Friday 28 June 2024

Extracts From The Writing Of Karen Wolfe

 



Author Karen Wolfe spreads her writing talents across a wide range. Although she has four novels to her name - two comic fantasy & two comic crime (with dogs) - when asked if she has a favourite genre, she notes a preference for writing short pieces, saying, ‘Flash fiction is one of my favourite genres.’

Two things that characterise Karen’s writing are dogs and humour. She admits to being an inveterate eavesdropper and notes that, ‘Other people’s conversations can be literary gold.’

The first extract is a flash fiction chiller:

 

Killing The Light

Sunshine penetrates Millicent Codd’s bedroom, sneaking through a tiny gap in the curtains. It’s young, pale, inexperienced, but keen to shine.

   Slipping over the windowsill, inspired by the challenge of ice on the inside, it ventures further, spreading itself around. Daring, it touches Millicent’s cold face, and recoils.

     Millicent’s eyes snap open. They burn with fury. She sits up, glaring into the intruding brightness…and still the innocent sunshine pokes around, illuminating dark, hidden corners, beaming and thawing as it goes. But it hasn’t a chance against Millicent. Her feet hit the icy lino, and she’s across the room in an instant, swishing the curtains together, snuffing it out.

    No light. There must be no light. And most certainly no warmth. Slipping back into bed, she strokes David’s stiff, frigid brow.

     ‘There now,” she whispers, “cold and dark again, my darling…just the way we like it’

***

The second extract focuses on Karen’s love of dogs. She writes a regular canine column in a local newspaper, The Hornsea Community News, and is an active member of the Hornsea Dog Owners’ Club. Her articles aim to be informative and touch on serious topics but her style is light and humorous. ‘I have a Thing with dogs,’ she tells me. ‘Quite often, we exchange glances, and an understanding passes between us.’

 

Small dog SYNDROME

The everyday scenario unfolds. There we’ll be, me and dogs, following our usual route, let’s say we’re walking up Witty’s Passage, when from somewhere nearby there’ll be an outbreak of frenzied yapping, accompanied by shrieks of: “POPPY! STOP IT! No! Be NICE....” My dogs will roll their eyes: we’ll look at each other and sigh, knowing what’s round the corner.

   Sure enough, we will then come upon a harassed, red-faced woman ( sad to say that it usually is a woman ) pressed up against the nearest wall/hedge/fence whilst desperately trying to restrain some pint-sized monster intent on shredding everything in sight. Said pet, about the size of a domestic cat, will usually turn out to be a terrier or a hybrid Something-Poo. It will also, whatever the weather and however thick its fur, be wearing an embarrassing coat, or maybe a novelty bandanna. It will be tenuously attached to an extendable lead, or a no-control harness. My dogs, heard it all before, will walk on, unimpressed, but that won’t stop Ms Gobby, who’s out for a set-to. Hackles up, teeth bared, gargling defiance and snapping wildly at the nearest target (quite often the owner’s legs) ‘Well, come on, Big Boy! Do ya feel lucky???’

   I’ll often get an accusing glare. “She’s scared of big dogs!” (well, no, love, she plainly isn’t) or failing that, the owner will attempt negotiations. “Poppy. POPPY! Nicely!... Sit! Wait! Lie down! BISCUIT!” ( Interesting, but futile, given that the only two words Poppy recognises are her name and ‘biscuit.’) This might sound amusing, but it’s not, because it doesn’t have to be like that. Welcome to the reality of Small Dog Syndrome.

  How do these situations come about? Is it that all small breeds are snappy, antisocial have-a-go fiends? Of course not. Chihuahua, Yorkie, or Pomeranian, Wolfhound, Westie or Tibetan Mastiff, a dog is a dog is a dog. But each breed does have its unique characteristics: Chihuahuas make terrific ‘alert’ dogs, miniature Schnautzers and Pomeranians tend to be extremely vocal and quite territorial, while Jack Russells, bred as ratters, are brave, feisty little creatures who will stand their ground. Some dogs are gobby, but that doesn’t have to mean aggressive.

   And neither does small=horrible. Human beings are hard-wired (or should be) to protect the small and vulnerable. So of course, you take no risks with your cute, big-eyed fluffball. There’s a big, bad world out there, and she’s soooo tiny! Problems begin when you forget that she’s a dog. Carry her everywhere, she’ll lap it up! Let her up beside you while you watch Corrie...share your bed with her, pick her up whenever another dog approaches, just in case. Wrong! Wrong, because you’ve raised her profile. She’s now become your equal, no, pack-leader, and she’s in charge! Which does her no favours at all. Dogs, large or small, are world-class opportunists: if they can get away with it, they will. And if they keep getting away with it, you’ve got yourself a problem, or more likely, a syndrome.

  Meanwhile, back in the alleyway: Poppy may well be scared of bigger dogs. But if that’s true, then she has no confidence in her owner to sort out the problem. Therefore it’s down to Poppy to protect both of them the only way she knows how. Poor Poppy, nowhere to hide.

  Arguing with her achieves nothing beyond giving her attention (albeit the negative kind.) And as for that biscuit-offer.....reward for bad behaviour, anyone? Would you hand out chocolate to your mid-tantrum toddler? Maybe Princess Poppy has ruled the roost since puppyhood: that’s misguided leadership. Or possibly she came from a lovely home with a darling old lady who showed love by giving in to her: it’s all the same. Dogs need boundaries, guidelines, and ultimately, they have to know who’s the Boss.

   So, if you live with a mini-dictator, socialise him/her as much as possible ....do you have a friend/relative/neighbour with dogs he can run with? If he needs it, book him into a training-class: a great leveller, because it takes the fear out of meeting dogs en masse. And work on the home-situation: show her/him you’re the leader.. My house! My furniture!...(invitation only.) My bed!...(you’ve got your own.) My doorways (which I cross first, thank you) My food, My biscuits (I eat before you, sunshine) and most of all, My rules. Small, subtle things that can help change bad behaviour. Welcome to Nice Dog Syndrome. 

***

On writing, Karen lists 3 mantras:
‘One: Diversionary tactics are fun, but deadlines are proper grown-up. Two: Clich├ęs are the devil’s tools. Three: Never drink wine whilst operating a keyboard.’

Learn more about Karen and her writing HERE.



 

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