Posts Tagged ‘short stories’

The news that Amazon’s Alexa device has prompted me to share this story which I wrote at the end of last year. I bought an Amazon Echo when they were first launched and quickly took Alexa into my gadget loving heart but I’ve seen and read enough sci-fi to know that there can be a darkness lurking in the machine code…

Image result for amazon echo

‘What’s my schedule looking like today Helen?’

‘You have a meeting with Roger at 2pm but otherwise your schedule is clear. Might I suggest though that you move your gym visit to 11am to allow time to prepare?’

‘Good idea,’ Andy said. ‘Can you call ahead for me to set that up?’

‘I’ll get right on it.’

‘That’s great Helen, thanks.’

‘I aim to please.’

Andy glanced at his Brietling. ‘How’s my commute looking this morning?’ he said.

‘Just the usual traffic. If you leave now you should arrive around 8.30.’

‘Time I started making tracks then.’ He got up from the breakfast table, draining the last of his coffee before depositing his mug into the waiting maw of the dishwasher.

‘Bye Andy.’

‘See you later Helen.’

As made for the front door he looked up and saw Sue coming down the stairs. She was still bundled up in her fluffy dressing gown, hair haphazardly tied up to keep it out of her face.

‘That’s me off then,’ he said as he stepped out the door. ‘I should be home about 6.’

‘Ok. Fine.’


The door pulled shut with a metallic click. It was followed a few minutes later by the sound of Andy’s car coughing into life and leaving the driveway with a scrunch of gravel.

Sue wandered through to the kitchen. She felt a bit fuzzy this morning. The one glass of red wine she’d intended to have with dinner had somehow ended up with her finishing the bottle. It felt as if it was going to take at least two very strong coffees to get into gear this morning.

‘Hi Sue, how can I help you today?

‘Oh fuck off!’ she snapped.

Sue drank her coffee and brooded. She recalled that famous interview with Princess Diana – what was if she had said? ‘There were three of us in this marriage.’ She had never thought she would find herself in the same situation.

It had started off innocently enough. Andy had always been a bit of gadget freak. Ever since she had first met him he had seemed preternaturally drawn to any shiny bit of new tech. She had grown accustomed to their arrival over the years and was well used to opening the door to sign for yet another anonymous brown cardboard box containing some exciting new technological marvel. She would make appreciative noises as Andy exclaimed their virtues and then insisted on demonstrating them to her. She also knew that sooner or later most of them ended up gathering dust out in their garage once they had been usurped by whatever new digital distraction had caught his eye. She tolerated all this with good humour. In the grand scheme of things she had reckoned she was doing ok. Despite having hit forty a few years back Andy had so far shown no inclination to purchase a sports car to stave off some impending midlife crisis. He wasn’t into sports and, although several of his colleagues were golf addicts, he had never expressed any inclination to take up the wretched sport. He had no vices that she was aware of – he didn’t smoke, drink (or dance the hootchie koo, she heard Elvis sing in her head). All in all, life had been peachy.

And then she had turned up.



through the darkest door

This week I decided it was about time that I got my backside into gear and started doing something more productive with my writing. I was inspired by Brendan’s Gisby’s recent blog on self publishing which sent me rifling through my story folder looking for some new work to submit to McStorytellers.  I always have a couple of stories in reserve that I’ve been “saving” for …well actually I don’t know what really. It used to be the annual slog of literary competitions until i realised the chances of someone like me winning the Bridport was a pipe dream and I’d be better off spending the entrance fee on some new music or something. Ditto most of the other well known and lesser known comps that draw in thousands of aspiring authors every year. I’d dabbled with self publishing mainly as a way of playing about with the technology and figuring out how it worked. I’d put out a wee themed collection and then a couple of Christmas stories (which I’d published as a nice wee gift for family and friends – giving them away for free over the holidays and then being presently surprised when a few folk actually forked over 99p to buy one!)

Anyway, I looked at all the stories I’d accumulated and thought to myself – “why send a couple of stories when I have enough here to do something a bit more substantial?” I got in touch with Brendan and pitched him the idea of putting out an anthology under the McStorytellers banner. Emails were exchanged and in no time at all Brendan had prepped a forty story collection fully formatted and ready to be published.

