Category Archives: Short stories

The gift of the notebook


If you’ve read my previous post you’ll be aware that I’m going through a period of ‘writer’s block’, so I’ve been dabbling with a paintbrush instead.

Another thing I’ve been doing is going through some old notebooks. I have scores (if not hundreds) strewn around the house in various boxes, on bookshelves, in bags and suitcases, cupboards and wardrobes.

I always have a notebook on the go to jot down ideas or do a little sketch in. The problem is, I hardly ever look back on them. I guess the thinking is, that if the idea didn’t present itself at the time, then it was probably a rubbish idea. For the most part, this is true. But, occasionally, a little gem pokes its head to the surface. (And, wasn’t that the point of the notebook in the first place?)

I came across a poem I wrote in 2000. I can see why I didn’t take it any further at the time, but with a bit of jiggery-pokery I think I’ve got something quite nice. (See below the photo.)

So, the moral of the story is:

  1. Always carry a notebook.
  2. Don’t leave it 16 years to revisit them.
  3. Good ideas will present themselves in the end.

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DENIAL

By David Milligan-Croft

 

I inhale your words as you exhale them.

And I place them into separate categories:

Those that I wish to retain,

And those which I do not.

 

Words such as ‘terminate’ and ‘over’,

I place into the carbon dioxide pile,

To be expelled into the universe

As quickly as possible.

 

But the words of love and affection

I send directly into my bloodstream,

To feed my heart and my brain,

Keeping my soul sane, for a few moments longer.

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Get 43,415 words FREE!


That’s right, my collection of short stories, Ten Orbits of the Sun is F.R.E.E. for a limited time only.

Not only do you get 13 tantalising tall tales for gratis, you also get a sample chapter of my latest novel, Peripheral Vision, thrown in for good measure.

Simply click on the cover image below for your free copy.

All I ask in return is that if you like it, you’d be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon. (Indie authors live and die by their reviews.) Obviously, if you don’t like it, I’ll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself!

But it’s only free for 5 days so you’d best get your skates on.

TOS

Offer starts Friday 15th January, ends Tuesday 19th January 2016. (Although, I think this might be US ESB time.) Hey-ho, I’m sure you’ll manage.

Front cover photography courtesy of Mike O’Toole.

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The customer is always right.


For any of you lovely people out there who are still unsure whether to sample any of my e-books, I thought I’d let people who’ve read my work do the talking. All of these quotes can be read on Amazon, except for the excerpt quotes which were posted on a FB writers’ group page.

Praise for Peripheral Vision.

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“I had the honour of reading the penultimate draft of David Milligan-Croft’s novel prior to publication. It’s an extremely well-written and moving story. Had to dab my eyes on and off, and sometimes I wanted to wring the main protagonist, Danny Kane’s neck when he went off the rails big-time, but it was a most believable story — shades of Donna Tartt, even!” – Sarah Potter

 

“Sometimes, a mother’s love is just not enough…

“Peripheral Vision is a great read, but be warned, it is brutal and jarring. It examines a young man’s difficult life and it sticks with you. Life is rarely fair, but sometimes a child ends up paying for a parent’s sins, far more than can be tolerated. The main character, Danny is a willful, bright boy growing up in a previously prosperous English mill town that has last seen better days decades before. His abuse is well documented by the author, yet Danny seems to be able to keep on his feet, until the betrayals simply outnumber his defenses. The cruelties inflicted on him make this a book that is very important for anyone who has sons, or daughters, or a heart, to read. This fast-paced novel also investigates friendship and those kind of connections forged in childhood that stand for a lifetime. Author Milligan-Croft pulls no punches however. Danny’s story was told so well, I read it in two sittings, waiting for the redemption I hoped would come. When it does come, after an unexpected twist, it is intense, but momentary. I was especially taken by the very believable way the story outlined how a great kid can be sucked right up into a criminal life as a result of his abusive childhood and lack of relationships with male role models. Sometimes, as the author makes exceedingly clear, a mother’s love is not enough. Read this book and you’ll remember it. I’ll be looking forward to the author’s next release.” – Richard Sutton

 

The following are quotes from people who read an excerpt from Peripheral Vision prior to publication.

