#NowWithAdded… Dystopian

What I absolutely love about this feature is the responses we receive are so terrifically varied. Even knowing that authors are individual and unique, you never know what to expect… and that aspect delights me.

Opening this feature for 2021 is Iain Kelly, whose dystopian work The State Trilogy, I reviewed last week. Ever wanted to know how do you come to be an author of dystopian novels? Well, let Iain explain…


When Debs and David asked me to contribute a guest post for their Fiction Can Be Fun blog, I was delighted to accept. But then I had a moment of pause.

They were looking for a piece about Dystopian Fiction for their #NowWithAdded strand and, as I had written a dystopian trilogy – The State Trilogy – it seemed a sensible request. Why my hesitation?

Because I have never thought of myself as a dystopian writer, or a science fiction writer, and I certainly never set out to be one, or claim to be one. I’m not a futurist, I have no expertise in what the world might look like in the future, and I have no diploma in the study of dystopian writing. In the end, I decided this post to try and explain one simple rule about dystopian writing, which is: there is no such thing as dystopian writing.

That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of dystopian novels and stories, and the thing that they all share in common is their setting in a future world (or worlds) that, for one reason or other, looks pretty bleak. But the key thing about the best dystopian novels, and the best advice I could give to anyone looking to set a story in their vision of a dystopian future, is that dystopian novels are not really about the dystopian worlds they describe.

The central topic of the most famous dystopian novel – George Orwell’s ‘1984’ – is not the political and social structures of the world that Winston inhabits. Orwell is fundamentally writing about the human condition: freedom, oppression and, ultimately, love. Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is about the role of and oppression of woman in a society in the future, but it is also about the role of woman and the problems of the patriarchal society that exist here and now. Philip K. Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ is about what it means to be human, set in a world where androids outnumber humans on Earth. Dystopian novels at their best use a bleak future world as a backdrop within which they can shine a light on our own world and ask questions about what sort of society and world we want to live in.

I started writing my own dystopian novel – A Justified State – in 2017. I didn’t want to write a dystopian novel. I wanted to write a novel set in my home country (Scotland) and my home city (Glasgow). The plot I had in mind involved some sort of political scandal. With the independence referendum still a hot topic and Brexit around the corner, it became almost impossible to foresee what the political landscape of Scotland and the UK would look like over the coming years, so I was left in a quandary. The solution was to set the story way in the future, in a dystopian world, and that’s how I came to be a writer of a dystopian novel.

I didn’t do much research other than having a keen interest in the news. By doing that you can take some things and extrapolate them into what impact they might have on the look and feel of a future world. Some things are straightforward and will almost certainly come to pass: electric vehicles and self-driving vehicles are on the way; climate change and the future source of energy from fossil fuels to renewables; overpopulation of the planet with some continents continuing to increase in population size, while others decrease, leading to mass immigration. Other things can be more speculative: there is a lot of chatter about a universal basic income for all people in some countries, to end inequality; nuclear armament seems to continue; food shortages or a switch to less meat and more vegetable-based diet. And so on. Select which ones you want to focus on and create your world. Easy. But be consistent and be believable. A lot of the things I decided to include in my novel have turned out to look like pretty good bets, even just a couple of years later. One example – at the end of 2020, ‘Brexit’ finally occurred and Great Britain separated itself from the European Union. That thread of isolationism runs through my trilogy of books and I always intended it to be a comment within the text, even if it is not central or blatant.

Other things you can’t foresee. I had no idea in 2017 that a global pandemic was on the horizon. I invented a world where mass gatherings were banned due to the threat of terrorism and a global war. I had no idea that 2 years later they would be banned thanks to Covid-19. Although Donald Trump was US President already, I had no idea how devastating his term would become including the explosion of the Black Lives Matter protests last year. Immigration has been and is and always will be a topic that engenders strong opinions, so that was always part of my story. Perhaps I could argue that racial inequality in the distant future is either a thing of the past, or is still there, but unspoken and ignored once more? Either way, the point is your dystopian world will never be able to cover every detail of what may or may not happen in the future.

