come. Carmen – her angel – who came three days a week to clean, to cook, to take Edna to the market for provisions, and to cheerfully carry out any other tasks needed now Edna herself was less able. It had been a wrench to move from the big house on the coast, filled as it was with memories of Russ and their retirement together. But it was not only too big, the weather was cooler up here in the mountains, and all their friends had died too or moved back home to live near their children.

She’d first met Carmen at the Smiths, handing around canapes. The day of the Smith’s farewell bash, she’d found her shedding a quiet tear, and discovered that she was to return to her mountainside family home once the Smiths had left. Feeling for the distressed woman, Edna had asked her about life in the mountains. It was to be the first of many conversations they would have, and when Edna found new owners for the big house, she’d followed Carmen to the mountains.

The sale of the big house and the purchase of the little one had all taken time – as is the way in Spanish property transactions. Fortunately she had the support of Carmen and her local contacts, otherwise buying the little house would never have happened. She’d needed to gain the formal agreement of so many local dignitaries, to her – a foreigner – buying a property in their small town. She’d long ago obtained formal residency status, but becoming a Spanish national simply wasn’t an option open to her.

Today Edna planned to clean and polish her silver tea service. Carmen had pulled out the trunk from beneath her bed and she’d selected a few pieces she wanted to display. Of course it had taken a long time to carry out that simple task, for Carmen had wanted to see everything, asking for the stories behind them and about the memories they held. They’d not got much else done, but it had been a good day. Those memories were now old enough not to cause sadness – which is why she’d put all those beautiful things away in the trunk. Carmen, clever Carmen, had known that now the time was right.

The tea set was the first of the trunk’s contents to be displayed in her little house. Carmen had offered to clean it, but Edna was keen to give it a try for this was her best time. It was long enough after the brief damp and colder months of winter for her arthritic knuckles to have recovered some movement, but not yet so hot that she’d become easily fatigued. And she loved that tea set – it brought back so many happy memories of her life with Russ.

Of course, in those days she’d not have been bothered with the cleaning and polishing of silver – or indeed of anything. Their spacious homes always ran as efficiently and smoothly as a Swiss clock, thanks to a fleet of loyal and highly skilled staff. Without the worry of its upkeep, it was one of Edna’s joys to use the tea set on those rare occasions she and Russ were able to take afternoon tea alone.

Their lives in India had been such a social whirl, those were such precious moments to her. Russ loved the spotlight – she’d loved him dearly, but wasn’t blind to his vanity and need for constant attention. She was no shrinking violet herself, gaining quite the buzz from entertaining. Their home was regularly filled with people – old friends and new, maharajahs and hippies, all mixed together. Edna’s parties were famed, for she was quite the hostess. The details mattered and Edna never missed a single one.

But those days were long gone and Edna loved her quiet life in her little house in the mountains. Soon she’d set up at her table, spread out an old towel, put out her cleaning and polishing materials, and get to work. Right now though, she would enjoy the sunrise, the warmth of her café con leche, the crunch of the churros – the little details that made her new life so filled with joy.

© Debra Carey, 2021

Three men on the bummel

Mother sat at the desk, turning the chair so that she could look at her eldest son, lounging on his bed.  He put down the book he was reading so that she could see him giver her his undivided attention.  Thankful for small mercies, she was pleased to see that it was actually made, although she wondered why he wasn’t sat in the armchair he had made such a fuss over when he was fourteen.  Time passes, she thought sadly.

It had been a difficult year: she’d been delighted to have Tophe home again, but equally grateful he’d been able to get back to university for at least some of his studies.  The advantage of an engineering degree and the requirement for practicals.  Thinking back to her own university days, some thirty years before, she felt sorry for those reading for their degrees in the middle of the pandemic.  It must be a very different experience; the lack of opportunities to socialise and network would have an impact for some time to come.

“I’m really not sure that this is a good idea, Tophe.  I know you can take care of yourself, but Jonno and Tom are too young.”

“I thought you might say that, ma.” Of her three sons, Tophe had the best people skills and she girded her mental loins, readying herself to be managed.  She was determined to be firm in her resolution that her middle and youngest should not join in with what was clear foolishness.  “But I do have a short list of things that I think you should listen to.  Firstly, we obviously can’t make the trip this year, so we’ve got a year to plan it all out, make really good preparations, and do the thing properly. Secondly, some responsibility will do them both good – something you’ve said yourself, many times over.”  This could have been said with irritating earnestness, but Tophe was far too relaxed an individual for that.  “Thirdly, the opportunity to practice their German will do them both good – again, you’ve always said that a second language is essential and if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Mother inwardly rolled her eyes.  It was too much, having your own words pushed back at you like this.

