Just a Man

The prompt:
He is just a man.
He will fail.
You will make sure of that.


small man

“Good morning Miranda”, said Gerry, “how are you feeling about our first session?” Miranda smiled, “a little nervous, but pretty excited. I’ve spent so much time talking this through with my group of girlfriends and getting absolutely nowhere with it. So, yes, nervous and excited.”

“I’m wondering” said Gerry, “if there’s something in particular that made you decide to seek professional help with this issue? Something more than the fact it’s been the subject of multiple conversations.” Raising her eyebrows at the unexpectedly on target question, Miranda responded: “I wasn’t planning to mention this quite so early,” she said quietly, “but my last boyfriend sent me this lengthy dissection of our relationship and what he perceived as my unreasonable expectations. I ended it that same day, but it’s been niggling away at me, probably because it’s written down and I can go over it, again and again, and torture myself with it.”

Gerry was nodding and making ‘I’m listening’ sounds, so Miranda found herself continuing: “I thought we could look at the problem overall before addressing the very specific points he raised.” “But the email upset you?” asked Gerry. “Not so much upset me, more came as a surprise. I thought we were doing fine. Well, apart from the usual niggles single people have when they’re transitioning into a couple, but I hadn’t spotted anything more … and I usually do.” “You usually do?” echoed Gerry in a slightly questioning tone. “Yes” agreed Miranda, “I’ve always been the one to examine the relationship, to check its temperature, where it’s going, whether I’m happy, whether I want more … or less. But that’s pretty normal isn’t it? The woman doing the relationship stuff whilst the bloke just putters along.” She laughed ruefully, “apart from the commitment-phobes, of course, who never let you get that far!”

“So, you ended the relationship when the e-mail arrived” said Gerry, “even though it was going fine. Why do you think that was?” Miranda recoiled as if struck, she’d never considered there was any other option open to her and she said as much. Keeping his voice very gentle, Gerry asked “you didn’t feel you could have a discussion about it?” “No,” said Miranda, “I didn’t feel he deserved me as he’d taken the coward’s way, sending an e-mail rather than talking to me in person.” Gerry’s facial expression seemed to say ‘fair point’.

Miranda noticed that each session with Gerry contained more of these unexpected and on-target questions. Despite feeling she’d addressed them well, she’d found herself thinking about the questions, over and over, and wondering if her responses were just a bit too pat, a bit too clever, a bit too deflecting? She decided to share her thoughts with Gerry, only to be rewarded with a broad smile and a suggestion that they discuss her ruminations in more depth.

These discussions began to feature in Miranda’s dreams, which provided interesting fodder for her weekly discussions with Gerry. When Gerry was away for two weeks, Miranda continued noting down her dreams. The night before her next session with Gerry, Miranda had a most memorable dream: She was in a big white room where twelve men and women ranged down one side, sat on ornate gold seats. Miranda approached each in turn only to find herself being asked, “why are you still single?” Miranda became more distressed with each question, finally blurting out to the last one: “You’re the wise ones, the all seeing ones, if you don’t know, how will I ever find out?” “You’ll have to ask Her” said the last one indicating a woman sitting on a far off cloud.

As Miranda got nearer, she recognised the woman as her mother. “Do get on with it Miranda” she heard her mother say impatiently. “But, but … I don’t understand”, blubbered Miranda, “what’s going on Mummy?” “Oh for goodness sake Miranda, you’re not a little girl, call me Mum, or mother, even Brenda?” Miranda shuddered at the thought of calling her mother ‘Brenda’ but took out a hanky and blew her nose. “Mum” she asked, “why am I still single? Why can’t I find a man to settle down with?”

Brenda snorted: “don’t be ridiculous Miranda, it doesn’t matter who you go out with. He is just a man. He will fail. You will make sure he does” and with that Miranda’s mother waved her away. Miranda stood there, her mouth gaping: “But Mum …” “Oh for goodness sake Miranda, what on earth do you think I was doing all those years whilst you were growing up?” Miranda looked how she felt – genuinely bewildered. Sighing heavily, Brenda continued: “I was training you to make sure the male species suffered, the way your father made me suffer. And I can see that I’ve done a good job. Now, hurry along, there’s a good girl. Just keep up the good work and do stop wasting money with that dreadful (Brenda spat out the next word) Man, Gerry, who asks you all those impertinent questions.”