 

“A great excerpt, this really hooked me in to the story and the character – he seems to have great spirit, which leads me to wonder what happens to him to lead him to live the life he eventually does.” – Andrea Stephenson.

 

“I was very much hooked by this excerpt and am curious to find out what happens. The dynamics between the various family members certainly set the stage for an emotionally fraught story.” – Sarah Potter.

 

“I really enjoyed reading his excerpt from his novel which leaves me wanting to know what happens next, the cast of characters already formed in my mind! Great writing.” – Sherri.

 

“Nicely written and well chosen excerpt with just the right amount of intrigue and character play.” – Dave Farmer.

 

“It’s a powerful piece that makes me want to know what will happen to them!!” – The Dune Mouse.

 

Praise for Love is Blood.

Buy my book!

 

“Love, love, love it. Couldn’t wait to see what happened next then didn’t want it to end. Read it twice!” – Elizabeth Phillips.

 

“A page turning beauty.

“Beautifully described scenes and emotions, twinned with a plot that twists, turns and intertwines – looking both to the future and the past. Well worth a read!” – Anon.

 

“Great Story.

“A really enjoyable read…..well written love story with a twist. After reading the first couple of chapters I struggled to put this book down. Would strongly recommend !!” – Alibongo.

 

 

“A sequel is required!

“A compelling story, I was left wondering what would happen next! I’d like to read a sequel, think there’s potential for a soap!” – Bluenose. [Not sure about a soap!]

 

“Gripping, excellently written unusual love story.

“Love is Blood is one of those books that stays with you. A gripping and unusual love story that has a mystery at its heart – a personal mystery which I won’t spoil. Its chain of events sparked by an act of terrorism, Love is Blood shows how cause and effect or, if you like, fate, can shape the lives of characters in ways they never expected. If you want a well-made story that encompasses romance, loss, hope and forgiveness, this book is for you.” – Patrick Chapman.

 

Praise for Ten Orbits of the Sun.

ten orbits of the sun, short stories, david mileage-croft

“Eclectic mix

“A really interesting set of stories: full of angst, melancholy darkness, sadness, humour and human insight. A well worth read for all.” – Graham Hoyle.

 

Praise for Woman’s Best Friend.

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“Mad Englishmen and dogs.

“This was too funny! Like the domino effect gone city wide – all it takes is that first one…

“The boy in the story was both clever and determined. Unfortunately, things just never went according to plan. And I certainly had to feel sorry for the hapless father, in spite of his – er – extracurricular activities.

“Charming in an unintentional kind of way.” – Birdie Tracy. [It was completely intentional, I’ll have you know.]

 

So, there you have it. Straight from the horse’s mouth, as they say.

Now, if you’d be so kind as to click on a cover that tickles your fancy. That’ll whizz you over to Amazon via the power of whizzardry. Once there, you can avail yourself of hours of pleasure for a few paltry pennies.

Oh, and if it’s not too much to ask, an Amazon review would be nice too.

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From Saskatchewan to Sao Paulo…


 

 

 

ten orbits of the sun, short stories, david mileage-croft

Whether you live in Mumbai or München, Ten Orbits of the Sun is now available across the globe.

If you happen to live in any of the countries listed below, and fancy a rummage through some of the darker recesses of my mind, just click on your country of choice and it’ll take you straight through to my book.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Amazon.com.au

Amazon.co.jp

Amazon.in

Amazon.com.br

Amazon.de

Amazon.fr

Amazon.nl

Amazon.es

Amazon.it

Amazon.com.mx

So, tell your friends, tell your family, and let’s get Ten Orbits of the Sun back up to number 173 in the Amazon chart where it belongs!

There are 13 tantalising short tales and a chilling excerpt from my second novel, Peripheral Vision, which I’m hoping to publish later this year.