“Fourthly, our planned itinerary includes some notable galleries for Jonno, and Tom and I are discussing what he might like to visit.  I’ve scheduled some stops of engineering interest for me.”  His eyes twinkled; he was about to deliver what he thought of as the coup de grace, she realised. “And fifthly, you did something very similar when you were our age.”

“That was before Brexit!  Everybody was doing Interrail!  And I wasn’t as young as Tom!”

“All good points, Mother, but if we stopped doing things because of Brexit, then we end up closed off, and they win.  Interrail is still available, and we’re planning on taking advantage of that to get us across Europe.  Tom has a good head on his shoulders, and Jonno and I will both be there.” He remained calm.  He wasn’t going to end up in an argument with his mother.

His mother sighed, and looked reproachfully at the battered hardback sat on the desk.  A gift from – was she Tophe’s girlfriend? or a good friend who happened to be a girl? – it was an early edition of Jerome K. Jerome’s follow-up to ‘Three men in a boat’.  It sat atop a neat pile of notes and had itself been marked up with post-its in technicolour profusion.  She wished she knew what the colour-coding signified.  She sighed again.

“Don’t let this trip turn into a farce,” she said resignedly.

© David Jesson, 2021

#FlashFiction Prompt – Project Gutenberg

The idea that Project Gutenberg would provide us with a great and continually change source of prompts was David’s. I’ll admit I raised my eyebrows a bit, but they actually become a favourite with the both of us. We’ve since run these twice a year and, as a result, they’ve been a Fiction Can Be Fun USP.

This is a deceptively simple #FlashFiction prompt but it does require some active choice on your part…

To select your prompt, go to the Recent Books section of the Project Gutenberg website. Pick a book whose title makes you go ‘ooooh I know what I want to write about …’ and there you have it – your #FlashFiction prompt for this month.

Do have a good browse while you’re there – you could find even more reads to add to your massive TBR lists – and all at no cost!

Word count: 500-750 words
Deadline: 8am GMT on Sunday 13th June 2021

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

A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.  

Two caveats if you want to go down this route: if you want to retain the copyright, then you will need to state this, and this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.

#IWSG: Re-drafting – how long is long enough?

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. It’s an opportunity to talk about doubts and fears you have conquered. To discuss your struggles and triumphs and to offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

I’ve very little experience in having any form of pattern or process to my writing or editing. Generally there’s little spare between my finding the time to write and the need to publish, but I do like to have some time between the first draft and what finally goes out. In practice, that can be anything from just overnight to days/weeks.

On those occasions when I’ve left a draft for months, the time I spend getting back into the story can either be terribly useful at picking up issues I’d not seen at the time, or just downright depressing as I can’t remember where I was going. I know this relates to my being a natural pantser rather than a plotter, and is something I’m working to address. Still… it does mean I’ve a tendency not to leave anything for too long.

The only complete piece of full length fiction I’ve written has been in progress since April 2018, when the first 40,000 words were written. Getting fully back into the voice(s) of the story after any longer break does take me a while and a fair bit of reading. But getting away from the story – even when unplanned – has been helpful in getting a fresh perspective, and has been when duplications and inconsistencies suddenly became glaring and obvious.

What isn’t clear yet is how long is long enough. But the more I write – and re-write – the clearer that will become (I hope).

The awesome co-hosts for the  J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria– do take a moment to visit them.

While you’re here, can I tempt you with a #FlashFiction prompt?

Every month, we run a different #FF prompt and this month it’s a Fiction Can Be Fun’s USP – Project Gutenberg. This is a deceptively simple #FlashFiction prompt but it does require some active choice on your part…

To select your prompt, go to the Recent Books section of the Project Gutenberg website. Pick a book whose title makes you go ‘ooooh I know what I want to write about …’ and there you have it – your #FlashFiction prompt for this month.

If you’re inspired to give this a go, full details will be on our post going live Sunday morning.

© Debra Carey, 2021

Now with added…Satire

I did not, and still don’t, consider myself to be a creative mind, so when it came to thinking of a story I drew an emphatic blank. Eventually I chose something unusual, something never done in novel form before to the best of my knowledge.

I landed on a Neanderthal comedy.

As with a lot of the writing community on Twitter, I’d be hard pushed to remember exactly when I made contact with John Drake, the focus of last week’s Indie Spotlight here on Fiction Can Be Fun. What I do know is that he has a great eye for the absurd, and great ear for comic dialogue. I’m always incredibly grateful (and amused) when I spot his tweets, and I am beyond chuffed that he’d agreed to give us an insight into the crossover between his life and his writing.

Without further ado, I’ll hand over to John. Give him a big hand guys, that’s right, make him feel welcome!