© 2016 Debra Carey


#secondthoughts – #1linewed

The majority of writers, if asked directly (and quite often will just drop it into the conversation anyway), will tell you that they got into writing by being readers first.  If you are very unlucky then you might get a rundown of all the key literary inspirations behind their work.  (I promise not to inflict my full list on anyone…).

What is interesting is the real change that is occurring in publishing and writing – I may be wrong, and it is just my perception as I become more involved in this community but it feels that, if you are so inclined, it is much easier to make it as in indy author than it used to be.  Not just that, but the perception of indy authors is changing: from my perspective it is only within the last decade or so that independent publishing has been seen as legitimate, and not simply a euphemism for ‘vanity publishing’.  I’d be interested in discussing this further, if anyone is minded to, but this is not the purpose of this #secondthoughts.

One of the things that has made publishing easier, in some ways, is ‘the internet’.  It’s easier to find the right people, to build up a pre-release following, to go with just an e-book to keep costs down.  It’s also much easier to build communities both great and small around writing.  These can be very genre specific, or general to the action (or, more likely, tribulations) of writing.  One of the great things about this community is the support network, which includes the sharing of #WIP (works in progress).  These usually come in the form of specific themes generated by the ‘owners’ of certain hashtags, for which there is at least one for every day of the week.

My favourite, not least because it was my introduction to this arena is #1linewed, which was launched by @RWAKissofDeath.  I’ve posted against this tag often over the last few months, although I always skip the page number specific themes…

Confession time. Despite my best efforts, my #WIP is, shall we say, not fully developed.  #WIP suggests a car which at least has a chassis and an engine with the body work being added, whereas mine is still, to some extent on the drawing board.  When I came across #1linewed, I’d assumed it was shaded more towards a story in one line, and without bothering to investigate further I waded in, tweeting my own lines.  Just recently I’ve been having second thoughts.  Do my tweets belong in this group?  I don’t have a story that I’m editing.  I don’t have something that I’m ready to talk to an agent about…  Taken in this vein, I feel a bit of a fraud.

On the other hand though, I have a shed-load of ideas that are reaching super-saturation – they are starting to crystallise.  I have an arc, I have some characters, I have some context…the thing that is still missing is the key to the main plot line!  What I really like about #1linewed is that the themes lead me to the seed-points for scenes – I find myself encapsulating an idea in a line, and knowing (at least roughly) where the line fits in the scene and to some extent where the scene fits in the story.  It’s even helped me to define some secondary characters that I hadn’t really thought very much about.

Emerging from my doubts then, a big thank you to @RWAKissofDeath for providing the themes: these have been invaluable.  If you are reading this and coming across #1linewed for the first time, please do check it out on Twitter – there are some amazing writers out there sharing their work.  If you are a regular on #1linewed, I hope you will take my confession in the spirit that it is meant – an acknowledgement that I have subverted (very slightly) the unwritten law of the #WIP, but in the belief that I am living up to the spirit.  And isn’t that a strong part of writing anything in the first place?




Spaceman Crusoe

Finding yourself in the middle of nowhere is a dispiriting experience.  Add to this the embarrassment of being an astronaut reduced to the level of pre-stone-age man and you begin to understand how I felt.  Thankfully there was no one to witness my embarrassment but, on the other hand, neither was there a soul I could turn to for help.

I watched my craft, which from the perspective of the shore seemed to be rather more stable than it had appeared twenty minutes previously when I had thought that it was going to sink beneath the waves.

Great.  Spaceman Crusoe reporting for duty.

As I say, twenty minutes earlier, the situation hadn’t seemed so stable.  Old man Wyss had an easier time of it – he had a family for slave labour.  But I suppose he had to worry about his dependents relying on him to make everything better.  I’d also been lucky in that I’d been able to grab a few items before I jumped ship.  My grand prize was an antique – a real, genuine book, made from compressed fibrous material.  I’d been worried that it was going to get wet, but snug inside my bag, double wrapped in some spare clothes with some other odds and ends I’d managed to save, it had made it to the shore safe and sound.  I wouldn’t be this overjoyed about any book, but this was the classic ‘Survival’.  Who knew, maybe I’d live long enough to be rescued.

