Friday Fictioneers – Lights in the Sky

Photo Prompt © Ted Strutz

When the lights arrived, Michael wasn’t there to see them. The radiance danced, coruscated, the night sky was incandescent. Reflections glimmered on the unblinking eye of Michael’s camera lens. No shutter click caught the secret for posterity.

Under the trees, Michael indulged a secret of his own, more furtive, less cosmic. He closed his eyes and shuddered. “Yes, yes. Don’t stop”


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here


Friday Fictioneers – Legend

Photo Prompt © Sandra Crook

Perhaps it was because his parents called him Darius. Bearing the name of an ancient conqueror carries its own risks. At all events, Darry played a long game only he understood.

“Who does it harm?” he’d say when we questioned his project. For 25 years he quarried and shaped, assembled and carved. In secret, he overwrote the landscape of his extensive estates with temples and amphitheatres, statuary and canals.

“Darry,” I said to him one day, “this is a Disneyworld, a fantasy.”

“Now.” He nodded. “Sure. But in a thousand years, who’ll be certain?”

Darius was inventing a legend.


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.


100. How to increase visitors to your site

So you want to draw more people to your site. There are three ways to do this

  • Produce great content.
  • Make sure people know about it
  • Be incredibly famous

How do you do these things? The secret of being incredibly famous still eludes me, so I’ll concentrate on the first two topics.

How do you produce great content?

great content
Anatomy of great content

Apart from being talented (which, of course, you are) what can you do to produce great content? Great content is, at least in part, stuff that other people want to read. Nathaniel Tower writes a blog which I really like. In January 2018 he published a helpful post on writing what people want to read. In summary, his 5 tips are:

  1. Write about something that answers a commonly-asked question.

He recommends using something like Moz Keyword Explorer to find out what questions people are asking. This will tell you that 11,000-30,000 people a month are asking questions about writing.

You can also use the stats from your own site to identify what search terms drew people to your posts. In my case for example two frequent search terms were variants of “formula for flash fiction” and “scenes, sequels and MRUs”. These drew people to two of my most popular post – Scenes, Sequels and MRUs and My Secret Formula for Flash Fiction.  This tells you it’s worth putting some effort into thinking about your titles.

  1. Write about something that will help people.

Like, for example, how to drive more visitors to your site. Last year I tried this in a big way, with an online writing course. It never took off because I’d neglected the third of my three principles – fame. I’m not a famous writer, so why would anyone listen?

  1. Write about something that’s controversial or polarising

Nathaniel gives the example of his post on whether you should write every day. He advises that you cover both sides of the controversy so you engage all the readers rather than turning off half of them.

  1. Write about something you’ve never seen written about before
  2. Write about something that means a lot to you


How do you make sure people know about your site?

If I was writing as an expert, I’d try out all the ideas and then tell you the result. But I’m writing as I learn, so I’m going to share the experiment with you instead. These are some of things I’ve tinkered with and intend to try more systematically over the coming year

  1. Join an online community

This has been far and away the most successful strategy I’ve used. In the first nine months of this blog, I got an average of 53 views and 23 visitors per month.  WordPress has 74.6 million blogs and receives 21 billion page views per month. That’s an average of 281 views per blog per month (if the reads were distributed evenly, which they’re not). So my hits were distinctly below par.

In the next year, views of my site jumped over 10-fold to 592 a month and unique visitors to 174.

blogstats 2

This wasn’t because my content was so much better. One simple thing changed in February 2016 – I joined an online community. Friday Fictioneers is a group of writers that varies between 70 and 100 people a month, producing a hundred-word flash fiction each week. Posting these stories exposed me to a bigger audience, not just for the weekly stories but also for my other content.  Why not join it too? It’s managed by Rochelle Wisoff .

Since joining the community, my stats have continued to build slowly. In the 10 months to January 2018, views grew a further 22% to an average of 721 a month and individual visitors rose 28% to 222 a month.

The slow growth coming from Friday Fictioneers will take a long time to reach the next level (say 1,000 hits a month).  But this strategy worked so well that it may be worth finding other communities. The difference between a community and the other approaches is that it’s not a one-off: you’re engaging permanently – building credibility, trust and relationships.

