A Knock at the Door

A Knock at the Door

Tall And True Short Reads

A Knock at the Door

Episode 86 (18 January 2024)

“In space no one can hear you scream. But what if you’re deep in the backwoods, in an isolated cabin on a dead-end trail?” Karen set aside the book. A horror story was not ideal reading for the off-grid log cabin Peter had booked for their thirtieth wedding anniversary weekend, especially as she was alone in bed, listening to wind from a storm whistle through cracks in the doors and windows.

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A Knock at the Door

Show Notes

Season Four: Episode 86 (18 January 2024)

A Knock at the Door is a short story from the Tall And True writers’ website, written and narrated by Robert Fairhead.

Read the story on Tall And True: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/fiction/short-stories/a-knock-at-the-door

Podcast website: https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com

Support the podcast: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads

Buy Robert’s short story collections online:

Story Insight

A Knock at the Door was my November 2023 entry for Furious Fiction, the monthly 500-word short story writing challenge run by the Australian Writers’ Centre. Their brief was:

  • The story must be set at a remote house or cabin
  • Include three different three-word sentences in a row
  • And the words SPACE, KNOCK, WHISTLE, and MYTH (or longer, retaining the original spelling).

SPACE gave me the opening line, a homage to the Alien movie, “In space no one can hear you scream”, and the KNOCK could only be at the front door in the middle of a stormy night. From there, I set about writing my first horror story.

I also wanted another thread to run through the story: Karen’s dissatisfaction with her marriage and Peter’s self-centredness. And for these to combine and leave the knock at the door unexplained and spooky!

Although the Writers’ Centre judges longlisted A Knock at the Door for November’s Furious Fiction, I wanted to change its ending from the moment I submitted the story. In the original version, Peter arrived the next day. There was no sign of Karen’s car (he assumed she’d parked around the side), and the storm had cleared. Feeling pleased with his remote getaway choice for their anniversary, Peter entered the cabin, and the story ended the same as in this version, with Karen missing and a knock at the door.

As I commented in a 2020 blog post about my first Furious Fiction, A Song on the Radio (Episode 4 of Tall And True Short Reads), by its name and nature, the challenge doesn’t afford writers time to reflect on their writing. And returning to share my stories on Tall And True or to narrate them for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, I’ve always done edits, generally tweaking a word here and there. But in addition to rewriting the ending, A Knock at the Door wins the prize for the most tweaks!  (I’d like to thank Amanda from the Not Quite Write Podcast for suggesting one of the tweaks.)

It’s also the first story where I’ve had the chance to use an adjective I learned reading the fantasy writer Steven Donaldson’s trilogy, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, as a twenty-one-year-old in 1983, “preternatural”. Perfect for describing the dark, stormy night outside the log cabin’s front door!

I’m also proud of the three different, three-word sentences, the mantra Karen taught her adult children when they were young and woke from nightmares, none of which needed tweaking from the original version: Take a breath. Let it out. Don’t be afraid.

I hope you enjoyed my spooky tale. You can read A Knock on the Door and all my short stories, blog posts and other writing at TallAndTrue.com. You can also buy my short story collections, including my latest Tall And True Microfiction anthology, from the Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, and Kobo online bookstores — links are available in the show notes.

The next episode of Tall And True Short Reads will be in your podcast feed shortly. In the meantime, please check your feed or the podcast website for earlier episodes from all four seasons, and follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite podcasting app — doing so helps me share my storytelling.

You can support the podcast financially by making a small one-off or regular donation via the Acast Supporter Page.

Finally, please share this episode with your family and friends and tell them about Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True writers’ website.

Podcast Theme and Sound Effects

Royalty-free music from Pixabay.com: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastorale’ – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non-Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.

Sound effects licensed under Creative Commons 0 from FreeSound.org:

Production Notes

Tall And True Short Reads produced using Audacity.

Podcast episodes are recorded in Sydney, Australia, on the traditional lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.

Acast Podcast Supporter Page

Support this show: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads.

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A Knock at the Door

Kris Kringle – Xmas 2023

Tall And True Short Reads

Kris Kringle – Xmas 2023

Episode 85 (22 December 2023)

I’m taking a short break from podcasting because I’m going on a long road trip with my son from Sydney to Western Australia to spend Xmas and New Year with our WA family. But as I did in 2022, I’ve put together a Kris Kringle collection featuring three episodes from the Tall And True Short Reads archive: Too Late, Lenny, Stuck in Time and Family Reflections.