Blurb:

Ten Orbits of the Sun is a collection of contemporary short stories touching on diverse subjects, from dystopian fantasy to serial dog killers. Sometimes darkly humorous, occasionally macabre, but always evocative and visceral. Ten Orbits of the Sun is brimming with concepts that are tender, heart-wrenching and challenging.

CONTENTS:

1. Classic Mercedes Requires Garage.

Wedding day jitters told from both protagonists’ point of view.

2. The Music of Butterflies.

Is Oskar in dystopian heaven, or pharmaceutical hell?

3. Mudslide Bride.

It’s never too late to get down on one knee. Unless you have arthritis.

4. Shall I be Mother?

Will Walter finally realise his ambition of murdering his identical twin?

5. Big Fish, Little Fish.

Children caught in the middle of a dysfunctional family.

6. The Doorstep Girl.

Innocence and racism from the point of view of a terminally ill child.

7. Lucky Penny.

Will Jim scrounge enough money for a packet of fags? This could be his lucky day.

8. Woman’s Best Friend.

A serial dog killer is on the loose. And there’s only one kid in town who can stop him.

9. The Funny Farm.

Are the voices in Larry’s head, or yours?

10. Kanye West, in Botswana.

One-upmanship taken to the extreme.

11. Chasing the Dragon.

You can always have too much of a good thing.

12. Little Snow.

Koyuki has got inside James’ head – quite literally.

13. Ten Orbits of the Sun.

How far one father would go for his daughter.

14. Peripheral Vision (excerpt).

After being blinded in one eye by his abusive father, Peripheral Vision tells the story of 11-year-old Danny Kane growing up in 1970s northern England. His violent upbringing results in his descent into a life of drugs and crime. As he reaches adulthood he realises that the only way out of his spiralling slide into perdition is to find the one thing that he treasured most – his childhood friend, Sally, who was taken into care after the death of her mother. Can the search for his long-lost love lead to Danny’s redemption?

 

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Ten Orbits of the Sun – out now on Amazon.


Ten orbits of the sun, short stories.

My collection of short stories is now available on Amazon.

 

There are 13 tantalising short tales and a chilling excerpt from my second novel, Peripheral Vision, which I’m hoping to publish later this year.

Blurb:

Ten Orbits of the Sun is a collection of contemporary short stories touching on diverse subjects, from dystopian fantasy to serial dog killers. Sometimes darkly humorous, occasionally macabre, but always evocative and visceral. Ten Orbits of the Sun is brimming with concepts that are tender, heart-wrenching and challenging.

CONTENTS:

1. Classic Mercedes Requires Garage.

Wedding day jitters told from both protagonists’ point of view.

2. The Music of Butterflies.

Is Oskar in dystopian heaven, or pharmaceutical hell?

3. Mudslide Bride.

It’s never too late to get down on one knee. Unless you have arthritis.

4. Shall I be Mother?

Will Walter finally realise his ambition of murdering his identical twin?

5. Big Fish, Little Fish.

Children caught in the middle of a dysfunctional family.

6. The Doorstep Girl.

Innocence and racism from the point of view of a terminally ill child.

7. Lucky Penny.

Will Jim scrounge enough money for a packet of fags? This could be his lucky day.

8. Woman’s Best Friend.

A serial dog killer is on the loose. And there’s only one kid in town who can stop him.

9. The Funny Farm.

Are the voices in Larry’s head, or yours?

10. Kanye West, in Botswana.

One-upmanship taken to the extreme.

11. Chasing the Dragon.

You can always have too much of a good thing.

12. Little Snow.

Koyuki has got inside James’ head – quite literally.

13. Ten Orbits of the Sun.

How far one father would go for his daughter.

14. Peripheral Vision (excerpt).

After being blinded in one eye by his abusive father, Peripheral Vision tells the story of 11-year-old Danny Kane growing up in 1970s northern England. His violent upbringing results in his descent into a life of drugs and crime. As he reaches adulthood he realises that the only way out of his spiralling slide into perdition is to find the one thing that he treasured most – his childhood friend, Sally, who was taken into care after the death of her mother. Can the search for his long-lost love lead to Danny’s redemption?