Strategies I’ve tried

Strategy Average increase in reads Permanent change
Online community 540 Yes
Cross post in other communities 15 1 follower
Author interview 20 No
Guest posts 1 No
Mentions by others 40 No
Mention others 9 No

Other writing communities

However. I have tried other communities in the past – Webook, a writers’ community about to go into liquidation, as well as publishing online on Wattpad and on Big World Network. None has been as effective as Friday Fictioneers.

Image © Vladimer Shioshvili

Authors Publish suggests four communities worth joining.

  • Lit Hive aims to be a community that unites writers with readers. The most widely read book received 19 comments, the most recent over two years ago. The discussion boards seem equally inactive.
  • Scribophile is a large members-only community of writers and claims 858,776 critiques for 145,608 works, an average of just under six responses per work. Being a closed group, it has the advantage that it shouldn’t prevent you submitting your work elsewhere.
  • Writers Network is another writing community.
  • Writers Café is another writing community. Its server was achingly slow when I tested it.

2. Engage more with readers and potential readers

I have probably not been as generous as I should be in reciprocating readers’ interest. I pretty much do respond to all comments, but I don’t necessarily reciprocate follows and likes or build a conversation. Some ideas are:

  • Follow more people (particularly if they follow me)
  • Join in the conversation on others’ sites
  • Build and maintain an e-mail list with unique content for regular followers and attentive commenters. There’s a saying in marketing about the importance of e-mail promotion “the money’s in the list”. This is the strategy I’m currently experimenting with.

The reason I haven’t done these things isn’t aloofness. It’s shyness. I engage with friends and colleagues I know well, but it takes me out of my comfort zone to do that with strangers. In a very British way, it just seems pushy. The whole language of “building your author brand” just makes me a little queasy.  But, building trust and relationships I understand. So of course, I have to spend time outside my comfort zone if I want to engage with the community of other writers and readers. The idea of building relationships (rather than selling) is fundamental here.


3. Engage other people’s readers

Engaging other people’s readers might help make the next jump.

  • Guest posts. Invite other people to do guest posts on my blog and solicit invitations to post on theirs. I tried this a little bit in the past on A Writer’s Path (with over 26,000 followers), which didn’t generate much evident short-term boost to my stats, but then I haven’t explored this systematically. I have a guest post coming up 4 May on Dee Cee Taylor’s blog It’s All About Books as part of a blog tour to promote the Climate Fiction anthology Nothing is as it was (in which I have a story) to be published on Earth Day 22 April by Retreat West Books.
  • Reblog other people’s posts. Hopefully they’ll reciprocate.
  • Interview other people. I had intended to establish a regular series of interviews with other writers. I did one in 2015, a conversation with A U Latif, author of Songs From the Laughing Tree I never got around to doing any more, until this February when I published an interview with Claire Fuller.

Claire Fuller

I can track an additional 19 reads this brought to my blog, so this isn’t going to boost my followers into the thousands. However one friend did say “Would love to see you post more such interviews. So helpful to compare another writer’s process with mine, get new ideas for approaching research, see how things evolve.” So it falls into the category of posting what others want to read.

  • Mention other people in your posts and tell them you’ve done so. For example, I wrote one post thanking some writers for their support. Their friends did read the post.
  • Write a “top ten” list, any top ten list, it doesn’t really matter. For example, the top ten sites for advice to writers. This is a much more intricate take on the previous idea. The idea is that at least some of them and their followers will read your post and you’ll pick up some as your own readers.
  • Include reviews of books you’ve liked. Again, I’ve done this sporadically on my blog, but most of my book reviews go on Goodreads, where I don’t have much of a profile.

The basic driver behind all these ideas is good old-fashioned vanity. Everyone likes to see themselves in print. We read our reviews and what others are saying about us. (You obviously have to let the people know you’ve done it, so they’ll go and look and tell their friends about it). And, of course, if you choose people with thousands of followers, you’re more likely to pick up new readers. The challenge, though, is to convert them into regular readers, which goes back to having good content. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: ruthless self-promotion will only end up looking like what it is; you have to engage with what people want, not with what they can do for you. In other words, be genuine and interested in them and, if you can’t, don’t do it all.


4. The techie stuff – don’t worry about keywords

It used to be the case that spending a lot of time massaging the tags and keywords on your site could make a huge difference to your ranking on search engines. There still are ways in which you can manipulate this, but it’s much less important than it used to be. Google no longer uses keywords to rank its output.