Writing Prompt – The Kitchen of the Future

Imagine yourself in the Kitchen of the Future – what does it look like?

Write a drabble (exactly 100 words) or a piece of flash fiction (up to but not more than 1000 words) on the prompt and add it as a comment to this post.

Word count: 100 / 1,000max
Due date: Friday, 14th October @ 2pm GMT

If you don’t have your own blog but would like to join in, please drop us a line via the contact form and we’ll see what we can do about posting your work on this site.

In submitting a piece of writing or link, you are granting us the right to publish on this blog and/or publicise this work/your blog. We will not do anything else with your work without consulting with you first.

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

The Dragons weren’t flying, something was terribly wrong.

Flash fiction is a new bit of writing practice for me and as David seems to appreciate my ferreting around for inspiration, here’s another one! I struggled with this for a while trying to get it short enough. I was aiming for 1,000 words and just tipped over. Note to self: stop blathering on …

Oh, the prompt is as the title …

dragons_united_group_picture_by_natoli-d5vm6uqMac grabbed his coffee on the way to work. “What the …” he swore after bumping into the fifth person who’d stopped, right in the midst of walking-and-talking.  Mac looked around and noticed a gaggle on the street corner pointing up at the sky. Except there was nothing in the sky. And that’s when he got it, there were no dragons and they should’ve been flying, something must be wrong. Stepping into the street, he figured he could avoid rush hour traffic easier than pedestrians. He made calls, but they all went to voicemail. After an hour without replies, he went over to Joe’s to pick up the chatter.

Joe’s was buzzing so it was quite a while before he joined Mac. “No-one seems to know why” he said quickly, putting his feet up with a sigh. “Last night we’d a big group from one of those seminar hotels keeping us busy, when I noticed a few of them talking to old Guy. Just then they got up en masse and went outside.” Mac raised his eyebrows but Joe continued:  “I sent Jenna out after them. She soon raced back shouting about the dragons.” Mac started to ask: “did you …” when Joe nodded: “I went out to check for myself. The sky was clear, no clouds, just moon and stars and no dragons. Since then, we’ve done crazy business with more than half the town in here, but no-one, absolutely no-one seems to know a damn thing.”

For a moment, Joe flexed his feet and sighed whilst Mac thought. Who could know? Who had an in?  Suddenly Mac remembered something: “didn’t old Guy have some connection to the dragons back in the day?” Joe nodded, “yup, way back, before the drink got him.”

Mac couldn’t raise Guy till lunchtime. He wasn’t making any sense and the coffee Mac fed him only made Guy puke. In a while Mac realised he was going about this the wrong way. Opening Guy’s fridge, he pulled out a cold beer and let Guy knock it back. After he’d drunk half the second one, Guy asked him “what the hell do you want?” “Where are the dragons? Mac asked, but was surprised when Guy laughed, so much that he could hardly catch his breath. Mac crossed to the fridge, taking out a couple more beers, he handed one to Guy asking “any thoughts you’d care to share?”

Later Mac crossed town whilst absorbing what Guy had him. It was that age-old story, one of cutting costs and out-sourcing work from the guys with training, with knowledge and experience, to the cheap newcomers. This’d happened some months back and the dragons had been getting sick. They weren’t being fed right and a new abrasive cleaning regime was causing serious damage to their scaly skin. Their old handlers knew how to care for and heal them, but the new handlers had no idea. They couldn’t even tell the difference between them, so the dragons had been protecting their own by covering for the sick ones. But last night, they’d all gone out and none had returned.

Mac spent the afternoon tracking down the old handlers, but every one of them had packed up home and family and left town. It was all over the news how the Mayor was combing the surrounding countryside for them, but kept coming back empty-handed.