If you come here often you are no doubt aware of the developing paradigm shift in the world of publishing. Once upon a time, not so long ago, the idea of putting out your own work without the aid of one of the big boys was tainted with the label of “Vanity publishing” which nobody really took seriously. The name carried with it the stench of hubris and self delusion and images of faux-leather bound books gathering dust in garages and attics.

Computers have changed all that. Social Media, E-Books and Print on Demand technology have levelled the playing field to some extent and the power has started to be wrenched from the hands of publishing conglomerates and given to the thousands of would-be writers struggling to make it out of the slush piles.

In a lot of ways it reminds me of the music scene in the early 70s, dominated by major labels and stadium filling rock bands and then …pow! Punk arrives with the instructions: “This is chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band.” Bands like the Buzzcocks started bypassing the major labels completely to put their own singles out and inadvertantly started “Independent” labels dedicated to doing the same thing for other bands. These new labels were run on a shoestring but the limitations only forced them to be more creative and unafraid to take risks. They were run by people for the love of seeing the music get out there rather than for profit.

So the way I see it McStorytellers could be the literary equivalent of Factory, Mute, Postcard, Creation and all the others, leading a vanguard of literary renegades across the new frontiers of digital publishing and I’m proud to be part of it.

This week then those forty stories were launched upon an unsuspecting world when “Through The Darkest Door” was published. I don’t expect to set the world on fire. I don’t expect to trade my Ford Focus for a stretch limo or to be able to give up my day job, but I will be able to stand up proud and point to that book and say: “I did it my way.”

You can decide for yourself by following one of the links below. If you like what you’ve read afterwards please don’t forget to leave a review for future readers who might decide to check out my work for themselves based on your words.

UK Kindle version

US Kindle version

UK paperback version

US paperback version

cover concept version 2

After a bit of faffing around converting it to a Kindle Friendly format I am pleased to announce that this year’s Christmas story is here for you all to enjoy.

The plan has been to write a Christmas themed short story every year to give away to friends and family. Last year I put out Reindeer Dust which was my first foray into the world of electronic publishing. As usual I’ve opted for a non-traditional Christmas story – this time we have Elves and Zombies running amuck at the North Pole with typically gruesome consequences. Don’t worry though, it’s all a bit tongue in cheek – think more Shaun of the Dead than Walking Dead.

As usua, in keeping in the spirit of the season, I am giving it away for free. The story went live in the Kindle Store today but from tomorrow you will be able to download it for zilch. The promotion will last until Saturday the 22nd as I can only give it awy for a maximum of five days. If you don’t have a Kindle (and who knows, maybe Santa is bringing you one) you can always download the free Kindle Viewer app from Amazon which will allow you to still read it on your computer, ipad etc.

To keep you going until then I have also made all of my other e-books free from today until Friday.

Get them here:

Christmas Night of the Living Dead (UK)

Christmas Night of the Living Dead (USA)

Reindeer Dust (UK)

Reindeer Dust (USA)

When the Revolution Comes (UK)

When the Revolution Comes (USA)

Himself by the Seaside (UK)

Himself by the Seaside (USA)

If you like what you read, please, please, please leave a review telling people what you thought.


Bit of a plug today. Brendan Gisby, publisher of the McStorytellers site has accepted three of my short flash pieces to showcase. McStorytellers is the place to find quality examples of short fiction from writers with a Scottish connection and well worth a visit if you enjoy dipping your toes outside the bestseller lists and celebrity autobiographies. Click on the link above to go to the site.


English: Little Red Riding Hood

English: Little Red Riding Hood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I was away on holiday,  the Shortbread Short Stories website launched their annual Halloween writing competition. I won last year with my flash fiction story “Trick or Treat“. I didn’t think I had any creative gas left in the tank after finishing two complete drafts (plus minor polishes) of my forthcoming Christmas ebook, “Christmas Night of the Living Dead” but as I sat at around two in the morning having just saved my work I felt compelled to start a new story. Once I started the words just seemed to pour out and before I knew it the clock had spun around to nearly four o’clock and President Obama was giving Mitt Romney a good doing in the last Presidential debate. In front of me were around 1,500 words of manuscript – pretty much the complete story. When I got back home on Friday I sat down and redrafted it and fired it off to the competition.