To prove this, I checked out the page rank score for my blog on the Moz site and compared it with two other writers’ sites (which I won’t name). My site has one keyword (my name) and a page rank of 40. The page rank indicates how prominent the page is likely to be on search engines, out of a possible 100. The two writers I compared myself with (both with significant followings) have 80 and 19 keywords respectively and both have page ranks of 41. J.K. Rowling, by comparison, has a page rank of 77.

So, if like me you’re bored with fiddling under the hood of your site, you can pretty much ignore this. The only thing you need to know is that you’ll rank higher if you include useful links in your posts, and particularly if others link to you.


5. More techie stuff – best time and day to publish

Another set of data you might or might not want to ignore is that on the best time and day to publish. There’s a useful summary of several studies by Garret Moon. These suggest that the best day for page views may be Monday morning between 9:00 and 12:00 Eastern Standard Time.

time to post

Two of the studies indicate that the best time for comments and shares is at the weekend. This would make sense, since there’s less competition from other posts then, and people have more free time. However, another study indicates that the best time for shares is Thursday at 10:00 a.m. EST.

The reality is probably that you should be guided by your own experience. A lot will depend on who your audience is and where they’re located. Your blog provider will probably give you some analytics and installing Google Analytics will give you more. In my case, around 35% of my readership is from the US, around 27% from the UK, and 17% from India. My highest page views come on Wednesday between 8:00 and 10:00 EST. That is for the simple reason that Friday Fictioneers publishes on a Wednesday.

I’ll let you know which of these strategies I experiment with, and with what results.

What strategies have you tried to increase traffic to your site? How did they work out? I’d love to hear your experience.

Friday Fictioneers – Blizzard

Photo Prompt © J Hardy Carroll

It took the rescuers a month to dig their way to the mountain cabins through snowdrifts a metre high. Dagmar’s was the last they reached.

“Don’t reckon it’ll be pretty,” Sergeant Rasmussen warned the volunteers. That morning they’d found Sven and Inga’s frozen bodies wrapped together in a final embrace, each of the children neat and cold in their beds. All the children bar two. The dog had eaten them.

They forced their way into Dagmar’s house, crunching over the litter of small bones. The cleaver caught Rasmussen in the neck.

“Food,” the old lady croaked in relief.



Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Butterflies

Photo Prompt © Marie Gail Stratford

Albert liked collecting. As a child it was stamps, as a young man, girlfriends. Nowadays, slackened by sin and faltering vitality, he became a lepidopterist.  Five hundred glass cases, each packed with exotic chevrons of inert delight.

These delicate angels, dancing on the skewer of a pin, weren’t arranged as you might expect – blues in one case, swallowtails in another, metalmarks, and so on.  Instead, Albert displayed them by markings, arranged side by side so the patterns spelled out words.

“The way we categorise things,” he said, “confronts us with our assumptions. To me, nature is a book.”



Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

99. Blaming the innocent – a narrative critique of the Oxfam scandal

“Oxfam Sex Scandal”, “Government Crackdown”, celebrities resigning their positions as Oxfam Ambassadors. The facts are getting lost in the hysterical headlines. The Oxfam-gate story about sexual exploitation by aid workers has all the hallmarks of a witch-hunt.

Oxfam is a much-loved household name, one of the largest and most effective and professional international aid agencies in the world. Now it has joined Harvey Weinstein in the sin bin.

The wags say there are six phases to an aid project.

Six Phases of an Aid Project

In the space of a week in mid-February, public perception of Oxfam has moved from phase one to phase four. The British government is rapidly moving towards phase five. The story is powerful and gripping. But it’s fundamentally wicked.


Is sexual assault in the aid sector news?

No. It has been widely covered in the media since at least 2015, particularly in The Guardian newspaper. The Humanitarian Women’s Network in 2016 surveyed 1,005 women aid workers in 70 organisations. They reported that 24% of the women had suffered sexual assault at the hands of male colleagues. A rolling survey by Report the Abuse of over 1,000 aid workers found in 2017 that 72% were victims/ survivors of sexual assault.  Only around a third to a half reported the assaults. Only 17% of those who did report were satisfied with the outcome.[1]  So this isn’t news. The witch-hunt is.

Times headline Oxfam story

Is Oxfam particularly guilty?

