#A2Z Challenge: E for Echo

During 2018’s A-Z Challenge, we wrote the first draft of “The November Deadline” and to celebrate that this is now (finally) out with beta readers, we’ll be producing a daily piece of micro-fiction linked to it – some prequel, some containing a detail not included in the story, some snippets from sequels currently being written.

The hunched figure looked like Methuselah’s great-grandfather; the dwindling echo of a civilisation long decayed to oblivion.  The rattling cough suggested something terminal, but it was nothing that he hadn’t lived through before.  Both hands were required to take the bottle from the shelf; the stopple was loose and betrayed the palsy in the withered arms.  A measure went into a glass, followed by water from a crystal flagon, misted with age.

“Tell me” he croaked, a whole spawning of frogs buried somewhere in his throat.

The messenger related his news as the old man sipped his drink.

Laughter, from a chest now hale and hearty reverberated from the walls of the cave.

“They did what?” he chuckled in a clear and bell-like tenor.

© 2021, David Jesson & Debra Carey

#A2Z Challenge: D for Delta

During 2018’s A-Z Challenge, we wrote the first draft of “The November Deadline” and to celebrate that this is now (finally) out with beta readers, we’ll be producing a daily piece of micro-fiction linked to it – some prequel, some containing a detail not included in the story, some snippets from sequels currently being written.

Isaac hacked along the path, skirting the coppice-willows, and came down to the small lake in the centre of Jack’s estate.  He dumped his pack, took off his boots, and stripped down to his trunks, before running into the chilly water.  He started off with a fast crawl, slicing through the water and leaving a delta-wake spreading out behind him.  Near the opposite shore he tumble turned and returned using a back stroke. Back and forth once more, breast-stroke both ways, and he was done with his swim.  He whipped a rough towel out of the pack, dried off and dressed, and was back running again in a matter of minutes. 

“Best be keeping ready” he thought to himself. “I ‘spect summat’ll be along dreckly.”

© 2021, David Jesson & Debra Carey

#A2ZChallenge: Rest Day 1

This year, we’re actively taking part in the challenge that is blogging from A to Z. If you are a visitor to this blog that hasn’t come across the challenge before, you might want to take a look at their homepage. Fundamentally though, the aim is to get through April, one day at a time, with a post for each letter of the alphabet…simples. Sundays are rest days, but to keep the focus on the challenge, we’ve suspended our normal schedule for the duration and will be back with our regular features in May.

In the meantime, perhaps you’d like to catch up with the challenge so far?

A for Alpha

B for Bravo

C for Charlie

#A2Z Challenge: C for Charlie

During 2018’s A-Z Challenge, we wrote the first draft of “The November Deadline” and to celebrate that this is now (finally) out with beta readers, we’ll be producing a daily piece of micro-fiction linked to it – some prequel, some containing a detail not included in the story, some snippets from sequels currently being written.

“What do you reckon, doc?” I know that voice, Charlie thought.

“It’s difficult to know, Mr… er… Blind.” Charlie couldn’t see the doctor, but he sounded peeved. “The patient’s breathing on his own, which is a good sign, but he’s not yet returned to consciousness, although there is no sign of physical injuries beyond some significant bruising.”

“It’s been days!”

“Quite so. It’s rare, but not unusual.  It’s best to be… prepared… though.”

Charlie felt his hand gripped, hard.

“Buck up old son, come home to us.”

“No!” Charlie screamed. “Don’t leave me, Uncle Billy!”

“His eye twitched then, doc.”

© 2021, David Jesson & Debra Carey

#A2Z Challenge: B for Bravo

During 2018’s A-Z Challenge, we wrote the first draft of “The November Deadline” and to celebrate that this is now (finally) out with beta readers, we’ll be producing a daily piece of micro-fiction linked to it – some prequel, some containing a detail not included in the story, some snippets from sequels currently being written.

“Oh! Bravo, Pyry! This is absolutely lovely.  I’m tempted to say that it’s far too good for Mrs Wilson.”

Pyry’s face flushed like a sunrise. “Thank you Suuriseppä” he mumbled, mainly looking at his feet.  Mike continued her examination of the carving knife that the apprentice had made. The balance was perfect, the folded structure of the metal exquisite, revealed through delicately applied acid. Juliet nudged the boy in the ribs and jerked her head

“Suuriseppä? I also made a case for it.”  This was an understatement of breath-taking proportions.  The box had been made from the same piece of bog oak that had been used to make the scales for the handle.  It could have been left at that, but Pyry had taken the time to add splines to the corners contrasting the black wood with a lighter oak, grown on the estate, and brass.  He’d also included an inlay of brass, creating an intricate Celtic knot.

“Oh Pyry! I’m sorry, you’ll have to make Mrs Wilson another one.” The boy looked worried. What had he done wrong? Mikaela still hadn’t looked up from her scrutiny of the carving knife and its case. “This is beautiful. Far to good for the likes her. We’ll keep this for one of your ‘prentice pieces.  Keep this up and you’ll be a journeyman by next year.”