The brief for this year’s competition was to take a traditional fairytale and give it a supernatural twist. I’m not entirely convinced that I’ve met the criteria. What I have done is write a sort of tongue in cheek version of the familiar tale of Red Riding Hood. It remains to be seen if the story will be accepted but I was pretty pleased with the results regardless and I have copied the story below for your enjoyment…

Once upon a crime

‘So tell me again what happened?’ Henderson said putting down the phone.

Wolff rolled his eyes.

‘I already told you a dozen times,’ he said.

‘I know you did,’ Henderson said. ‘But I want to hear it again – just to check that I’ve got all the facts straight.’ He gave Wolff a disarming smile as if to say: I know this is ridiculous – but I’m just doing my job. ‘Indulge me.’

‘Okay, okay but after this either you charge me or let me go.’

‘It’s a deal.’

‘I was out for a walk in the forest, minding my own business…’

‘When was this exactly?’

Wolff shrugged. ‘Around eleven thirty I guess. I’d been doing some bits and pieces around the house and was planning on going out and getting some lunch.’

‘I see. Carry on.’

‘So as I was walking I see this kid.’

‘Uh-huh. Can you describe them?’

‘About twelve or thirteen I’d say and wearing one of those sweaters with the hoods all the kids seem to have these days. She was carrying this wicker basket over one arm and looking a bit shifty. Well, you know how things have been on the estate lately. I heard the Three Bears’ place got done over a few weeks ago – somebody smashed their place up and even ate the food right off their table – can you believe that?’

Henderson shook his head. ‘It’s a crazy mixed up world we live in alright.’ He made a few notes on his pad. ‘So what did you do?’

‘Well, I’m a very community minded person Mr Henderson – it was me that organised that benefit concert for the old woman who lives in the shoe and I’m always popping round to Mother Hubbard’s with a pot of soup so the old dear doesn’t starve.’

‘What was all that business with the Three Little Pigs all about?’

Wolff bristled. ‘That was just a big misunderstanding – we settled the matter amicably in the end and took out a joint case against the building firm who put those hovels up.’

Henderson raised his hands in a placatory gesture. ‘Just being thorough, Mr Wolff,’ he said.

‘Anyway, I goes over to the kid and I says “Where you off to then?” and she looks at me like something you’d scrape off your paw and says “none of your business you big hairy git.”’ Wolff sighed. ‘Kids today eh? You ask a perfectly reasonable question and get a mouthful of abuse in return.’

‘Tell me about it,’ Henderson said. ‘I’ve got two teenagers at home – never pay a blind bit of attention to anything me or their mother tells them.’

‘Well, I wasn’t standing for being fobbed off so I asked her again and threatened to give you lads a call so she finally gives in and gives me some cock and bull story about going to visit her old granny and that the basket has got some goodies in it for her. I’d finally gotten a good look at her by this time and I recognised her.’

‘And who was she?’

‘She’s one of those Riding kids. She’s got quite the name on the estate I can tell you, hangs around with that Little Boy Blue’s gang – nasty piece of work him. He’s supposed to have been the one that shoved poor old Humpty Dumpty over and put him in the Infirmary. So anyway, alarm bells are ringing in my head. I know the granny’s a bit dotty you see. So I tells her she best be running along. “Whatever fuzz face,” she says. I tell you Mr Henderson, it took all my self control not to give her a proper talking to at that point.’

‘Got a bit of temper have you Mr Wolff?’ Henderson asked innocently.

‘Are you trying to put words in my mouth?’ Wolff said.

‘That’s not my intention Mr Wolff – I just need to make sure that I’ve correctly established what was going on during this, uh, altercation. The girl does have a few bruises that need explaining.’

‘I never laid a finger on her, whatever she might have told you. My point is that nobody should have to put up with that kind of abuse. When I was a kid we had a bit of respect for grown ups.

‘Anyway, I was going to carry on and get my lunch but I kept thinking about that poor old woman and her horrid brat of a granddaughter. I know a short cut through the estate so I thought why don’t I pop over to granny’s house and check that everything’s ok? So that’s what I did.’

‘And what happened when you got to grandma’s house?’

