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

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.

The sweet smell of lilies reminds me…

Ok that sounds like an observation. It’s actually another excerpt from
An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories. This one is called The Sweet Smell of Lilies. So here goes…

Lilies remind me of funerals. Not a very original observation, I hear you thinking. Why not roses or gardenias or boring old Sweet Williams or those plants that everyone loves the smell of except me, stocks, I think they are called. No there is something about lilies, especially white ones, that is associated with death.

The 8.22 from Cheltenham is rumbling past Didcot Power Station. ‘Choo choo,’ it goes. I look for the Fat Controller but he isn’t there. Only a thin man with a gaunt face and a copy of the Guardian and a woman with cheap luggage and cheap shoes. She has poisoned her entire family and fled her home in the country to run away with the thin man with the gaunt face. But her cheap luggage and the Guardian are too mismatched so I give up there and then.

At Paddington there is a crowd thronging around some event of which I have no knowledge. A minor celebrity has stepped down from the train perhaps and collapsed on the floor, having been shot twice in the leg and chest by a crazed fan with a Colt.45. I am sure I can smell sulphur. The police come quickly. Everyone will be arrested. I must flee the crime scene quickly in case they think it was me. The evidence is in my handbag. My fingerprints are all over the gun.

‘Help! Help! It wasn’t me,’ I cry, ‘I am innocent. I was on a train passing Didcot Power Station at the time officer. You can ask the Fat Controller or the thin man…..’

Suddenly a man with a small moustache stands up in the middle of the throng and brushes himself down. He is embarrassed, I can see that.

‘I am so sorry,’ he says, ‘I tripped.’

The crowd moves on, uncaring now. I move with them. I have an appointment with death. I am going to my uncle’s funeral in Willesden. He died in suspicious circumstances. He was poisoned. He was alone at the time you see…

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

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’.

An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories

Well, I finally have my degree after seven years so I thought I would stop being a student and actually publish something. I did this on Lulu.com (self publishing I know but you have to start somewhere and I wanted to see my stories in proper print). I therefore uploaded six short stories under the title An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories.

They are quite dark and often have a bit of a twist. Here is an extract from An Irrational Fear of Dogs:

The children are coming, the children are coming, the children are coming. Look out children. It’s in the bushes. It’s in the bushes. Look out. Look out.

Phoebe couldn’t take her eyes off them as they ran around in front of her. She imagined them all evaporating into thin air with a pop and then coming back down to earth like small coloured lights, silver and red and green and orange. ‘Pop’ there goes one. ‘Pop’ there goes another. How sweet it felt to see them all. Like little faeries of the night they fell and scattered. The children, the children. She was one of them yet not one of them.

‘Mummy, why am I different?’ Phoebe was lying the wrong way round in the bed with just the top of her head poking out at the foot end and the blanket and sheet tucked in really tight. She was looking at her favourite teddy as she spoke.

‘You’re not. Why do you say such things?’

‘If I was like them, the others I mean, then they would want to play with me. But they don’t. They are scared of me, aren’t they Borage?’

‘Look at me Phoebe, not at the bear. And does that make you unhappy, darling?’

‘Not really, mummy, but sometimes it makes me just a little lonely,’ with which her mother wiped a small tear from the corner of her eye, walked out of the room and shut the door.