So, if you fancy a copy, click on either of the links below or on the cover image.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

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Kanye in Botswana – New Flash Fiction


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KANYE IN BOTSWANA

By David Milligan Croft

 

The anger and frustration were risible behind Jeb’s gritted teeth. He wanted to lash out at the person standing in front of him with the smug grin on his face. But he knew that that would cost him his job. In this “P.C.” age he lived in it was deemed unacceptable to beat one’s co-worker to a pulp. If not him, anyone or anything in general would suffice, such as: his pet Syrian hamster in its cage at home. He could pluck it up and wring its scrawny little neck or snap its spine in half and crush its squidgy innards. Not that the hamster had done anything in particular to warrant Jeb’s wrath – apart from leaving droppings and straw all over the house – which was actually reason enough. No, it would preferably be a human.

The problem was, Jeb wasn’t blessed with fighting prowess, either physically or technically. He was average height and had a scraggy physique and concave chest. He had gaunt cheeks with bulbous eyes and a hooked nose. His heart was palpitating and his palms sweated as the man from accounts poked fun at him.

Apart from his physical shortcomings he wasn’t bestowed with a quick wit or more than average intelligence either. All of which made him a fairly unremarkable specimen of Homo sapiens and quite an easy target for jocularity. It was this latter fact that was the nub of Jeb’s dissatisfaction with life’s lot. He wanted to be somebody. To do something. But the fact was, he lacked either the imagination or the skill sets to achieve… whatever it was he wanted to achieve.

Instead, he just stood there by the coffee machine in the makeshift kitchen area, hands trembling, face flushed bright red, surrounded by his colleagues who were all laughing at him for having thought Kanye West was a holiday destination in the Florida Keys. To be fair to Jeb, this was only on account of the aforementioned accounts man, Brendan Tucker, telling Jeb that Kanye West was the ‘in-place’ to holiday that summer and was he thinking of taking his vacation there? When Jeb responded in the affirmative and that, in fact, he had already booked his flight, was when his teammates all fell about guffawing at his expense.

On one occasion, at an office Christmas party, a couple of years previously, Jeb had attempted to boost his image by hiring the services of a young, glamorous escort whom he attempted to pass off as his girlfriend. When ‘Crystal’ arrived at his home, she was neither young, nor glamorous. Nor was she particularly attractive. She had corkscrew peroxide blonde hair, pockmarked skin and a bright red skirt that could easily have passed for a cummerbund.

On arriving at the office party which, incidentally, was on the theme of Saints and Sinners, making Crystal instantly feel at home, she promptly disappeared to the loos leaving Jeb alone at the accounts table sipping a dry sherry.

Lamentably, Brendan had seen through Jeb’s ruse and had offered Crystal fifty quid to give him a blowjob in the gents’ toilets. The act of which, Jeb stumbled upon whilst visiting the little boys’ room. All in all, with Brendan’s bonus on top of the £250 she’d earned from Jeb, Crystal had made an extremely tidy sum for her evening’s work. Jeb went home alone and Brendan’s newly acquired humiliating anecdote was a bargain at only £50.

A few days after the ‘coffee pot’ incident, Jeb arrived at work in the open plan office wearing a very loud, short-sleeved floral shirt and proclaimed that he was going on holiday to Kanye in the south east of Botswana the very next day. Moreover, he was specifically going to the western part of the town. (He emphasised the ‘western’ part.)

He regaled all who would listen, (which was Mary from admin and John from maintenance), that Kanye was founded by European settlers in 1853 and that it was his love of both Africa, and history, that had prompted his choice of holiday. And, when Brendan had first mentioned going on holiday to Kanye, Jeb said he had misheard the part about ‘Florida’. Sadly, Brendan wasn’t there to hear the news firsthand, but Jeb was certain that the office grapevine would successfully deliver his news and put Brendan Tucker firmly in his place once and for all.

