Tag Archives: Short stories

Ten Orbits of the Sun – update.


Well, I didn’t progress further than the shortlist for the Mind Short Story Competition. Still, I’m very proud to have made it this far.

Anyhoo, a few folks said they would like to read my short story, so here it is. The theme for the competition was ‘Journeys’, either literal or metaphorical.

P.S. I’ll always be grateful to Mike O’Toole for his stunning front cover photography.

P.P.S. Here’s a quote from a Mind judge/organiser:

“Believe me, I was definitely rooting for 10 Orbits of the Sun to go through to the judges. Both myself and one of the shortlisters cried reading your story. It was so beautifully written and emotive.”

Ten 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 nice little crash pad overlooking a languid 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. Or maybe it was because I didn’t want a boy to turn out like his father.

It stands to reason that I had to find a suitable mother first, which took a little longer than I had anticipated. I met Suki on an online dating website and, as we were both pushing forty, we decided it would be prudent to start a family sooner rather than later. We had a lot in common, we both loved the arts and books, she even shared my passion for antiques. She worked at the local hospital as an ER nurse, while I worked in a large design agency working on global brand campaigns. When we got married I decided to quit the industry and open up an antique shop in a trendy part of town. Something I’d dreamed of doing since my twenties.

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 as well as philosophically. 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 starts from the moment of conception. I used to sing lullabies to Suki’s tummy and recite poetry to her. I’d talk to her and tell her how much I loved her and how much I was looking forward to seeing her. 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. I can understand why some parents conceal their children from the law if they have committed a crime.

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.

It was three years before I had a full night’s sleep or a hot meal. I’d be bouncing Tallulah on my left knee to keep her entertained whilst trying to eat a bowl of lukewarm pasta with my right hand. Or driving her around the suburbs to get her off to sleep. Every day brought a new parenting challenge or experience. Like the time I pursed my lips and asked her to give me a ‘smacker’, so she slapped me across the face! Or the time she pulled at my cheek and asked: “Daddy, why is your skin like a raw chicken drumstick?” Charming.

Because I’d had a child later in life, other parents in the park would ask if I was her grandad. It didn’t help that I’d gone grey early in life. She found it funny at first, but as time went on I think it began to annoy her. That I wasn’t like the other dads who were all much younger than me. It used to worry me that I might not be around for her later in life – when she was at university, or if she got married, if she had children. I wondered if I had been selfish having a child so late on.

I watched my little girl flourish and blossom over the years. 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 fairy tales and drawings. She loved to ride her bike and occasionally we’d go to McEvoy’s farm and she’d ride Ruby, the chestnut brown mare. She didn’t care much for video games or TV either and would much prefer to concoct experiments out of things she’d find in the garden and around the house.

I remember one time, when we were going for a drive in the desert in my old jalopy, she’d 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 think.” 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 trashy pop song that was playing.

“Not a hundred percent sure. Something to do with the ellipse of the Earth’s 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 distinct impression that Tallulah guessed I was busking a little.

Tallulah looked out of the open 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 on Earth, 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 busy playing with Barbie dolls, Tallulah was calculating how far she’d travelled in the universe. I always imagined her growing up to be a great children’s 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 and forbidden it. Up until then I’d always dropped her off and picked her from school in the car. But peer pressure had reluctantly forced me to concede.

I was at the shop 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 just thought it was due to my mood swings.

I got a phone call from my distraught wife about an hour later. She had been working in the ER department when Tallulah was brought in. It was hard to make out what Suki 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 cabinet containing antique duelling 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.

But 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. Me picking her up was a second. Taking gymnastics class on a Tuesday instead of violin on a Wednesday was another. Or letting her go to her friend Maisie’s house after school so she would have taken a different route. There were an infinite amount of possibilities. Of variables that would have put her at a different point in the universe at that moment in time. And I didn’t take any of them. It was my fault, not the truck driver’s.

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? What the hell was the point of existence?

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 Suki. What would she say? She’d say I was being irrational. And I guess I am. 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 or bereavement counselling. On the other hand, I could also see why my thinking is completely rational. It wasn’t fair on Suki, I know that. To lose a child and a husband. But what choice do I have?

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.” There isn’t a more perfect sound in the entire universe. Perhaps her mother would disagree.

Like I said at the beginning – having a child changes you. You’d do anything to protect them. And I have failed in that respect. 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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Heaven or Hell?


I’ve written a couple of pieces of flash fiction, about 100 words apiece. The first one is about the state of globilisation and the trashing of the planet. The second is about refugees in the Mediterranean.

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Heaven or Hell?

When I was floating around in the uterus, the Universe asked me a question, “There are two worlds you can choose to live in: The first has rivers, lakes and oceans teeming with all kinds of fish. It has mountains and forests where wild animals graze. It has fertile fields where you can grow all manner of crops.

“The second is ravaged by war, famine and inequality. Corporations strip the planet of its resources for their own profit. 1% of the population controls 98% of its wealth. But you will not be one of them.

“So, which will it be? Heaven, or hell?”

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Hope.

The boat is taking on water. There is no land in sight which they could swim to. There’s no coast guard on the horizon, nor search and rescue helicopter in the stormy sky. There are no life jackets for the refugees on board. The fifty-four men, women and children who fled war, famine and persecution are crammed into a lifeboat meant for thirty. They cling to hope like they cling to the gunwale slipping beneath the surface of the inky-black sea. The children search their parents’ eyes pleadingly. “It’s going to be all right, isn’t it, Mama?”

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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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“Mad Englishmen and dogs…”


My dastardly dark short story, Woman’s Best Friend, is available Free on Amazon for 5 days only. Click on the cover to get your copy.

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This was too funny! Like the domino effect gone city wide.” Birdie Tracy, on Amazon.com

Probably the best short story I’ve ever read.” Tiddles, the cat.

I thought it was rubbish. Gratuitous and unrealistic.” Rex, next door’s dog.

It was shortlisted for the Independent on Sunday Short Story Competition in 1997 and features in IOS new stories, published by Bloomsbury in 1998.

No dogs were harmed during the writing of this story.

(Oh, and please leave a review if you like it!)

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