I didn’t enjoy English lessons in school; I hated that it involved lots of writing. I would have been far happier had I been able to summarise the novel “Of Mice And Men” with a couple of sentences explaining how it was a story of a friendship’s boundaries, and perhaps a nod to the importance of beans. I also dropped history at the first opportunity, aged fourteen, for the same reason. The idea that one day I would write a book, let alone three historical ones, was preposterous.

I never wrote a simple, cute story as a six year old, I never wrote one about playing football for my favourite team as a teenager, and I grew into adulthood without once picking up a pen in anger.

When, as a young twenty-something, I started work in a large sales office in Liverpool, England, colleagues would ask me to write their complaint letters to businesses they felt had wronged them. I enjoyed weaving their situation into a coherent and infallible grievance. But that was it. I still hadn’t written a single word of fiction, despite the gently growing calls from those around me. You should write a book they would say, as they often do. I would nod placatingly and ignore the well-meaning advice.

The tipping point, I think, was when I read the last available Terry Pratchett book a few years ago. I had devoured them in double quick time, along with the works of Douglas Adams, P G Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde and other satirical greats. I could find nothing similar out there for people like me. As the years wore on I began to think more and more that perhaps I could write something to combat this dearth. Almost three years ago, at the age of forty, I decided to give it a go with neither hope nor expectation that anything would come of it.

 I did not, and still don’t, consider myself to be a creative mind, so when it came to thinking of a story I drew an emphatic blank. Eventually I chose something unusual, something never done in novel form before to the best of my knowledge.

I landed on a Neanderthal comedy.

Before writing a single word I concluded only two things about the story; it would be full of wordplay and the Neanderthal main character would be an engineer. It is no exaggeration to say that was the sum total of my planning. I had no idea what the plot was, why he was an engineer (other than it being a humorous juxtaposition), nor how I was going to string out a story for seventy five thousand words with no points of reference other than some trees and perhaps a mountain. This was, literally, the first piece of fiction I had ever written. I opened up a blank MS Word document and stared at it for a while. Then I wrote:

‘The Sun had finally risen, slowly but inevitably, like an almost-too-heavy balloon’

    I must have read over it a dozen times. Yes, I was happy with that. It was thunderously lonely, but I liked it.

Now what?

Inexplicably, I chose to write a one hundred word scene where a goat falls of a rocky outcrop.

Great. Now what?

I had given no thought to the environment within which the story would happen, so I began to describe the scenery, with the main character sitting on the same rocky outcrop (though without the goat) as he scanned the landmarks. I named them in self-explanatory ways; Cave Mountain was a mountain with caves in it. Green Forest was a forest that was green, and so on. It was a natural progression, then, to have the secondary characters as simple, unimaginative Neanderthals in contrast to my engineer. This set the dynamic for the rest of the story and all I did was lay the tracks of the plot in front of me as I wrote. Before I knew it the main character had had enough of his tribe and had left them behind in favour of a hopeless adventure. I was motoring along, adding no more than a few words each day, until I finally wrote ‘The End’.

Terry Pratchett once said that the first draft is just you telling yourself the story, and this is certainly true of my writing journey, since I had no idea what the story was when I started. Come to think of it, the same can be said for when I was more than halfway through it too. I gave it out to family members, who came back with bits and pieces of valuable feedback. Once I had ironed out these issues and checked for continuity errors and typos, I was done.

Without boring you with the intricacies of every writing decision I have ever made, I applied the same logic to book two, a satire set during the Black Death, and book three, a Genghis Khan comedy. All three were chosen because I hadn’t seen anything similar before, and the last two were also subjects I had a general interest in.

You may be reading this and thinking that I have oversimplified the writing process in the same way that I condensed Of Mice And Men, but the honest truth is that I haven’t. That is it; the process that took me from not being an author, to being one.

All you have to do is tell yourself the story.

In the end, I told myself the story and it changed me in more ways than I could have imagined. I’m now a writer with a publisher and have four novels out there in the ether, all of which will outlive me. I no longer spend my days ticking boxes in a boring office job. Instead I travel through my imagination and spend my days turning ‘what if’ ideas into storylines.

I am, literally, living the dream.

Several people in history have noted that “If you do something you love you will never work a day in your life” and this is absolutely true. I love writing, and it seems I have some level of talent for it. Being able to do it and pay the bills at the same time is something for which I will be grateful for as long as it remains sustainable. It started out as a simple hobby, then morphed into a personal legacy for me to be sentimental about when I’m sitting under a tartan blanket in a rocking chair with too many grey hairs and not enough summers. Now it is a way of life. It defines my day to day living as my office job once did, but with more joy and a sense of accomplishment.

Could I imagine doing anything else? Not on your nelly.

© John Drake, 2021 (Main text)

©David Jesson, 2021 (Intro)