An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories for Kindle

“An Irrational Fear of Dogs” is a collection of short stories that is sometimes funny, sometimes dark, always entertaining:

An Irrational Fear of Dogs
The dog was staring at her with small red eyes, its slavering jaws ready to clamp around her small thin arm.The children are coming, the children are coming, look out, look out! Phoebe felt safe here in the bushes for now, but did they?

The Sweet Smell of Lilies
Lilies always reminded her of funerals. But then Grace was inclined to let her over-active imagination run away with her. Only this time, however, she couldn’t have imagined the real truth about her family.

Double Bill
Goodbye Sarah. I bet you thought we would be friends forever. How wrong you were.The two of us were going to stand here and watch as Bill’s coffin was lowered into the ground. But things don’t always turn out as you expect them to…

The Indulgence
‘How long have you been dead?’ asked the angel. ‘About 30 years,’ she replied, ‘is that my time?’ Tess was becoming impatient, ‘What’s my indulgence, are you going to tell me what it is?’‘Tomorrow’, the angel told her…

Believing in Fairies
‘Help us,’ I hear you say. ‘If they stop believing in us, we’ll vanish forever.’Mia’s world was one of waking dreams, but no-one believed her, not even Dr Williams. ‘I walk with fairy folk and elves and creatures from beyond the stars,’she told him.

Global Warning
‘It doesn’t matter you know, any of it,’ said Jack. ‘It’s all rubbish, global warming, climate change, holes in the ozone layer, all that stuff.’Or is it? Martha though otherwise and the result would come as a bit of a shock.

Stage of Fools
‘It is a simple tale. What begins in love and jubilation ends in hate and misery. And revenge is so sweet.’ The opening night of Peter’s Medea would be a spectacular performance if it all went to plan, but not as spectacular as Justine’s parting shot….

Click here to buy An Irrational Fear of Dogs for Kindle

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Finally a decision

I’ve been sitting on my story Miss Havisham’s Ghost for over two (or even three) months, unable to go anywhere with it, so I decided the best thing to do was to give up. Not give up on writing the story but on trying to combine the two stories into one.

I have done this – bring in something autobiographical – before in a story and one of my friends thought the real person I was talking about was the grown up version of the child in the story. It hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would, but I thought if that story was confusing then this one would be even more so! So this morning I split them up.

And now I have two stories – each one almost 4,000 words. One is a traditional (so far) ghost story without a title, while the other is mainly autobiographical. All I need to do is progress the ghost story without the added complication of weaving in the other. The challenges of course, remain the same as ever!

Short novel or long short story – that is the question

About a year ago I wrote the first chapter of a novel for an assignment. It was called Miss Havisham’s Ghost and was loosely based on my own childhood but was intended to be a work of fiction. To be honest it didn’t get that good a mark so I shelved it. 

Then a couple of months ago (or more) I started writing a ghost story. The story is really two stories which come together about half way through. At some point I decided that the original assignment could be stripped down, rewritten and incorporated into the story along with some other real life incidents I wrote about for a life writing project.

Unfortunately I’m struggling with the bringing them together part. I’ve been stuck on 7,600 words for so long I don’t know where to go with it now. Should I give up at 10,000 words and call it a long short story or keep going till I get to however long a novel has to be? It’s still called Miss Havisham’s Ghost.  This is the last bit of the first chapter (the ghost story) and the start of the next chapter (autobiographical):

…In the middle of the room a coffin was laid out on the oak dining table. She had never been in this room before; it was dark and strange with old dusty books lining the four walls. It smelt a little like the school library. She had also never seen a coffin before or a dead body, if there was a body. There must be someone inside or why would it be here? Her breath came in shallow gulps as she moved closer. The lid was open and she could see the satin lining around the edges, pure white like her skin in winter. She didn’t want to look inside. It was bound to be someone she knew. Someone she knew and loved.

She was not prepared for what she saw inside. At first she could see only a small pair of feet encased in gold pumps sticking out from underneath the white gossamer dress, with its pink sash, like the one she had worn for her first communion three or four years ago. Then she saw the flaxen hair spread out like a fan on the small rosebud-embroidered pillow, the cold pale hands pressed together, as if praying for forgiveness. A tiny golden crucifix on a slim chain was wrapped around them. Then finally she saw the face – her face. The body in the coffin was hers. As dead as she was alive, the lips were slightly blue and there was a tiny trickle of blood in one corner of the mouth. She tried to scream but no sound came out. And then everything became blackness as she fainted.

Chapter Two

In 1978, when I was in my twenties, I went to Poland with my father. He hadn’t been there since before the war so it was both a treat and a surprise for him. Even when his mother died in 1966 he had been unable to return. Then just when we were about to leave he received a message from his younger sister Frania that Halce, the second oldest, had passed away. The funeral was arranged for the day after we arrived and we were told that we could pay our respects beforehand.

Oh the shock! I had never seen a dead body before that day. My first impression and most lasting memory was of a small coffin (she was only about five feet tall) with its lid open and a pair of feet in laced up boots sticking out from beneath a calf-length black dress. I went in a little closer. She can’t harm me. What was I afraid of? I saw that her cold pale hands were pressed together, as if praying for forgiveness. A tiny golden crucifix on a slim chain was wrapped around them. She was at peace….

In one corner of the church a group of widows dressed in black sat huddled together, wailing and crying and crossing themselves. Such was their custom.

‘Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis tuis, perducat te ad vitam aeternam.’

‘May Almighty God have mercy on me, forgive me my sins and bring me to everlasting life.’

Of course. That made everything alright then.