On the contrary, Oxfam is an example of good practice. The organisation was singled out for praise in an academic study of the problem by Dyan Mazurana and Phoebe Donnelly.  Oxfam established confidential whistle-blowing procedures and a high-level Safeguarding Unit in 2012, working alongside the internal audit and fraud and corruption teams.

Ex-head of the Unit, Helen Evans, has told Channel 4 News that her team was under-resourced and that Oxfam’s Leadership Team did not take her findings seriously enough. Oxfam head, Mark Goldring has acknowledged that they did not act soon enough to scale up the team.

However, it is undeniable that Oxfam is rare in taking the problem seriously and trying to respond to it. The number of cases dealt with by the organisation’s Safeguarding Unit has more than tripled from 26 in 2014, to 87 in 2016-17. These numbers are still probably just the tip of an iceberg, but the increase is a measure of the success of and trust in Oxfam’s procedures. There is neither logic nor justice to placing an organisation which is trying to respond to the problem is in the eye of this storm.

Is the aid sector particularly bad?

It’s hard to know because there is so little reliable data. On the face of it, it seems unlikely. Sexual assault is about power and thrives in “boys clubs”.  It would be surprising it were not more common in male-dominated sectors like business, the military, academia, the arts, and, of course, government.

Presidents Club
The Presidents Club “event”

What are the facts of the scandal?

We still don’t know.  The media story is that Oxfam’s Haiti country director, Roland van Hauwermeiren, held sex parties with prostitutes in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, and was allowed to resign rather than being fired. Other workers are alleged to have had sex with children. Van Hauwermeiren denies sex with prostitutes, but admits he had a sexual relationship with a Haitian woman whose family was being helped by Oxfam.

Oxfam reported the case to the Charity Commission at the time. The Commission claim they were not made aware of the precise details, and only opened a statutory investigation when the story broke in February 2018. It might be said this was a tad incurious of them, given that Helen Evans had complained to the Commission in 2015 about women being coerced into sex in exchange for aid.

Photo © AFP

It might also be argued that the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), which provides £32 million of public money to Oxfam, was similarly incurious.

Who carries the can?

Everyone on the periphery of the media feeding frenzy is rushing to distance themselves from any blame.  The Charity Commission and Penny Mordaunt, DFID Secretary of State have been swift to condemn Oxfam.  But there’s plenty of blame to go around. The Charity Commission, suffering cuts like all other public services since 2010, has been under pressure to investigate rogue Muslim charities. Arguably, it didn’t have the resources to also tackle sexual abuse.

The truth is probably that those in authority weren’t that bothered until it became a moral panic.

Why is there a witch-hunt?

All societies are gripped from time to time by moral panics. Remember the satanic video scare and how it played out in the media coverage of the murder of Jamie Bulger? During a moral panic, there must be a simple narrative in which we are under threat by an evil doer. In that sense, the Oxfam story is like a moral panic.

In another sense, something else is at work. The story is very convenient for those who want to see an end to the British international aid budget. There can be little doubt that the scandal will have a negative impact on donations to aid charities and may well embolden the aid deniers. The sound of axes being sharpened echoes down Whitehall and Fleet Street.

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary has only been in post since her predecessor Priti Patel was sacked in November 2017 for breaching the Ministerial code, so she has no record to judge. Unlike Patel, there’s no sign that Mordaunt is anti-development, and indeed can claim some experience of working for charities. But, noting that the public has “nagging but legitimate doubts about aid”, she has threatened to cut aid to countries that do not invest in their own people. This may be bad news for the poorest countries. Her voting record in the House of Commons as logged by the They Work for You website, shows opposition to laws promoting equality and human rights, though she has supported equal gay rights.

“Charity begins at home” is the oft-repeated mantra of those who want to slash aid. In a time of austerity, it’s not hard to see the appeal of the slogan. But those in power know well that aid is not just a moral imperative but supports national self-interest. When the world is richer, there are opportunities for British trade. Conversely, when the world is poorer, failed states proliferate, and war is a great deal more expensive than aid.

What should we conclude?

Did Oxfam fail? Yes, of course, and it may even turn out to be true that it tried to cover-up the scandal. Is there further to go? Yes, much further. In a world where men exercise power over women, and rich people exercise power over poor people, this will continue to happen. All we can do is strengthen recruitment, training, safeguarding and whistle-blowing procedures. The aid sector needs to get better at sharing information about perpetrators so they can’t just move to jobs in other agencies.