It’s not a great time to write a dystopian novel when the real world we are living in has resembled something just as bleak, if not far worse. I completed the final book of my trilogy during 2020, while in lockdown, and managed to squeeze in a couple of references to include the pandemic. Corrupt politicians and failed political systems are a staple of the dystopian world – it’s just hard when your bad guys are being outshone by someone in the real world. It’s hard to write a believable character that deliberately incites race riots for political gain or nakedly owns their own corruption in the full glare of the media, but there he is, alive and real and occupying the White House (or Downing Street, take your pick). I tried to make my bad politicians at least have some decency. They may be doing the wrong thing, but perhaps for the right reason. And they weren’t always bad. Often the governments in a dystopian world are right-wing conservatives. I decided to go the other way. A socialist government that ends homelessness and poverty and food shortages. Good guys doing good things, before it all goes wrong. The summation: power corrupts absolutely (one recent review decided that my book was some sort of denouncement of Soviet and communist politics, which I never intended it to be, nor think that it is, but there you go). The good thing about dystopian novels is that you get to bring down these bad guys however you want to.

But my books are not anti-Trump, or anti-Brexit, or anti-anything specifically. They are about the people that live within the world I have created and that to me is the key to dystopian novels, and of course, to most novels. It’s the characters that matter. It’s the characters that your readers will either love or hate and hopefully care about. Whether you’re an expert on future technologies or energy crisis or climate change or flying electric cars, or not, the important thing is to place into your world the sort of characters that people can relate to. They must have the same feelings we would have if we lived in such a future world. They must have lives that we can relate too. My main character – Danny Samson – starts out as a police detective, a staple character of fiction. He has lost his wife and children in tragic circumstances. He is disillusioned with his job and his life and cares little for the world around him. Hopefully, he is someone the reader comes to care about. My other main character – Gabriella – is an ex-military assassin, something a bit more dystopian for my world. But she is also a daughter of immigrants who has lost her family. She is someone who cares about those that have nothing. She seeks to fight injustice. I threw in some elements of my own life to make things feel real – a child with type-1 diabetes was introduced as my way of writing through my own anxieties when my own son was diagnosed with this disease; Danny has lost twins at child birth, which we so nearly came close to having to live with too; people have lost fathers and mothers and children in the same way many readers will have and hopefully will relate too.

So there it is, my advice to anyone writing a dystopian novel: Don’t write a dystopian novel. Write a novel about characters that you care about. Then, if you want to, set them in a dystopian world and see what happens. And to emphasise my point, I’m now editing my next book which has nothing to do with a dystopian world and is in a completely different style. I’m writing in the first-person rather than the third-person. It’s set in the present day and in the past and in the real world. But it still has a lot of similarities to my State Trilogy dystopian books, because the characters at the heart of the story are real people with the same worries and fears and ambitions and regrets. It’s just not set in a dystopian world this time.

© Iain Kelly, 2021


You can connect with Iain on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn & Facebook.
The State Trilogy is available worldwide, and you can read other work by Ian on his website.

#IndieSpotlight: The State Trilogy from Iain Kelly

#IndieSpotlight is a new feature we’ve added to the FCBF portfolio for 2021. In truth, I can’t believe we’ve not done so earlier as there’s so much fine work from #WritingCommunity being independently published.