‘Oh she’s such a lovely old dear, she invited me in for a cuppa and a chat and I told her about little Miss Riding Rude. “Oh I know,” she says. “She’s gone right off the rails since her mum and dad split up. What she needs a good short sharp shock to turn her around.” Well, as I said, I’m a very community minded person so I says to grandma – look here, why don’t I help you out and maybe get my own back a little bit at the same time. Well she loved the idea, she dug out some old clothes from the back of her wardrobe that she was planning on giving to charity and I put them on and go climb into the bed while Grandma nips off down the bingo for the afternoon session. Pretty soon I hear a banging on the door – of course, it’s the little madam herself.’

“Hey grandma, open the flipping’ door and let me in, it’s bloody freezing out here,” she says.

‘“Come in my dear,” I says. “Door’s open.”

‘So in she comes “Come a bit closer luv, I says, my poor old eyes can’t see as good as they used to you know.”

‘You would’ve thought I’d asked her to jump under a bus or something – “dunno why not grandma your eyes look pretty big to me.”

‘That’s just my reading glasses,’ I says, ‘They magnify things a bit – I think maybe I need to change my prescription. Come on and tell me what you’ve brought.”

‘Well sure enough the little brat had scoffed half the stuff she showed me in the forest. I was about to say something when she starts again.

“Jeez Grandma look at the state of your ears – you’ve got tons of hair growing out of them. We should get you one of those Fuzz Away gizmos for Christmas.”

‘“Listen dear,” I says. “You’ll be old and hairy as well one day and we’ll see if you’re so smart when the time comes. Anyway, come closer so your dear old granny can give you a kiss for bringing me a present.”

‘Did you kiss her?’ Henderson said.

Wolff looked aghast.

‘I most certainly did not,’ he said. ‘At that point she screws up her face and says, “Phew grandma, your breath is proper honking and your teeth look like they could use a good brush.”

‘That did it. Now I’m very particular about my personal grooming and I take good care of my teeth. I pulled off grandma’s bonnet and glasses and jumped out the bed.’

‘Did you touch her?’

‘On my mother I never laid a finger on her. She tripped over a table and banged her face on a lamp. “Ha! That’ll teach you,” I said. Of course, that’s when the waterworks started.’

“That’s it,” she says. “I’m off to get my dad. I’m going to tell him you tried to touch me up you furry freak. He’ll turn you into a nice rug for his flat.” And she scarpered off out the door.

‘I see,’ said Henderson.

‘Well, I didn’t know what to do Mr Henderson. I was only meant to be playing a little prank on the little rotter. I hadn’t meant for her to get hurt. Before I know what’s happening she comes back with her dad and half the estate shouting about how I’m some sort of cross-dressing pervert and how they should string me up from a lamp post.’ Wolff shook his head.

‘I can laugh about it now Mr Henderson but if your lads hadn’t shown up when they did I do believe you might have had a murder enquiry on your hands.’

Henderson silently agreed. He had read the statements from the arresting officers and Mr Wolff had been lucky the story had not had a grimmer conclusion. Apparently Riding Hood’s dad had been found with his hands around Wolff’s throat. It had taken a shot of taser before he would let go. An axe had also been found near the house. There were no useable prints on it so the charge would probably be aggravated assault rather than attempted murder. The only loose end had been the whereabouts of Grandma whose whereabouts had been a mystery until his phone call a few minutes earlier.

‘Well Mr Wolff, it would appear that today is your lucky day – one of our patrols called in to say that Grandma has been found. Apparently she won a few quid at the bingo and decided to get a few gins down her neck at the Derby and Joan club. She’s corroborated your story about colluding with you to play a prank on the kid to teach her a lesson.’

Wolff gave a sigh of relief. ‘Oh thank god for that. Does that mean I can go home now?’

Henderson pushed over his statement pad to Wolff. ‘I’ll just need you to sign this and then you’ll be free to go.’

Wolff left the station with an escort – it would take a few days for the furore to die down on the estate. Windows had been smashed and someone had already spray-painted the words “paedo” and “beast” on the gable of Wolff’s house.

‘All’s well that ends well then Guv?’ Constable Watson said as he left the custody suite. He was holding a case file in his hands. Once upon a time this had been a fairly easy patch to manage but these days the Fairy Tale Forest estate was a hot-bed of criminal activity.

‘A happy ending this time,’ Henderson agreed. ‘What have you go for me there?’

‘Local cobbler says some elves are trying to run a protection racket on him.’

Henderson took the folder, ready to begin another story.