But Oxfam has at least tried to put effective procedures in place, unlike many other agencies.  Of course there are bad people who work for aid agencies. There are bad people in government too, and there are bad doctors in the National Health Service. We don’t contemplate shutting down government or the NHS as a result. We expose and punish those who abuse our trust. The vast majority of Oxfam’s thousands of workers around the world are dedicated, conscientious and even, yes, heroic. Millions of poor people around the world will be in a much worse situation if Oxfam’s budget drops. Let’s not buy into stories that invite us to punish the innocent.

[1] Endnote on data: It’s important to say that these were not random samples, but reports by workers who decided to participate in the surveys. So no conclusions can be drawn about how widespread such assaults are. It’s also important to say that the surveys were of “international” staff, expatriates deployed to developing countries. The situation of “national” staff from these countries is largely un-researched. Finally, it’s worth noting that victims/ survivors are not necessarily female and perpetrators are not exclusively male: 89% of survivors were female and 92% of perpetrators were male in the Report the Abuse survey.

Friday Fictioneers – Enchantment


Photo Prompt © Dale Rogerson

Everything emits time, not only people. That’s what Elmer told me. He says it’s just that some time is so slow we can’t perceive it, like India rumpling Asia as it smashes in. And some is too fast, like a neutrino.

And then I spot one – a neutrino – spearing into the snow by the streetlamp, a microscopic meteorite which buries itself with a hiss and a breath of ozone.

“I see time. Deep time, wept by a neutron star.” I run forward.

The plates of past and future slide past each other. I look away, and the long instant collapses.


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Teatime in Paradise

Photo Prompt © JS Brand

It was Henry’s name on the hotel. But, really, Alice ran things. She ploughed every cent back into the business, adding a second floor and then a penthouse. The building looked like a crazy pile of discarded banana boxes.

Alice found Henry lying in the shade of an upturned boat, roughing out a calypso.  “Up, man,” she said. “There’s work to do.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“To earn more money.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“So we can employ more people and take it easy.”

“What do you think I’m doing now?”


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

98. Interview with Claire Fuller

Claire Fuller is a Winchester-based author. Her first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, won the Desmond Elliot Prize for debut fiction. Her second novel, Swimming Lessons, was published in 2017, and was selected by Book of the Month in the US in December 2016. Her short stories have won the BBC Opening Lines, the Royal Academy and Pin Drop competitions. In December 2017, she judged the Farnham Short Story Competition and this interview is based on a conversation with her at the award ceremony.

wiinner Steve Wheele with Claire Fuller
Claire Fuller presenting the trophy for the Farnham Short Story Competition to the winner, Steve Wheeler


Neil: Your first book, Our endless Numbered Days, is a post-apocalyptic fantasy lived out for real. An obsessive father abducts his eight-year old daughter to live in a hut deep in the German forest. He tells her the world has been destroyed. The story is told in flashback by a 17 year old Peggy who is now back in London with her mother and the brother she didn’t know she had.

Your second book, Swimming Lessons, has just come out in paperback in the US and the UK. It also features family tensions, sudden disappearance, and the passage of time, again told from the perspective of a daughter. Ingrid writes letters to her husband about their marriage which she hides in his book collection rather than giving them to him. When she has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach. Twelve years later the husband believes he has spotted her.

A theme running through both books is the power of stories and the way in which every reader creates their own truth. Am I over-interpreting? Or are these themes of loops in time, dysfunctional families, trust, absences, secrets, and the power of stories recurring themes for you?

Claire: I don’t plan themes before I start writing, but just sit down and begin. But of course some themes start to emerge as I go along and if I’m interested in them I’ll bring them out more. But when I’m writing one book I’m not thinking about the previous one, so the fact that you can see themes in my writing between the two is either accidental or something very subconscious. Having said that, dysfunctional families always make great stories, don’t they? Have you ever read a good book that features a completely happy family? And the same goes for secrets and absences. I find it really hard to analyse my own work, I think I’m just too close to it.


Neil: Without asking you to give away any secrets, are these themes also present in your third book, Bitter Orange, due in 2018? And does it also loop in time like the first two?