Authors’ Note – Suuriseppä loosely translates as ‘great smith’, and is a title awarded to those who demonstrate unusual mastery in manipulating materials. It sits outside the formal guild structure in which Lady Michaela is senior and Pyry and Juliette are incredibly junior.

© 2021, David Jesson & Debra Carey

#AprilA2Z – The Theme Reveal


2018 feels like a long time ago.  I suppose three years is a long time really!  But the events of the last 15 months have been pretty wearing.  I mention 2018, because for Fiction Can Be Fun, this was a significant year, and the A2Z Challenge was a big part of this.  In 2018, we bashed out 40,000 words or so for a series of posts that told the story of Echo, a small group hidden inside MI:9’s Bravo Section.  World War II ended in victory for the Allies, but at a cost.  It didn’t take long for the Allies to start bickering, for the fall of an Iron Curtain across Europe.  In London, the British are starting to rebuild.  But in the East End, an old enemy is reaching out to make trouble for Echo.  Billy Blind, right hand man to de facto team leader Jack Runward, has some grim news.  Quartermaster and Armourer, Lady Michaela ‘Mike’ McManus is asked for a favour from old friend and Bravo Section controller Lt Colonel Robert Feilding. Oxford don and brilliant strategist, Cledwyn ‘Tinkerbell’ Cadwallader, is finding the spy games of his University colleagues an unsettling experience – they’re putting him off his beer…

So much for 2018!  At the end of all that, we had a story that we were really proud of, and one that we thought we could do something with.  Day jobs and other projects have taken their toll, but three years later, another 40,000 words, numerous rounds of editing, and we have a story that is going out to beta readers! Woot!  To celebrate, we thought we’d return to the world of ‘The November Deadline’, and indeed the inspiration of the NATO phonetic alphabet that we used to prompt the daily episodes.

So for 2021, join us for a daily drabble (or perhaps a haiku or other form of microfiction), as we catch up with Jack, Mike, Billy, Tink, and their friends and adversaries…

PS: Our normal schedule will be suspended for the duration.

How to survive #AprilA2Z: A #SecondThoughts list

It’s easy to wish time away, but equally, Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.  April is nearly upon us (sort of), which for a sub-set of bloggers means it’s time for #AprilA2Z.  That being the case, we thought that some tips (earned the hard way) on how to survive the month of April might be helpful.

For those unfamiliar with the AprilA2Z, it’s probably worth taking a moment to explain what this blogging challenge is – and if you are a blogger yourself, perhaps I can tempt you into giving it a go.  If you are already familiar with the Challenge, then you might want to skip to the list, but for those who need some context, read on!

The AprilA2Z challenge was created in 2010 by Arlee Bird, who said on his blog:

Can you post every day except Sundays during this month?  And to up the bar, can you blog thematically from A to Z?

He, and a few others, set out to show that you could.  (You usually get Sundays off for good behaviour, but it depends on the calendar, some years April has 5 Sundays, so you have to work one of them.  Them’s the breaks).  The challenge took off, and now there are still people who haven’t learned better, joined by newcomers who think that this looks like a jolly idea… Some people write on the day, prompted only by the letter.  Others spend a lot of time in preparation, and/or following an additional theme, prompted by their interests.  Part of the idea is to go and check out what other people are doing as well, comment, and say hi.

Debs had a go at this in 2015 without a theme and another run at it in 2016 on book genres. This was also the year she  inveigled David into giving it go, which lead to 26 posts on “How to write a thesis”. Having survived the experience (just) he came back again in 2017 with “The Materials Science in Fiction and Mythology“, whilst Debs had a third go with Jazz (and some fiction it inspired her to write).

David then came up with the insane brilliant idea of writing a novella over the course of April 2018, and persuaded Debs that it would be a good writing experience to share the load.  (They’re now putting the finishing touches to a full length novel based on this extended piece of writing, and are starting to flesh out plans for further stories in the same setting).

The following list represents their combined top tips for surviving the A2Z, having fun, building your blog and/or writing practice, and meeting new bloggers.

But before you start, you need to make a decision – what’s your purpose in joining this Challenge? Do you want to get into a regular blogging habit, make new online friends, find interesting new reading material, showcase your business, practice writing short stories, have a place to showcase the research you’ve done for a book you’re writing, write a series of linked posts which you can publish, or, or, or …?


Decision made? Then dive in …

1. Write what you know: This is one of those pieces of writing advice which some people swear by and others try to burn to the ground, salting the earth where it stood afterwards.  An interpretation of ‘what you know’ is not ‘what you have lived’, though, but rather, ‘what you have knowledge of and understand’.  A lot of science fiction and fantasy would never get written if we waited for writers to get abducted by aliens, but a good grounding in physics can be essential to get your head around time-travel or Faster-Than-Light space craft.  Similarly, a better than passing knowledge of horse-riding or some-such can add a level of verisimilitude to a description of the cavalry of the Third Imperial Lances fighting a desperate rear-guard action on the steppes of Hzrun.  In a non fiction setting, there are some great blogs about crafts, and David’s colleague used the A2Z to write a series of posts on metallurgy that now form extra reading material for one of the degree modules he teaches.