Stage of Fools and other stories

‘Stage of Fools’ is a quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear. However, I used it as the title of a short story in which a theatre director decides to stage a production of The Medea, a Greek tragedy by Euripedes. Peter, the director, is a pretentious fool with ideas well above his station and talent. In the meanime his marriage to his French wife, Justine, is falling apart and while Peter is looking for funding by seducing the daughter of a rich publisher, Justine (like Medea) is plotting her revenge.

I have always had a ‘thing’ about The Medea ever since I studied it in the second year of my OU degree. However, I never imagined it would become the plot of a short story!

Here is an exceprt from Stage of Fools, the last and longest story in An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories.

It was a fascination with Greek tragedy, brought on no doubt by a boy’s experiences of the Classics at public school that led Peter Meadows to follow his childhood ambition and stage a West End production of Medea. Now approaching that milestone age which shall only be spoken in whispers when one is quasi-famous, he believed it to be now or never. Justine preferred never, but then always more pragmatic and less self-indulgent than her husband, she was the one who paid (or frequently didn’t pay when they had no money) the ever increasing bills that fanned themselves out on the floor of the porch like the spreading flare of a peacock’s tail feathers, vying for attention.

‘They’ll take care of themselves,’ Peter would say if she tutted and then throw them over his shoulder to land in a pile on the floor.

‘Non cherie, they will not,’ she replied and picked them up, stuffing them into the sagging pockets of her long brown cardigan, before adding them to the teetering pile that was now becoming a fire hazard in the conservatory.

Thus began the daily ritual of will they won’t they which perfectly demonstrated the widening chasm between two people who had met at university when the whole world stretched out before them, filled with happiness and opportunity. Peter, two years older than Justine, was dashing, attractive and extremely persuasive. The year was 1988 and he was in his third year reading Drama at Reading University when the beautiful exchange student walked into the bar of the Student’s Union and asked for a glass of Chardonnay in perfect, yet broken, English. Slim, chic and better dressed than the average university student, she was obviously French.

‘I’ll get that,’ Peter said to the barmaid (another of his recent conquests but no hard feelings eh), who was pouring Hock out of a wine box, ‘and I’ll have a beer.’

It didn’t take him long to discover that Justine, as her name turned out to be, was in her first year studying the Classics at the Sorbonne and was in England to discover the museums and art galleries.

‘J’adore Oxford, en particulier le musée Ashmolean.’

‘Then we must go there,’ Peter replied, everyone at his school had at least passed basic O level French, ‘I know, let’s go tomorrow and take a picnic and go boating on the river.’

Within a week they were sharing his digs and were head over heels in love.

You live and learn

What a total ….. up my first effort at self-publishing turned out to be. Probem is that I am used to proof reading on paper so it is only when I received my ‘test’ hard copy this morning that I spotted all the mistakes!

Firstly – no table of contents.
Secondly – no page numbering (don’t know why but I thought this would just happen automatically).
Thirdly – one big typo on the back cover (not too bad I guess).
Fourthly – the spacing was different for different stories.

So there you have it!
But less pages now and slightly cheaper. Just wish I hadn’t bought so many copies to give my friends.
And I got rid of the original A4 version.

So once again it’s at An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories

I’m so excited!

Yes I am still going on about my new book which I just self-published on Lulu.com. I can’t wait to get my copies and see what it looks like. I’m so excited!
Have a look at An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories

Here is yet another extract. This is from a story called The Indulgence:

‘How long have you been dead?’ asked the angel, not even looking up once at the pretty young woman sitting across the desk in front of him.
‘About 30 years,’ she replied. ‘I am not sure. Time moves slowly when you have nothing to do.’
‘Do you miss your children? Your family?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘I can’t remember. Did I have any? Children that is, I must have had a family of some sort. Is this a job interview?’
‘Some might call it that. Personally I would call it an “indulgence”.’ The angel dipped his pen in a bottle of Quink and continued scratching shapes on the page.
‘Have I been good? Is that why you are “indulging” me?’
‘It’s not about good or bad,’ he replied, ‘it’s just your time.’
‘30 years? Is that my time?’ She fidgeted nervously.
‘Yes,’ said the angel, never even glancing at this small, slight woman who was twitching and rubbing her hands together. Anyone with a modicum of compassion would have appreciated how she felt. But not him…
‘Am I still pretty?’ She asked.
‘I wouldn’t know,’ he replied. ‘That’s not my department. You need to ask someone from the Department of Girlfriends, Models and Attention Seekers, or DoGMAS for short.’

An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other stories again

Yesterday I self published this as an A4 paperback. That of course is not the right size for a book, more like a magazine! So today I republished in A5 size but it works out far more expensive per copy as it’s 92 pages.
Have a look at An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories

Here is another extract. This time it’s from a story called Double Bill about a bigamist who failed to take into account that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’:

Goodbye Sarah. I bet you thought we would be friends for ever. How wrong you were. The two of us were going to stand here and watch as Bill’s coffin was lowered into the ground. We pictured ourselves distraught, crying on each others shoulders, coming together in our shared grief, holding hands and laughing through crocodile tears, taking turns throwing earth on the coffin, our airline tickets to Rio de Janeiro safely tucked away in our Gucci handbags. But now it’s just me standing here, watching as your coffin is lowered into the ground. Goodbye Sarah. You thought we would be friends for ever. How wrong you were.

It all began two or so years ago when I started going to the Top Rank in Watford. I was a widow. My husband of fourteen years had died after being run over by an ambulance. It was coming towards him, sirens blaring and lights flashing but he was too preoccupied reading the Times Literary Supplement to notice it. When they took him to hospital they found the paper open at the review of a new book called ‘How to Survive in a Dangerous World’.