We’re especially delighted to kick off the feature with one of our favourite writers Iain Kelly. David & I each discovered (quite separately) Iain’s work during 2017’s April A-Z Challenge, and were among the many participants lining up each day to read the next instalment of his Scandi-Noir detective tale. Despite being a prolific writer of quality #flashfiction on his website, having a demanding job as a television editor, and being father to lively twins, Iain has written and published The State Trilogy – releasing a book a year for the past three years.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the trilogy and would recommend that you add all three books to your To Be Read lists, no matter how dangerous its size. While trying to avoid any significant spoilers, I hope the following gives you a taste of what to expect…

A Justified State (The State Trilogy Book 1)

This is my favourite of the trilogy – it’s where we’re introduced to world-weary detective Danny Samson and his keen as mustard partner Henrik James, but also to the world they inhabit. Setting the scene, Iain draws a vivid picture of the physical conditions : “Intricate sculptures and carvings of caryatids and coats of arms adorned the exterior, weathered but unbowed. Balconies had long since crumbled away. Huge ornate glass windows had been replaced by wooden boards or gaping voids. The whole street lay crumpled and defeated in the moonlight. Protected status for architectural heritage meant the buildings had remained, but they served no purpose.”

The minutiae of daily living conditions would be familiar to those currently forced to live in rundown and unmaintained tower blocks, as would the mixture of feelings – those of frustration, helplessness and stoic acceptance. The difference is that, in the State, this is how the majority of the population lives rather than the disenfranchised minority.

The State itself is a powerful presence throughout the book. A fine example of the best of intentions gone wrong – although poverty and homelessness have been eradicated, climate change has developed into a full blown energy crisis, with overpopulation and war still ever present.

I very much enjoyed the growing relationship between the disparate characters of Danny and Henrik as they investigate the murder of a politician, so the dramatic unravelling provided a genuine gut punch.

Iain has given us a quality blend of detective tale and political thriller, playing it out against the backdrop of an all too believable dystopian future.

State of Denial (The State Trilogy Book 2)

Book 2 moves away from detective tale into full-blown dystopian thriller, opening with new character Max. A keen, young journalist working for the only remaining (semi) independent newspaper, she ends up on the wrong side the Party after asking unsanctioned questions. Through her eyes, we get to see just how much the State is manipulating the public via their control of the media and constant surveillance of the populace. Doggedly pursuing her story, Max gets steadily drawn into the burgeoning rebellion.

In the years since Book 1 ended, ex-cop Danny has been living in in the wilderness. Moving around, trying to survive, he finally finds a community where he feels he can put some some form of roots. Until, that is, he decides to undertake a quest to return to the city in order to save the life of a young boy. During this portion of the book, we become really close to Danny, living in his pocket, getting to see the principled man behind the world-weary (now ex) cop, and how those values guide his actions.

The two threads come together once Danny completes his quest and is reunited with Gabriela and Phillips. Gabriela – ex special operative and assassin, and Phillips – shady character playing both sides for his own ends, are part of the myriad forces making up the rebellion. The rebellion is growing, and the flashpoint at the end of Book 2 is a masterstroke of cynicism, demonstrating how nothing (and no-one) is ever all good (or bad).

State of War (The State Trilogy Book 3)

The flashpoint at the end of Book 2 inevitably leads to war between the State and the rebellion. The rebellion are painted by the State as being unpatriotic for forcing them to fight on two fronts – both home and overseas. Added into the mix is Phillips, who now leads the Independents in a fight to bring down the State.

But Danny and Gabriela know what he’s done, and so they’re fighting both. Their force is small, constantly on the run, building alliances with those they can trust, and sometimes with those they can’t… and yet have to. The State and the Independents are both prepared to sacrifice innocent lives – Danny isn’t. Even when there’s an offer of an escape and a new life with a new family, he’s driven to do the right thing – to put his life at risk for the greater good.

In this book, the key relationship is that between Danny and Gabriela, and Iain smoothly depicts how their contrasting personalities and values require continual negotiation in how they take the fight to the State and the Independents.

Personally, I was so pleased to see the return of Henrik; although he is never named, readers of previous books will know it’s him. Iain shows us a broken anonymous man fighting with his demons in a manner that is both believable and hugely poignant.

This book provides an action-packed finale, with taut and well-paced action sequences allowing you to feel the sense of urgency and danger throughout. A most fitting end to the Trilogy.

The Trilogy is available from a range of sellers worldwide – Iain’s website provides full details here.