Unfortunately, that’s about as far as Jeb’s one-upmanship got him. Whilst on safari in the southern region of Kanye, he was dragged out of his tent one night by a boisterous cackle of hyenas. And, as they tore and gorged at his pasty white flesh, the hysterical yips of the hyenas couldn’t help but remind him of Brendan Tucker and his colleagues back at the office.

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10 Orbits of the Sun – new short story.


Here’s a pretty short short story that I’ve been working on recently. I’d be interested in anyone’s thoughts. Good or bad. But mainly good.

(Sorry about all the photos – it’s the art director in me.)

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10 ORBITS OF THE SUN.

By David Milligan-Croft.

Something changes inside of you when you have a child. Obviously, things change inside of a woman, quite literally. But I’m talking about changing from a man’s point of view – philosophically.

Up until my late thirties, I never wanted kids. Why would I? They’d be a burden. I had a fabulous career, a few great friends, a fantastic salary and a tidy crash pad overlooking the lazy river.

Then, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I got all broody. And I just wanted a baby. Specifically, a baby girl. I don’t know why I wanted a girl. Perhaps I found the thought of a rambunctious boy quite off-putting.

It stands to reason that I had to find a suitable mother first, which took a little longer than I had hoped. Anyhow, I got my wish. And I was the proud father of little Tallulah. When I said that something changes inside of you, I meant that something changes chemically. Nothing else, nor anyone else, matters quite so much in the world. Every cell in your body is geared toward protecting this little being. It’s a love that’s hard to describe. You would do anything for your charge. Yes, even kill for them. Die for them. It’s quite primeval on one level. Yet deeply spiritual on another.

Sure, not all parents feel this way. And I’m not trying to say that I’m unique in feeling like this. Plenty of parents are doting and plenty are neglectful.

I watched my little girl flourish and blossom. She was a happy kid. Loved to read. Loved to write her own stories. She’d make little 8-page books and fill them with fairytales and drawings. She loved to ride her bike and occasionally we’d go to Ed’s farm and she’d ride Ruby, the chestnut brown mare. She didn’t care much for video games or TV either.

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I remember one time, when we were going for a drive in the desert in my old jalopy, she said: “Daddy, how far is it around the sun?”

“What? The Earth’s orbit?” I’d said.

“Yes.”

“About 585 million miles, give or take a couple of hundred thousand. Depends on the time of year.” I turned the volume down on the car stereo so I could hear my inquisitive daughter better.

“Why does it depend on the time of year?” she said, turning the volume back up again so she could hear the brashy pop song that was playing.

“Not hundred percent. Something to do with the ellipse of our orbit,” I tried to draw an ellipse in the dust on the dashboard. “And the tilt of the Earth’s axis.” Astronomy isn’t my strong point and I got the impression that Tallulah guessed I was busking a little.

Tallulah looked out of the passenger window from behind her sunglasses at the scorched desert dotted with parched brush and spindly shrubs.

I stole a glance at the side of her pensive face, her golden hair was tantalising her cheeks. “Why d’you ask?”

“By my next birthday, I will have travelled 5.8 billion miles around the sun. Pretty amazing, huh?”

I pursed my lips. “When you look at it like that, kiddo, it is pretty amazing.”

“And that’s not including all the miles we’ve done down here on Earth,” she said wistfully.

I didn’t know how many miles we’d clocked up, and, in the great scheme of things, it probably wouldn’t affect Tallulah’s ‘orbital total’ very much. But it was still a significant amount for mere Earth dwellers.

I don’t know why this memory of my daughter springs to the forefront of my mind. Perhaps it is because it’s to do with heavenly bodies. The very fact that she came up with this concept amazed me. She could often be very abstract in her thinking. While other kids were ogling the shapes in clouds, Tallulah was busy calculating how far she’d travelled in the universe. I always imagined her growing up to be a great writer one day. Or maybe even a scientist.

