The Fathers, The Sons and The Anxious Ghost – Book Extract

As I am currently having a little break in Scotland, I decided that today I would share a brief snippet from my first published book. This story of three families was written four years ago and came out in 2019. I am still proud of it because it covers so many different topics in just a hundred and two pages. Hopefully you will find the extract intriguing.

How could I keep everything as normal as possible? How could I hold my head up high? Nothing made any sense to me anymore. I was overwhelmed, bewildered and out of painkillers. My head pounded slowly as it had for the past ten hours. A night spent at my mum’s house was needed but I really ought to go back there, to the home I had shared with Michelle. My heart was sat throbbing gently in the soles of my shoes. My ears quietly rang. My nose ran tirelessly. I felt as though reality had subsided and everything was a mix between chaos and sublime fantasy. My children needed me. No doubt about that. But what could I say? What should I do? Who could I turn to? Why didn’t I see any of this coming? I was not one to cry but tears fell out of my eyes like rain from an overloaded storm cloud suddenly offloading. Like daggers, they seemed to cut across my cheeks and dig into my jaw, carving faint yet permanent etchings across my face and staining me forever like ageing creams dissolving the past and dripping poignantly onto the floor as if flooding and muddying the future and any chance of escape.

I had put a few clothes in a bag last night and got out of there as the police had urged me to. They wanted to examine the house and take finger prints and find out exactly what she did. I had accidentally taken her jumper with me. As I picked it out of the bag I thought about the last time I had seen her in it. Just the other evening. She had been cooking salmon and I recalled her taking it off because she said it stank of fish. I sniffed it now and it was clean and fragrant. It reminded me of spring and the strolls we took through the hills. My heart sank back down into those soles and I gathered myself together. My kids were stood either side of me as they saw me caress her jumper. They leant into my shoulders and we stood in silence, looking out of the window, reflecting quietly.

I gathered up their stuff and we got in the car quickly. My mum asked if I would be alright on the road driving in this state. I tried to make her believe that I was capable and I started to drive off, without looking over my shoulder. I needed to face up to this. As I drove quite slowly through the mainly car-less roads, the usual warmth associated with going home did not reassemble and I was left feeling confused, uncomfortable and out of place. I noticed a glazed look in Alfie’s eyes and the sparkle of partly evaporated tears chalked into his face. I could not determine the way Tess felt exactly as she looked quite serious yet I sometimes thought I could see the beginnings of a smile, especially as we passed some of our favourite haunts, like the park, the duck pond and the place where she went to dancing lessons.

I prayed to a god that I had never really believed in that she might get through this in one piece and have nothing but fond memories of her wonderful mother. Little did I know this day was going to resonate with her more strongly than anyone else. Alfie was the one with mixed emotions, so I largely anticipated him suffering greatly.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this small extract and hope that for some of you it grabbed your interest enough to maybe check out the book. For a recent book review that I did, have a look at my article about Exciting Times.

Where Can You Get Story Ideas From?

I have been thinking a lot about where ideas for great stories often come from. When we are at school, we are taught that a good story begins with a detailed setting and an interesting main character. In my experience, this is not a bad place to start. Almost every story I have ever written has emerged from a particular setting. The main character has usually developed soon afterwards.

Many of you will know that I began by writing short stories and I am a massive fan of short fiction. One of my favourite locations for a short story is somewhere snowy. Here is a short clip of a snowy setting that made me want to write a story about getting stuck in a snowdrift.

https://youtube.com/shorts/LL2m-X–wMc?feature=share

For me, a story nearly always starts with a certain location. I like to know where my characters are going to be based before I conjure up problems for them to deal with. As a writer, if you are suffering from writer’s block, perhaps explore some pictures of a variety of places before trying to imagine a storyline. Often the location will spark a story gem which can grow and satisfy.

Some settings I have enjoyed using are:

1) The seaside. A trip to Hunstanton gave me inspiration for a tale about a woman returning to the beach where her husband perished.

Hunstanton

2) The Swiss Alps. My holiday there made me think about what Christmas might be like there and set the scene for a story of a reporter sent to Switzerland to interview a guy claiming to be Jesus.

Switzerland

3) A Yorkshire town. A weekend away to Skipton started me thinking about a sleepy Yorkshire town where a corrupt mayor might hold the keys to more than just the town hall.

Yorkshire

4) One deserted Fenland house. Driving past an old house with shattered windows made me wonder who might have lived there. It inspired my upcoming YA novel about two teenagers being watched by a mysterious land owner.

5) A patisserie. A quaint French patisserie got me imagining two people meeting through a glass bakery counter. One was feverishly cleaning the glass while the other looked fondly at not only the baked goods but also the woman behind the counter. Their eyes met then they were transfixed.

The French Patisserie

Summary

For me, my best ideas come from travelling and it is no surprise that holidays have fuelled my stories. My lack of holidays during the pandemic has slowed down my creative writing but I am looking forward to some travelling across Europe in summer. My advice to any writer would be write about somewhere you know OR a place that you want to get to know well.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. For another post about writing stories, check out How To Write Short Stories. Please consider following my blog for future similar articles.