I understand from Iain that his next project is already underway, and it will no doubt will also be making a strong case for inclusion on my TBR list once it’s ready.


© extract – Iain Kelly, 2021
© Debra Carey, 2021

#Secondthoughts: Historical Fiction

Social media can be tricky to navigate, but every now and again something pops up that can be quite fun.  I think it was in April that Medieval-a-thon popped up in my time-line.  @hollyknece’s brain-child, Medieval-a-thon is a reading challenge, which sets out a number of prompts for choosing books to read.  Throughout the month, a few mini-challenges are provided, such as getting a book read by a particular date or getting through a number of pages in a certain amount of time.  I thought it would be fun to give it a go, although with no particular aspirations to get through the seven books required to reach the rank of Emperor, still less the 18 that would allow me to collect all the costumes, weapons, and ‘buddies’.  As it turned out, I slightly missed the mark with the prompts although I did manage to get Dragon armour, battle axe and shield, and a fox companion.

At some point, I’d got it into my head that I should be focusing on books with a medieval twist.  I kicked off with a re-read of one of my all time favourite books, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Curse of Chalion, but as I’ve noted before, time for physical reading is limited at the moment, and I had more success with audiobooks, managing to plough my way through five of CJ Sansom’s Shardlake books while I sorted out the garden, did the washing up, and generally did all the jobs that left my brain free whilst my hands were busy.  For anyone who has read a Shardlake novel, you will know that this is no mean feat – these are weighty tomes, 600+ pages each (earning me a virtual battle-axe for ‘a heavy book’).  But the narration is generally excellent, Shardlake is an interesting character and there is a lot to take in: I know that the world is not strictly a medieval, one – don’t @ me!

For those that have not read any of these novels, the very brief summary is that hunchbacked laywer Matthew Shardlake gets involved in various politically entangled murders during the reign of Henry VIII.

Reading (listening to) these books, it suddenly struck me that Sansom has a difficult line to walk.  I am no Tudor scholar, but the books seem to have been meticulously researched and the historical aspects incorporated well.  There are a couple of points that I think are  touch dubious, and one that I think might leave Sansom open to defamation of character charges if the events written about were more recent.  That aside, the key thing that occurred to me is that Sansom has had to create essentially a sealed story, that fits with the occurances of the time, but does not impact on them to cause ripples in what really happened.  It is a little like the Red Queen’s Race explanation for a time-travel mishap – nothing has changed because the time-travel is all part of the whole.

In some respects, Sansom has an easier task than Debs’ and I: our work occurs less than eighty years ago, and there are a lot more constraints on us in terms of knowledge of where and when certain things happened.  We’re not writing a work of historical fiction in the same way though, and whilst we’d like to get the flavour of the time right, we’re not too worried about where the King, or the Prime Minister, for example, happen to be at any particular time.  By contrast, Shardlake is tossed about on the poltical high seas, and so sometimes considerable periods pass between books, and indeed within the books, because certain people have to be in certain places at certain times.   And at the end of it all, the story must be wrapped up in such a way that there is a satisfying conclusion to Shardlake’s investigation, but so that there is no impact on where the great and the good will be next.  There is a particularly villainous character who the reader hopes will get his just desserts, but the historian knows will escape to become richer and more powerful.  It is of course no hardship to write this character some literary handcuffs to prevent him from retaliating to Shardlake’s investigations, but he is free to go about his recorded business, sadly.

Food for thought then:  there are a few people of historical record who are mentioned in passing in the story that Debs and I are working on.  I need to go and reread a chunk, having made the comment about defamation of character…I don’t think that I have said anything that has not already been said by others, but wise to double check such things.

On the otherhand, with the movements of more ‘normal’ people, not just the ‘great and the good’ on record in 1947, perhaps we should try and fold in a few more of these into the background of the story.

What do you think?  Which is more important in an historical setting?  The background location, or the people involved?