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Kris Kringle – Xmas 2023

Show Notes

Season Four: Episode 85 (22 December 2023)

The Kris Kringle – Xmas 2023 stories first appeared on the Tall And True writers’ website and were written and narrated by Robert Fairhead:

Podcast website: https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com

Support the podcast: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads

Buy Robert’s short story collections online:

Episode Insight

As I did during a break for Xmas 2022, I’ve put together a Kris Kringle collection featuring three episodes from the Tall And True Short Reads archive:

Too Late, Lenny (Episode 3, 1 October 2020): Between you and me, Lenny, there are more mourners at your funeral with the COVID restrictions than would have been graveside had you died before the pandemic. Streaming it over Zoom helps boost your numbers. Mind you, most of the faces on my computer screen are strangers, or I haven’t seen for ages.

Stuck in Time (Episode 54, 22 June 2022): It’s 1997. I’m fifteen, and Dad’s delivering another lecture on my poor prospects: “If you carry on like this, son, you’ll end up in prison.” I won’t admit it, but he may have a point. Because today, on the drive home after catching me shoplifting again, the local cop issued a “last warning”.

Family Reflections (Episode 73, 9 May 2023): Mum’s up first, though she doesn’t like looking at her reflection nowadays. She splashes her face and turns away from me with a towel. Over her shoulder, I watch Mum gaze out the bathroom window. And when she turns back, Mum’s wearing her pained expression again, like she’s failed to solve the riddle of life.

At the end of each Kringle episode, I’ll explain when, why and how I wrote the story.

I hope you enjoy this year’s “reflective” Kris Kringle collection. You can read all my short stories, blog posts and other writings at TallAndTrue.com. You can also buy my short story collections, including my latest Tall And True Microfiction anthology, from the Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, and Kobo online bookstores — links are available in the show notes.

The next episode of Tall And True Short Reads will be released in the new year. In the meantime, please check your feed or the podcast website for earlier episodes from all four seasons, and follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite app — doing so helps me share my storytelling.

You can support the podcast financially by making a small one-off or regular donation via the Acast Supporter Page.

I hope you have a happy and safe festive season. Please share this Kris Kringle collection with your family and friends, and tell them about Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True writers’ website.

Podcast Theme and Sound Effects

Royalty-free music from Pixabay.com: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastorale’ – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non-Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.

Sound effects licensed under Creative Commons 0from FreeSound.org:

Too Late, Lenny:

Stuck in Time:

Family Reflections:

Production Notes

Tall And True Short Reads is produced using Audacity.

Podcast episodes are recorded in Sydney, Australia, on the traditional lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.

Acast Podcast Supporter Page

Support this show: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads.

Contact Us

A Knock at the Door

In Her Head

Tall And True Short Reads

In Her Head

Episode 84 (9 December 2023)

Cassie lay perfectly still in bed, staring at the shadowy shape on the ceiling overhead. A bulky body and eight legs, a spider, but this wasn’t Incy Wincy. It was a huntsman with long hairy legs, needle-sharp fangs, and a jump so powerful that if human, it could win gold at the pole vault without a pole.
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In Her Head

Show Notes

Season Four: Episode 84 (9 December 2023)

In Her Head is a short story from the Tall And True writers’ website, written and narrated by Robert Fairhead.

Read the story on Tall And True: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/fiction/short-stories/in-her-head

Podcast website: https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com

Support the podcast: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads

Buy Robert’s short story collections online:

Story Insight

I wrote In Her Head for the Not Quite Write Prize for Flash Fiction in July 2023.

The challenge for the competition run by the Not Quite Write podcast was to “create an original piece of fiction based on two typical writing prompts plus one anti-prompt”.

Writers had 60 hours to write and submit 600-word stories, which had to:

  • Feature the word RITE – either in full or within a longer word, providing the original spelling was retained
  • Include the action of “crossing a line”, though it wasn’t necessary to use the exact wording
  • And break the “avoid all adverbs” rule.

I found the prompt to break the rule to “avoid all adverbs” challenging, and I kept confusing adverbs with adjectives.

But the adverbs prompt gave me a huntsman spider with “long hairy legs” and “needle-sharp fangs” for my protagonist, Cassie, to stare at, frozen with fear, on the ceiling over her bed.

Then it occurred to me, what if they had a conversation? Would they speak aloud or in her head? These questions gave me my title, storyline (satisfying the other two criteria), and callback denouement.

And while I may have failed the adverb challenge and my story didn’t win or get longlisted for the prize, I loved writing In Her Head.

I hope you enjoyed my spidery tale. You can read In Her Head and all my short stories, blog posts and other writing at TallAndTrue.com. You can also buy my short story collections from the Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, and Kobo online bookstores — links are available in the show notes.

The next episode of Tall And True Short Reads will be in your podcast feed shortly. In the meantime, please check your feed or the podcast website for earlier episodes from all four seasons, and follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite podcasting app — doing so helps me share my storytelling.

You can support the podcast financially by making a small one-off or regular donation via the Acast Supporter Page.

Finally, please tell your family and friends about Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True writers’ website.

Podcast Theme and Sound Effects

Royalty-free music from Pixabay.com: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastorale’ – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non-Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.