2. Say hello: a fundamental tenet of A2Z is going and saying hello.  The thing is, with over a thousand people, sometimes nearly two thousand, having a go at this blogging thingy, it can be tricky to know what to look at.  It is well worthwhile though – Debs and David have both met great people through the A2Z, people with whom they are both still in contact.  The A2Z organisers try to make it as easy as possible to find out what a blog is about, so that is a helpful way of reducing the number to look at – time is precious and you don’t want to spend time looking at loads of blogs you aren’t ultimately interested in.  There are two approaches that you can take.  One is to pick a handful of blogs that you will look at and comment on everyday.  The other is to work your way through the list and look at a few new ones everyday, and follow up with a few later on.  The only problem with the latter method is the challengers who are running something that has a thread that runs through from the beginning.  (See point four, below).

3. Saying hello purposefully: If you say hello, people will try and check back if they can.  Also, people visiting this third party website will know that you are active, and might want to see what you’ve got to say.  Say hello purposefully, with a meaningful comment, and sign off with a link to your blog.  Not sure how?  Et voila!  The AtoZ people are very keen on electronic signatures that make it easy to find out where you are from, and ideally why.  I’ve found their tutorial very helpful, and I’ve used it several times.  This is mine from something called 23Things, which was a blog challenge I did for work.

[Your name or Twitter handle] from
<a href=”yourblogaddress”>Name of Your Blog</a>
You could add a mention to a specific project/event, with a link. For example, my signature for that event looks like this:
@BreakerOfThings from
<a href=”https://abackoftheenvelopecalculation.wordpress.com/”>A Back of the Envelope Calculation</a>
<a href=”https://abackoftheenvelopecalculation.wordpress.com/”>Calling by from #23ThingsSurrey</a>

4. How long should posts be? How long is a piece of string?  (Twice the length from the middle to the end).  The advice from A2Z HQ is not less than 100 words, to make it worth while for people coming to read what you’ve got to say.  That also works well if you’re going for a daily drabble challenge or some such.  An upper limit is probably about 1000 words, although experience suggests that even that can be a bit much.  There are two factors to consider – what do you have the time to write and what does your ready have the time to read?  Remember what we said about thousands of blogs in the challenge?  No one has the time to read several long form essays everyday.  That said, what is your USP?  What works for you?  What do you want to say?  If you are bashing out some random musings, and aren’t planning on major edits, then you can probably manage something slightly longer.  If you are aiming for something a bit more polished, then you probably want to keep the word count down a bit, if only to keep things manageable for you as a writer.

5. To theme or not to theme?  A theme might be obvious – it might spring fully formed from the reason that you blog in the first place.  Or it might be an opportunity to try out something new.  But you don’t have to blog  to a theme.  The queen of free association is probably Isa-Lee Wolf.  She does this a lot throughout the year anyway, but somehow always manages to up the ante for A2Z, without really doing anything different.  For us though, independently we’ve both found that a theme makes a lot of sense and helps to provide some focus.  It also makes it that much easier to write blog posts in advance, meaning that you have that much more time for checking out other people’s blogs during the challenge.

6. Being found & finding your fellow A2Z participants
6.1 You can sign up to take part on the Blogging from A to Z website, where you can also grab a selection of images to post onto your site, as well as purchasing items of merchandise. In earlier years they’ve provided either a list or a spreadsheet linking to participants; hopefully this practice will continue.
6.2 If you use Facebook, there’s a Blogging from A to Z Challenge page which you can like and follow. A daily post is provided for each letter of the alphabet where participants can post a link to their daily blog and find others participants.
6.3 Finally, there’s a Twitter account which you can follow, and where you can link your daily posts and read other news. But most people use a hashtag with #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge being two of the most popular.
6.4 One more random option (which is a favourite of Debs) is when visiting other participants to leave your own comment, click on the names of others leaving comments. The bonus in this method is that when you’ve found a site you like, other commentators could well be on the same wavelength as you are.

7. Write your posts each day, or in advance?  Is your time your own? Are you confident in being able to set aside the time every day throughout April to prepare and produce a post? Is part of your purpose for taking part in the Challenge to build a daily blogging or writing habit? Is the idea of a theme an anathema to you and would you prefer to go freestyle, writing on a subject that inspires you each day? If the answer to these questions is Yes – then you’ll have a lot of fun sitting down on April the 1st to pen your first post, and to repeat that each day until April 30th.
But for the time crunched among you, or for those wanting to use the Challenge to produce a series of more structured posts, or posts which could build into a body of work, advance planning and preparation is vital. The truly organized have all their posts written before April begins, many have them set up to auto-post, so their only action is to respond to comments and visit other participants to leave their own comments. But even having a plan and some advance posts in hand can dramatically reduce the requirement for burning the midnight oil.

And that’s all Folks!

Seriously though, remember that while it’s a Challenge, it’s meant to be enjoyable. There can be a fair degree of stress involved in making it through to the end, especially when life gets in the way – they don’t issue those “I Survived …” badges for nothing. Really, this isn’t about winning or losing – it’s about challenging yourself … but only so long as it’s fun.

© Fiction Can Be Fun, 2020