© David Jesson, 2020

#FF Prompt: Food Glorious Food! The Stories

The mother had been sweating in the kitchen for absolutely hours. She might have an Irish name, but she was half Indian. No silly, not a Red Indian, an Indian from India – where they make the curries. Mind, she doesn’t half tick us off when we call it ‘curry’. “That’s the English for you, making up a word for something to suit themselves…” But I digress.

It was Easter, and she’d decided she was going to do something a bit unusual for the gathering of the clans this year. We’d usually have one of those them there roast dinners, y’know, with all the trimmings. Me own personal favourite was beef, for then she’d do her most marvellous Yorkshires. We all go on at her to do Yorkshires with all roast meats, but she’s a stickler for tradition is the mother, which is why we’d all been surprised when she announced that this year, she was doing a Raan of Lamb.

OK, so we’d no idea what that meant, but it sounded exotic and decidedly unroast-like… but it turned out to be a roast, if with a twist. Quite a big twist to be sure, for there’d not be the usual roast trimmings. Not only no Yorkshires, but no roast potatoes either. Cue much complaining from the lads, but the mother, she stood firm, and Himself was having none of our complaining – so Raan of Lamb it was to be.

The night before there’d been a veritable hive of activity in the kitchen. Of course, she’d been cooking our dinner as usual, but she was also muttering about “double work” and “lazy feckers” meaning us, I s’pose. Busy chopping onions, and grinding spices – a whole load of spices – the kitchen was positively fragrant. The leg of lamb was huge, and if you’d not known better, your mouth would be watering at the thought of the roasties and homemade mint sauce – for the mother had quite the splendid herb garden, and the mint was starting to run rampant, as it’s wont to do. But the smell of those spices put paid to any thoughts of mint sauce.

When she finally came and sat down with us, I went to the fridge to grab us lads some beers – not daring to face her grumbling while she’d been still hard at work. Except there was nary a beer to be seen, for the entire centre of the fridge was filled with what I could only assume was the leg o’ lamb. It was in the biggest dish I’d ever seen and the fridge fair stunk of spices. Just as I’d been thinking about expressing my views on the subject, Himself appeared in the kitchen, giving me what I think is called an old fashioned look, excepting it was rapidly following with “Pub?” and a raised eyebrow. I was quick to nod and went to the hallway to get my coat, where I’d found my brothers also ready to go. “G’night m’darling” he called back to the mother, and we’d headed off into the night.

Unsurprisingly, we’d been back late that night, and us lads were up late in the morning. We found that same hive of activity in the kitchen, but it was mostly veg prep, for apparently the lamb was already in the oven. “Feck’s sake!” said I, for while it was a big leg, it was no turkey, but apparently it needed four hours. No full breakfast for us that morning, so we’d been forced into kidnapping the toaster, a big loaf of bread, a pat of butter and some jam. The mother allowed us to make ourselves mugs of tea before she shooed us firmly out of the kitchen.

I was forced to admit that the smells from the kitchen were quite something, and I was rapidly warming to the mother’s strange decision. As the aunts arrived, one after the other they exclaimed in surprise, hurrying into the kitchen to talk to their sister. A couple were out again pretty darn fast – it later transpired they’d been foolish enough to be less than complimentary about the proposed menu, so were lumbered with laying the table – usually a chore the lazy menfolk were tasked with.

Fortunately, Himself had picked up several bags of ice when he’d got up that morning, and there were a couple of tin tubs in the garden filled to the brim with ice, beers, soft drinks, and some white wine for the mother and her sisters. It seemed only right and proper that we menfolk dispense them, and we set about our task with vigour.

When we finally got to sitting down, the mother and her sisters came swooping from the kitchen bearing dishes. The lamb – obviously – bore pride of place, right at the head of the table in front of Himself, who always did the carving. He’d spent time earlier that morning sharpening his carving tools, and was soon making short work of the moist leg. It looked like any other leg of lamb, it was only the smell and the accompaniments which gave a clue as to the different gastronomic experience we were set for.