Sound effects licensed under Creative Commons 0 from FreeSound.org:

Production Notes

Tall And True Short Reads is produced using Audacity.

Podcast episodes are recorded in Sydney, Australia, on the traditional lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.

Acast Podcast Supporter Page

Support this show: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads.

Contact Us

A Knock at the Door

Tall And True Microfiction Anthology

Tall And True Short Reads

Tall And True Microfiction Anthology

Episode 83 (28 November 2023)

I discovered microfiction when I reviewed Loopholes by Susan McCreery in 2017. By definition, brevity is the key to good microfiction. The stories in Loopholes range from several paragraphs over one or two pages to only three short sentences. With no room for plot and character development, every word must count.
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Tall And True Microfiction Anthology

Show Notes

Season Four: Episode 83 (28 November 2023)

Tall And True Microfiction Anthology is a blog post from the Tall And True writers’ website, written and narrated by Robert Fairhead.

Read the post on Tall And True: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/blog/tall-and-true-microfiction-anthology

Both Sides of the Story blog post: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/blog/both-sides-of-the-story

Twelve Furious Months post: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/blog/twelve-furious-months-ebook

Twelve More Furious Months post: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/blog/twelve-more-furious-months

Review of Loopholes by Susan McCreery: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/reviews/books/loopholes-by-susan-mccreery

Podcast website: https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com

Her (Episode 11) on Tall And True Short Reads: https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com/her/

Three Minute Microfiction – We Need To Talk  (Episode 16): https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com/three-minute-microfiction/

Signs of the Second Coming (Episode 25): https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com/signs-of-the-second-coming/

Support the podcast: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads

Buy Robert’s short story collections online:

Episode Insight

I wrote this blog post in November 2023 to coincide with the publication of my fourth collection of writing, Tall And True Microfiction.

Links to posts on my earlier short story collections, Both Sides of the Story (published in 2020), Twelve Furious Months (in 2021) and Twelve More Furious Months (in 2022), and my review of Loopholes by Susan McMcreery, are included in the show notes, as are links to the podcast episodes mentioned in this post, Her, We Need to Talk and Signs of the Second Coming.

I hope you enjoyed the insight into microfiction. You can read my blog posts, including this one, and selected short stories and other writing at TallAndTrue.com. You can also buy the Tall And True Microfiction anthology and all my short story collections from the Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, and Kobo online bookstores — links are available in the show notes.

The next episode of Tall And True Short Reads will be in your podcast feed shortly. In the meantime, please check your feed or the podcast website for earlier episodes from all four seasons, and follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite podcasting app — doing so helps me share my storytelling.

You can support this podcast financially by making a small one-off or regular donation via the Acast Supporter Page.

Finally, please tell your family and friends about Tall And Tue Microfiction, Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True writers’ website.

Podcast Theme and Sound Effects

Royalty-free music from Pixabay.com: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastorale’ – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non-Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.

Sound effects licensed under Creative Commons 0 from FreeSound.org:

Production Notes

Tall And True Short Reads is produced using Audacity.

Podcast episodes are recorded in Sydney, Australia, on the traditional lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.

Acast Podcast Supporter Page

Support this show: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads.

Contact Us

A Knock at the Door

A Better Poem

Tall And True Short Reads

A Better Poem

Episode 82 (13 November 2023)

“Roses are red, violets are blue, I spend my day, thinking of you.” Davey reviewed the poem in his exercise book. “Thinking” is what you did at school. It wasn’t romantic enough to attempt Mission Impossible with the girl of his dreams. That’s it! “I spend my day, dreaming of you.”
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A Better Poem

Show Notes

Season Four: Episode 82 (13 November 2023)

A Better Poem is a short story from the Tall And True writers’ website, written and narrated by Robert Fairhead.

Read the story on Tall And True: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/fiction/short-stories/a-better-poem

Podcast website: https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com

Support the podcast: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads

Buy Robert’s short story collections online:

Story Insight

A Better Poem was my July 2023 short story entry for the Australian Writers’ Centre’s Furious Fiction monthly writing challenge. The brief for July was:

  • Each story had to include a CHILD (16 or younger) as its main character
  • The first sentence had to contain two colours
  • And the story had to use the words BUMPER, PRIZE and IMPOSSIBLE.

The beginning of the first line, “Roses are red, violets are blue”, popped into my head almost immediately, satisfying the second item in the brief. The childish poetry and the need for a young protagonist transported me back to my awkward pre- and early teenage years when I discovered girls and passed notes in class.

So once again, I drew on my memories and imagination to write this story, which I’m proud to say was longlisted for Furious Fiction July!