Claire: There aren’t any absences in Bitter Orange, but there are dysfunctional families (although the main characters aren’t a family), and secrets. But more than anything it’s about the power of stories, and how to tell our own.

I was determined not to play with time in my third novel. It’s very difficult to keep track of everything and make sure that things aren’t revealed before a character knows them, and so on. But inevitably I have done that. It’s from the point of view of an old woman (time period one), remembering the summer of 1969 (time period two), when a recently made friend tells her life story (time period three). Oh dear!

Book four, I’ve promised myself, will be different…


Neil: You write Flash Fiction for the weekly group, Friday Fictioneers. How does this help with your longer work?

Claire: Writing flash fiction is hugely beneficial to my longer fiction. Firstly, it helps me to hone my writing; to consider every word and its placement; to decide whether to be clear or obscure; how to layer meaning with very few words. And secondly it helps me write the story. Because I don’t plan ahead there are times when I really have no idea what is going to happen next, and the writing can become a little stuck. But if I write a 100-word flash fiction piece with the characters from the novel I’m writing (that I know very well), but put them in a situation that is unusual for them, I can expand this piece of flash fiction and use it for the next scene in the novel.


Neil: You’re a thoughtful and thought-provoking writer, yet your books are very easy to read. How do you strike a balance between making demands of the reader and looking after the reader?

Claire: I’m not sure how to answer that. It’s not something I’m conscious of when I write. But I am trying to write something that I would like to read, and I like to read novels with depth, that are well-crafted, but that have a good story that keeps you wanting to read on. That’s what I’m going for.


Neil: How did being published change the way you write?

Claire: I don’t think it has hugely. Except that when I’m writing I am aware that very possibly I might have to at some point in the future read those words aloud to an audience. That really helps focus the mind and make sure that the writing has a kind of rhythm, a musicality, that works when read aloud (and consequently helps even when read silently).

I do read all my reviews, good and bad, and in some cases I have agreed with things that have been said, and I’ve tried to adjust the subsequent book accordingly. But these are very broad changes, like slow down the ending, or deal with time passing in a clearer way. I suppose without having been published I wouldn’t be doing that.


Neil: How much research do you do for your books, and how do you go about it?

Claire: It really depends on the book. Our Endless Numbered Days and Bitter Orange both needed much more research than Swimming Lessons. With the latter, most of the research involved going to the beach where the book was set, walking in the landscape, and staying in the house that the family live in (it is a real house). With Our Endless Numbered Days I knew next to nothing about survivalism, so all that had to be researched, right down to how long a tube of toothpaste would last if two people were using it twice a day. I researched a lot online – watching lots of youtube videos about how to survive in the wild (thank you Ray Mears). With Bitter Orange, which is also set in a house that exists, I visited the house, but I also interviewed people who could help with historical and botanical detail, and I read a lot of historical books about the history of the English country house. In all cases I researched as I went along.


Neil: In the first two books, what did you edit out that the reader never saw?

Claire: That’s an interesting question. The biggest thing in Our Endless Numbered Days was that I toned down the homosexual relationship between Oliver and James, so that it became something Peggy (James’ daughter) was unaware of, but the reader suspects. With Swimming Lessons, my editor at Penguin kept asking me to make Gil a nicer character. He is still pretty awful, so you can imagine what he was like to start with! ​When I first started writing the novel I wrote about twenty thousand words from Gil’s point of view, and then decided that I didn’t want hear from this man anymore, so I cut nearly all of them and restarted from Flora and Ingrid’s points of view. All that remained of the Gil section was the prologue.

Friday Fictioneers – Monument

Photo Prompt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Arcu’tep didn’t need to go. He could have stayed in his kraal, tending his herd. But all the folk from the valley had volunteered.

“Come on, it’ll be fun. Drinking, feasting, and lots of rumpy-pumpy,” Senae’tep cajoled.

Arcu’tep shrugged. “Yeah, there’s nothing as fun as hefting buckets of earth all day and dumping them on a big mound,”

“You’re missing the point,” Senae’tep said. “It’s not about what we build, but that we work together, mountain folk and plains people.”

He went, and all summer the stockade rose. Then they feasted and burned everything to the ground. Arcu’tep brought home a mountain woman.


Sorry, I couldn’t quite get this down to 100 words. Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here