Intriguing – A Potential Story Snippet

Check out this story starter that I wrote recently. I hope that it makes you wonder about the characters and upcoming drama. I would love to read your feedback below.

Chapter One (Jack)

 

There are lots of exciting things going on in this town at any given moment. When I moved here, though, I had no idea that a place could be this messed up. Just three years ago I packed up all of my belongings and made the bold move up North, away from the London fringe that  encapsulated my rather sheltered childhood. It had taken me about three years to save up enough of a deposit to lay down on a two bedroom house in what appeared to be a beautiful historic town, nestled between the hills of Yorkshire. Little did I know, this place was full of weirdness; riddled with gossips, intrigue and a strange sense of community which presents itself as a shield under which dark personalities seem to lurk, menacingly. Who would have thought that it would be my job to draw out these menaces and expose them?

 

 

Having worked in advertising for some time, I felt I was now in a position to start my own business. One of my old mates from University was working for a law firm near York and he had offered me a contract to begin designing a package to help advertise their continued expansion. The advance for this alone had secured my office right in the centre of this fascinating little country town. I also had a former colleague who had just moved to Yorkshire with her girlfriend and she had offered her services if I decided to go it alone. Seema was a graphic designer and already had most of the equipment she needed to get us started. It seemed only fair that I made her a partner when we registered the firm. Everything was set in motion. Back then it all seemed perfect. Such a wonderful business opportunity. A chance to move away from the folks and make my mark on a new community.

 

I was determined to throw myself straight in by joining a club, maybe trying the local gym, getting onto a dating website and keeping myself as busy as possible. It was going to feel so refreshing not living at home and having to sneak in quietly after a night out. Finally I had the freedom to do whatever I liked, whenever I felt like it. This town, Olding, was going to be the place where I made my fortune. I could already feel the good vibes as I took my very first stroll down to the local supermarket.

 

Small but convenient, this independent little store had absolutely everything you could need. Next to the groceries were shelves full of DIY tools. Just around the corner was curtain fabric, right before paints and brushes. Then, before you reached the checkout, there was even a selection of underwear to peruse. It was a supermarket with a difference. It bordered on being a mini-department store but with slightly less sophistication. The owners certainly tried hard though. It was very clean, lit well and had useful signage.

 

I had followed the sign that led to beverages and noted the two diagonal arrows reaching down from it. One stated, ‘fizzy drinks’, whilst the other was labelled, ‘booze.’ I chuckled as I read that one and picked up a four pack of lager before moving on. Five packets of crisps and a sausage roll later, I was in the queue, feeling entertained by the seemingly elderly lady processing the goods at the checkout. She was incredibly quick. If scanning products was to become an Olympic event, she would win gold, hands down. The fascinating thing was that she worked swiftly but was still able to chat non-stop, engaging with the customers on a very personal level, without breaking a sweat or showing any signs of being out of breath. For what seemed like an eighty year old, she had a lot of stamina.

 

She glanced at me briefly, smiling as I placed my stuff onto the conveyor belt. The young guy in front of me was busy checking his phone.

 

“You going to pack your bags, Tom?” she asked politely.

He looked up, surprised that his shopping was already through.

“You get faster every day,” he sniggered as he went to collect up his milk, eggs and bread and shove the lot all into a flimsy plastic bag.

“Mind it don’t break. These bags are getting thinner and thinner,” she warned before reading out the total.

 

She went to open up a few more bags for me but I stopped her in her tracks.

“I have my reusable bags with me.”

“Oh, you’re one of them.” She turned to Tom and winked.

He smiled back at her and looked at me curiously.

“Don’t worry. You’ll get used to the yocals. It just takes a bit of time.”

With that, he marched off, holding his bag in one hand and trying to text with his other.

 

“If you buy two of these you get a quid off,” she pointed out as she raised the sausage roll to scan it.

“Thanks. Can I go back and get it?” I asked, backing out and returning to the chiller.

By the time I had returned, she had packed my things and was waiting for me, expectantly.

“Wow! You didn’t have to do that!”

“Haha I even used your special bags,” she grinned as I handed her my tenner.

“Not bad value either,” I said as she gave me fifty pence change.

 

She seemed to hang on to it a bit longer than expected. As we both touched the coin, she whispered, “I like you. You will be popular around here.”

Nobody else was in the queue but I got the feeling she was trying to tell me something.

“Just keep your wits about you. Have a good day.” She seemed to mutter the first part and announce the last bit confidently, so that anyone overhearing would tell that she was using good customer service etiquette. Not being a very suspicious person, I came away thinking that this very friendly cashier was a reflection of the new town I’d chosen to live in. Lovely, genuine people in a picture postcard setting. You never would have imagined that she was going to be so important to me in the months ahead. She was to be my guardian angel.

This is taken from a draft that I started a year ago and recently rediscovered. Now that I look at it with fresh eyes I wonder if it will make a reasonable beginning to my next novel. Let me know what you think. I won’t be offended if it seems dull. For a sample of my new YA book simply click here. If you enjoy my writing then please consider following my blog for similar future content.