A couple of other points of interest:

  1. The title was initially Stirrings until I changed the last sentence on a final edit, ending with Davey’s promise to ask Elizabeth out again and “to write a better poem”. A light bulb went off in my head, and I retitled the story, A Better Poem.
  2. The story I submitted to Furious Fiction was missing a word in a key sentence (despite dozens of proofreads AND using a grammar app): “Roses are red, violets are blue, I’d really like to go the Fair with you.” Did you spot it? It should be “… I’d really like to go to the Fair with you.”

Of course, I spotted the missing “to” the next day! Oh well, I’ll follow a friend and fellow writer’s advice in future and use a pencil to point at every word as I read them aloud.

I hope you enjoyed my school days tale. You can read A Better Poem and all my short stories, blog posts and other writing at TallAndTrue.com. You can also buy my short story collections from the Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, and Kobo online bookstores — links are available in the show notes.

The next episode of Tall And True Short Reads will be in your podcast feed shortly. In the meantime, please check your feed or the podcast website for earlier episodes from all four seasons, and follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite podcasting app — doing so helps me share my storytelling.

You can support this podcast financially by making a small one-off or regular donation via the Acast Supporter Page.

Finally, please tell your family and friends about Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True writers’ website.

Podcast Theme and Sound Effects

Royalty-free music from Pixabay.com: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastorale’ – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non-Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.

Sound effects licensed under Creative Commons 0 from FreeSound.org:

Production Notes

Tall And True Short Reads is produced using Audacity.

Podcast episodes are recorded in Sydney, Australia, on the traditional lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.

Acast Podcast Supporter Page

Support this show: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads.

Contact Us

A Knock at the Door

Some Things Change – Perth, Western Australia, 2023

Tall And True Short Reads

Some Things Change – Perth, Western Australia, 2023

Episode 81 (22 October 2023)

It’s only early spring, but I’m starting to sweat in Mum and Dad’s back garden. I wore my dark English suit for Dad’s funeral, and if etiquette permits at wakes, I’d like to slip off the coat. Looking around the garden for guidance, I struggle to recognise elderly aunts and uncles or my fellow middle-aged cousins. And I have no hope of placing their children and grandchildren.
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Some Things Change – Perth, Western Australia, 2023

Show Notes

Season Four: Episode 81 (22 October 2023)

Some Things Change is a short story from the Tall And True writers’ website, written and narrated by Robert Fairhead.

Read the story on Tall And True: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/fiction/short-stories/some-things-change

Podcast website: https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com

Support the podcast: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads

Buy Robert’s short story collections online:

Story Insight

I wrote Some Things Change in May-June 2023 as my submission for The Big Issue Fiction Edition and drew inspiration for the three-part short story from my life. Like my first-person narrator, Steve, in Episode 79, Perth, Western Australia, 1979, I grew up in Perth in the 1960s and 70s. And as he did in Episode 80, London, England, 1992, I moved to England in the 1980s and lived there during the 1990s.

During this time, I embarked on a long and ongoing journey of learning the true history of Australia and my country’s troubled relationship with Indigenous Australians. Further inspiration for the story, particularly this third vignette, Perth, Western Australia, 2023, was joining the campaign for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in May 2023 and reading more about the discrimination and disadvantage of Indigenous peoples.

When I wrote the story, like Steve in this episode, I had high hopes the Referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution and afford them the respect of a representative Voice to Parliament on matters affecting their people would succeed. But I should have paid more attention to my other main character, Jenny, who warns Steve while some things have changed in Australia, others have stayed the same.

I was deeply involved as a volunteer with the Vote Yes campaign for the Voice to Parliament and worked long days on pre-polling and Referendum Day booths. The misinformation and lies I heard on the streets and read on social media about Indigenous peoples shocked me, and the resounding defeat of the Referendum proposal shamefully suggests that Australia is, as Jenny observed in London, 1992, stuck in a 1970s mindset about Aboriginal people. And, as she said in this episode, fearful of change.

I hope you enjoyed and learned something from Episodes 79 to 81 of Some Things Change. You can read this and all my short stories, blog posts and other writing at TallAndTrue.com. You can also buy my short story collections from the Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, and Kobo online bookstores — links are available in the show notes.

The next episode of Tall And True Short Reads will be released shortly. In the meantime, check your feed or the podcast website for earlier episodes from Seasons One to Three. And follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite podcasting app — doing so helps me share my storytelling.

You can support this podcast financially by making a small one-off or regular donation via the Acast Supporter Page.

Finally, please tell your family and friends about Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True writers’ website.

Podcast Theme and Sound Effects

Royalty-free music from Pixabay.com: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastorale’ – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non-Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.

Sound effects licensed under Creative Commons 0 from FreeSound.org:

Production Notes

Tall And True Short Reads is produced using Audacity.

Podcast episodes are recorded in Sydney, Australia, on the traditional lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.

Acast Podcast Supporter Page

Support this show: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads.

Contact Us