While Himself did the carving, the mother was holding court at the other end of the table about the cooking. She told proudly about the multiple stages – first, about rubbing salt and chilli powder into the leg and leaving it to absorb for half an hour. While that was happening, she’d set to grating a fair amount of garlic and ginger, then rubbed that all over the lamb for an overnight marinade. Just as I was thinking that must’ve been the time when I’d tried to get us lads a beer, I realised the mother wasn’t done with the tale of the cooking of the lamb – oh no – for in the morning, multiple spices – cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon and cardamom, plus the less exotic additions of peppercorns and a bay leaf, were added to the water in that there huge dish she’d invested in for the cooking stage of this mega extravaganza. Over the course of the next four hours, she’d had to turn the leg over hourly and baste it. The final touch was an anointing of butter and masala before a quick grilling to crisp it up.

There was an outburst of appreciative noises and comments praising the mother for her willingness to carry out all this work, but she wasn’t done yet – oh no. Next came the accompaniments, which kept her busy for the four hours while the leg was roasting slowly in the oven. She rambled on a bit about spiced carrots, as well as the dish of savoy cabbage, broccoli and them cute little sugar snap peas, all of which she’d cooked in chilli and lime, but what made my ears perk up was what she’d done with the potatoes – I mean, c’mon, what Irishman doesn’t love a potato? She called them Gunpowder Potatoes, and even I could see they were something special. After boiling them small new potatoes, they’d been set to grilling till they were crispy and brown all over. Multi-tasking, as ever, the mother had managed some last minute spice roasting – cumin, coriander with the addition of fennel this time – all of which got mixed in with butter, chopped fresh coriander and green chilis. Halving the potatoes, they got well chucked about in the spicy butter, before the final flourish of salt and squeezed lime juice.

Now, we’re a noisy bunch – usually you’d have to fight for an opening in the conversation. But not this time. This time there was complete silence, as every member of the family shovelled as much of the mother’s glorious food into their mouths. Finally, Himself put down his eating irons and expressed what we’d all been thinking “This is a triumph m’darling, an absolute triumph!” And he was right. We’ll be talking about this meal for a long time to come, for sure.

With thanks to Dishoom for details on the dish my mother cooked for the family one memorable Easter many years ago.

© Debra Carey, 2021



“Steady!  You’ll do yoursel’ a mis-cheef, eating like that.”

The stranger came up for air, relish and fragments of pickles caught in his already filthy beard. He grinned, teeth gleaming in the middle of a face tanned dark by the strong sun and fringed by curtains of drooping moustache.

“These may just be the best fries I’ve ever had!” Another handful went the way of half the burger and the two large cokes that had been drunk while waiting for the food.  Chet looked at him dubiously from his seat at the diner counter.  A regular, he came here for his lunch pretty much every day, but if there’d been another diner anywhere nearby, he’d have been over there like a shot.

“Have you actually eaten fries before, son?”  Chet asked, barely managing to keep his surprise contained.

“Oh yeah – but I’ve not eaten in a while.”

“It shows” Chet said dryly.  He took a sip of his coffee. “But in that case, best to take it slow.  Won’t do your body no good to try and make up for it all at once.” 

“That’s right”, said Joe, the owner of the diner.  “My grandpappy, he landed on D-Day you know – “

“We know” chorused the handful of locals, in unison.

“Well after that, he was in the –“

“The group that liberated the death camps.  We may have heard this story one or two hun’erd times before Joe, from your granpappy hi’self, as well as from your Pa.”

“Well” Joe humphed “He was and he did, and what he always said was that there were folks who died when they got their first solid meal, ‘cos their bodies couldn’t cope.”

The stranger grimaced.  “Ok.  I’ll slow down a bit.  I’ll have another burger when you’re ready, and I’ll follow that up with…” He looked up at the board “…a slice of the pie o’ the day, and after that a stack of waffles and syrup. “

By the time the second burger arrived at the table the first had been completely demolished.  Most people roundabouts would probably have left the limp lettuce, but even this had been devoured.