Some nights later, Mac was having a nightcap in Joe’s when old Guy came over, swerving between tables like he’d had too many. But Mac spotted the look in his eye and he wasn’t drunk. Guy leant on his table and asked why he’d not repeated what he’d learned about the dragons. Mac shrugged: “why would I? They seem the injured party in all this.” Guy smiled and said: “I’m being watched. If I leave a package in the booth near the window with directions and a token, will you deliver it for me?” Mac shrugged again: “yeah, why not?”

Next morning, Mac hitched a ride with the mayor’s searchers out of town, then stopped to drink some coffee and eat a bacon sandwich. Waiting till the searchers were over the horizon, he walked up to a pass, took out the token and waited. A man appeared, introduced himself as Ben and took him into the valley which was just coming to life. Fires were on the go and there were vast tents around the edge. Ben took Mac into one of the largest, inside of which were dragons being rubbed in goose fat to ease the wounds on their skins. Further back, dragons were being spoon fed and this is where Ben hurried Mac to. Handing the package to willing hands, the contents were soon being dispensed to the weakest patients.

Ben spoke quietly telling how the dragons had become increasingly sick, some close to dying.  He’d tried raising the dragons’ plight, but without success, so getting together with his old colleagues, they’d planned an escape and prepared this hideout.  Finally Mac asked “how come you’ve not been found?” Ben smiled: “It’s not a fairytale you know, dragons really can do magic. They’ve put an enchantment around this valley. Unless they allow it, you’ll see nothing here.” “The token?” asked Mac and Ben inclined his head.

Ben walked Mac back over the pass, telling him it was their intention to wait until the dragons were fully recovered. They hoped, by that time, their absence would’ve have left a serious vacuum. They’d need an advocate to approach the mayor, to gain assurances about the dragons future and safety. Mac raised an enquiring eyebrow: “me?” Ben nodded. “Why not?” Mac indicated his ascent and Ben continued: “old Guy will give you the odd package to deliver, if you’d be willing, and he’ll let you know when it’s time.”

Mac strolled back along the main road back into town. He’d hitch a ride with the mayor’s searchers soon – they’d be along in a while. Fingering the token in his pocket, the idea made him smile …


© 2016 Debra Carey

#secondthoughts – David Eddings

David Eddings, if you’ve not come across him before, is one of the big names in fantasy.

#Secondthoughts is a series that Debs and I are starting to explore writing: the journey of, reactions to and reflections on writing.  We’re hoping that we’ll be joined by others along the way.  For this inaugural one, I’m going to reflect on a body of work that has probably had a huge effect on how I think of Fantasy novels and the second thoughts I’m having now that I’ve got my eye in as an editor (day job, mainly) and now that I’m getting serious about my non-job writing.

David Eddings, if you’ve not come across him before, is one of the big names in fantasy. He has written about not one, not two, not three but four separate fantasy realms.  Up front, I’m going to say that it later transpired that his wife had a big hand in co-writing almost all of the books he wrote, but when they were starting out the advice was that a husband and wife team/multi-authors would be problematic, so only his name appears on the books.

I started reading the Eddings’ books when I was in my early to mid-teens – I think that’s probably true of most of the readership. They were still writing into the early part of the new millennium, but by then I’d moved on for all sorts of reasons, so I didn’t get round to reading the last series, The Dreamers.  I might one day, but the TBR pile is pretty big (and growing).  Anyway, when you’re that age, the Fantasy trope is pretty much a given, especially if there’s a bit of magic, some sword play and the world to save.  And the Eddings oeuvre was pretty readable: a friend loaned me the first four books in one series (The Belgariad) and I was itching for the final book, so when I stumbled over a copy in bookshop I bought it and read it straight through twice in less than 24 hours.  I think I got the entire second series (The Mallorean) for a birthday and read the lot over half-term.  There were a fair few summers when I would undertake to read the whole lot through again.  It was a similar story (excuse the cliche) a few years later when I started on the Elenium and the Tamuli.

What really works for me about these series is the world-building: whole nations are involved, in some cases whole continents.  There are numerous cultures, some of which are intimately bound up with their local geography and geology.  There are some brilliant and memorable characters and, as I write this, in my mind’s eye many of the scenes from the novels are evoked and play out.