Tallulah didn’t make it into double figures before she was taken from me. It was that God damned bike I’d bought for her ninth birthday. She was cycling home from school when a truck cut her up at some traffic lights. The driver said he didn’t see her coming up on the inside.

I’d always been uncomfortable with her riding to and from school. Not because she was a careless rider but because of careless drivers. However, her friends all did it, so she wanted to do it too. I guess I should have been a stronger father.

I was at work when it happened. I don’t know, but around the time of the accident, I recall being overwhelmed by a sense of grief. Like somehow I’d had this telepathic connection with her or something. Sounds ludicrous, I know. Though, I didn’t put it down to anything bad having befallen my little girl at the time.

I got a phone call from my distraught wife about an hour later. It was hard to make out what she was actually trying to tell me through her hysterical sobs. When the penny finally dropped, I felt the world disappear from beneath my feet and I was suddenly floating in a black void. I was dizzy. I felt my insides twitch and heave and I vomited over a glass case containing antique pistols. I think the customers must have thought I was hungover as they stared at me disdainfully and left the shop.

I closed the store and rushed to the hospital. But it was too late. The truck had already crushed the precious life out of her. Had the driver been there when I found out I imagine I would have killed him. Not that I would do that now, having had time to reflect on the incident. I know it was an accident. He didn’t mean to kill her. But he should’ve taken more care. Particularly at that time of day, being near a school and all.

I have never known grief like it. I don’t believe in heaven and hell.

This was hell.

The depths of Christian hell could not provide me with such torment. I went over all of the things that I might possibly have done for Tallulah not to have been at that particular spot at that particular moment in time. Not buying her the bike was top of the list. Her taking gymnastics class on a Tuesday instead of violin on a Wednesday was another. There were an infinite amount of possibilities. Of variables that would have put her at a different point in the universe. And I didn’t take any of them.

As you can imagine, my wife was inconsolable too. But I had to put on a more stoic face for everyone else: the police, doctors, funeral directors, family, friends. I know people mean well by wanting to offer their condolences, but the last thing we wanted to do at that time was talk to anybody. Shout – yes. Scream – definitely. Why? Why, Tallulah? What had she ever done to anybody? To me, it was further proof that there is no god. How could an all-powerful, loving deity let a beautifully perfect little girl be killed in such a horrific way?

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in some form of afterlife. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Perhaps we’re reincarnated. Or, maybe we rise to a higher dimension. I once had the notion that the afterlife was an emotion rather than a place. Sort of like ecstasy or bliss. That one’s spirit melded back into the universe in a kind of eternal rapture. Most likely, there will be nothing. I don’t know. But it’s a chance I’m not prepared to take.

Of course, I haven’t discussed this with my wife. What would she say? She’d say I was being irrational. And I guess I was. No rational person decides to take their own life. She’d say I needed to see a doctor. That I was depressed. Not thinking straight. Get some pills. On the other hand, I could also see why my thinking was completely rational.

You know what I miss the most about Tallulah? It’s a sound. Specifically, a word. It’s a word I’ll never hear ever again: “Daddy!”

Like I said at the beginning – having a child changes you. You’d do anything to protect them. Why should my parental duties end in this life? Lots of religious people believe in heaven and hell. But they don’t think twice about giving up on their dead loved ones. If their faith was so resolute why wouldn’t they follow them to paradise?

Perhaps Tallulah and I will both spend eternity in black nothingness. In which case, it won’t matter a jot to either of us. But if there is something else, I’m certainly not going to let my beloved daughter wander the afterlife all by herself.

What kind of father would I be?

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Espe P.

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By the way, a few folk have asked me if these are photos of my kids. Just to reassure you – they’re not. When I’m working on a story I set up a Pinterest board for it. I put up pins of characters, locations, props etc to help me visualise my world. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a cheat to put them up on this post as I should let the story set the scene. However, like I said at the beginning – it’s the art director in me that can’t help putting some visuals in. Think of them as an extended front cover.

Addendum.

If you liked this story, why not read the whole collection, which is available on Amazon.

TOS

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