“You sure ‘bout that pie?  And the waffles?  You really got space for them?” Joe asked, concern etched into his face.  “You ain’t gonna be sick or n’thin’?

“Your man may be right, I should pace myself, but yeah, I deffo have space for pie and waffles.  I got dumped in the middle of nowhere and I haven’t eaten anything that you’d call food in a week.  Mebbe I could borrow some scissors or summat and tidy up a bit whilst I let things settle?”

Joe eyed him suspiciously.  “If’n you got dumped somewhere, you got the moolah to pay for all this?” 

“Yeah, I can pay.  Do you want me to settle up in advance?” The stranger pulled out his wallet. “Do you take card?  I’d prefer to keep the cash for when I really need it.”

If the folks in the diner, had extra eyes, all of them would have pointed his way.

Joe disappeared out back and returned with some supplies.  “Here you go.  Scissors, my own razor, but I’ve put in a clean blade, and here are some spare clothes.  Toss yours out and I’ll put them through the wash for ya.”

“That’s mighty decent.  Thanking you.  I might have cash, but life hasn’t been that easy of late, and I appreciate the kindness.”  The stranger disappeared towards the washroom.

“Don’t clog up the sink!” Joe called after the retreating figure.

*****

When he came out of the washroom, he looked real spruce, if a bit funny where he’d lost the beard and the tan met skin that had not seen the same intense sun.  He sat back down and picked up where he’d left off, his fork digging deep into the slice of cherry pie, sweet-crust pastry crumbling into the filling as it spilled out on the plate.  He watched for a few moments as the butter melted into the waffles and then poured amber syrup like condensed sunlight over them.  Amazingly, these he ate too, polishing off the lot whilst he sipped a cup of coffee.

*****

“And that’s all I know officer!  He asked for a cup of coffee to take away, settled up, and then went left…Oh he did ask if this was the road to Amarillo, and Chet gave him some directions.  I think he said something about trying to get bus.”

© David Jesson, 2021

#IWSG: What throws you out of a story?

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.


January 6 question – Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people’s books?

In one word – inaccuracies. I’ve heard of people giving up on books because they’re written in the present, or due to being written from too many points of view, because of an unusual writing style, or an incomprehensible dialect. Personally, I can (usually) accommodate all of the above, but inaccuracies are like nails on a blackboard.

Even before I became a writer, an inaccuracy would bring me up short, especially when a somewhat fantastical tale (if not actually fantasy), it’s important that a reader believes… and when any single inaccuracy can start the process of doubt, the entire story can be poisoned by that one inaccuracy.

As a writer, I do try to be understanding of how easy it is to make a mistake. For example, if it’s an arcane fact, I can persuade myself to forgive it, but when it’s something widely known and/or easily available to check, it smacks of… well, let’s just say unflattering adjectives.

My co-written WIP takes place in relatively recent history (post WWII). We’re not attempting to include historical figures in any significant manner, but we do refer to real people from time-to-time, and to historical events. While our tale does have elements of fantasy, we both feel it’s critical that we don’t get the factual aspects wrong, or it’ll sow that seed of doubt and so lose our readers.

What throws you? Do you share my view, or is it something else entirely for you?

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6th posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, 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 Food Glorious Food! With the festive season just behind us, there should be inspiration aplenty. Write a story, any story, but include in it a description of the most satisfying meal you’ve ever eaten, in glorious detail.

If you’re inspired to give this a go, you can get full details here.


© Debra Carey, 2021

#FlashFiction Prompt – Food Glorious Food!

With the festive season just behind us, there should be inspiration aplenty! Write a story, any story, but include in it a description of the most satisfying meal you’ve ever eaten, in glorious detail.

Once again, no limitations on genre (other than that it not be NSFW), so have fun!

Word count: as I’m asking for a story and a detailed description of a meal, you can have up to 1,000 (if you need it)
Deadline: 7 am on Sunday, 10th January 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’.