The journey of my second thoughts begins with a stand alone novel, the Redemption of Althalus.  At university I was reading for a degree, spending a bit too much time on archery and reading a lot of new things (I really shouldn’t have worked my way through six books of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant in one semester).  A few years along and one of my friends at archery was also a big reader and a big fan of Eddings and several other of my favourite authors.  (Bonus points if you know why she was put out when I proposed a toast to the Walker Evans Memorial Society, whilst minding the barbecue…).  She was a big fan of RoA.  I’d been putting it off, I can’t remember why now, and even then it took me quite a few years to get round to reading it, but I eventually did, in part because of the remembered recommendation.  It was absolute tosh, and not the good kind.  I think that my friend had latched onto a particular character, and forgiven the book a lot of its faults.  There are some really good ideas in there, but my guess would be that the book did not have an editor, or if it did, one that couldn’t stand up to the writer.

Roll on a couple more years and I decided to sit down and reread the Belgariad.  I couldn’t do it.  The magic, the glamour was gone.  I found the writing verbose and clunky, it didn’t have the same flow.  Maybe I’ll give it another try in a few years.  We’ll see.

O _ o

So, my second thoughts on the writing of David and Leigh Eddings: there are some really great ideas in there, and if you are an aspiring writer, particularly of Fantasy, you can learn a lot about world building.  I’d also suggest that you can learn a lot about writing – clearly they were doing something right, given the number of copies sold and the significant fortune left to charity when they died.  But I also think that there are lessons to be learned about how not to write. For example there might be a couple of tropes that aren’t used, but I’m not sure what they are off hand…


Genie for Hire

So, tell me – what can I do for you?…On the other hand, I am an honest businessman these days…

I quite like the concept of #FlashFiction, but I’m very bad at going out to look for the prompts…so I’ve invented #TortoiseFlashFiction.  I make a note, usually of whatever it is that Debs has spotted, of the key thing that springs to mind and then try and write it up later.  Today’s was prompted by Deb’s Free Genie.




Come in, come in.  Do have a seat.  Can I get you anything?  Tea?  Coffee?  Trisha my dear, refreshments please!  And do bring us some of the good biscuits.  There.  Are you comfortable?  There is always so much to do, but I always say that if you can’t make time for your clients then your clients won’t be clients for very long, ha ha!

Yes, yes, that is a magnificent bottle is it not?  I tell the more gullible that it is a carved ruby, but that would be clearly impossible!  It is far too large…but small enough if it was your home.  And indeed, that was my home, off and on, for a thousand years.  Mostly on, especially after Shlomo lost the franchise.  But that is all in the past, not worth dwelling on.

So, tell me – what can I do for you?  I must warn you that there are limitations.  I cannot access my full power these days – the world has moved on, you know, and I have spent too much time in this plane of existence.  On the other hand, I am an honest businessman these days – you will not need to phrase your request like a Jesuit practicing casuistry, and you need not fear that I will claim your soul or some such.  I am a free agent these days, and do you know, I quite enjoy the pleasures that this world has to offer.  But they are expensive and so I must needs charge for my services.  You may be assured that the workman is worthy of his hire though.  What else must I say?  Hmmm.  No wait, let me stop you before I embarrass us both.  Your need is clearly great, or you would not be here, and whilst prison holds no particular perils, I will do nothing that is illegal.  I have been known to bend a few laws, but my conscience is unblemished.

I am sorry, so sorry.  I did not mean to offend you, but many desperate people have sat in this office and I have to make it quite clear in advance what it is that they can expect.  I did not mean to imply they your business was less than honest.  So.  Well then.  I should probably also say that my fee is dependent on the time scale your wish needs to operate over.  For example, there was that athlete who I helped: my support for him was relatively modest.  He had talent aplenty, but he was mortally afraid of being injured.  I protected him for his entire career…well, until he forgot a payment.  The traditional palace is quite popular as well.  That usually requires some on-going support, but the big expense is right at the beginning.

So then.  What is your desire?  A novel, of 500 pages, that will top the best seller lists for 25 weeks, cause young women to throw themselves at your feet, and will lead to handsome advances on further works.  And for this you are prepared to pay…?  Make it 16 weeks and ladies in the 25-32 bracket and your wish is my command!

(521 words)

© 2016 David Jesson