New Story: Enough for Today

Gratuitous Aela helping me post this pic

I have a new story out in the Madam President anthology from B Cubed Press. “Enough for Today” is the story of a volunteer who talks people down from the edge, and how one good deed can lead to another and another, saving the world one life at a time.

2023 Writing Summary & Awards Eligibility

By all rational measures, 2023 was a good year of writing for me. Five stories published, another novel completed, and nine new short stories written. I also updated my Bibliography page to have links to many of my stories that are behind paywalls but where the rights have reverted to me.

Gratuitous Aela photo
Gratuitous Aela photo. She enjoyed helping herd cows back into their field.

The published stories included Self from Self (Nature Futures), Dave the Terrible (Flash Fiction Online), and Three Matches and the Unlit Fuse (The Librarian Card Catalogue), which were all originally published in 2023 and eligible for the major SFF awards in the short story category. I also had reprints of Retirement Options for (Too) Successful Space Entrepreneurs in best of British SF and First Sergeant Xelos Nestory’s Christmas List, care of Admiral Almay, Seventh Fleet, Interstellar Navy in Dread Space: Volume 2.

The novel is finished, but no novel is ever really finished until it’s published. One of the agents I sent it to provided some feedback that I think makes good sense, so I have some revision to do to the ending, and that will hopefully be done when I have some time off over the holidays.

The nine short stories included Dave the Terrible and Three Matches and the Unlit Fuse, plus two more that are revised and making the rounds at short story markets. That does mean there are five others that I haven’t completely revised and are basically dead. It’s been a tough year for maintaining focus, so I’m trying hard to see the positives in writing some stories, selling some stories, and getting the novel polished so I could query it.

Looking ahead to next year, my goals are relatively small. Draft another 9-10 short stories, edit 3-5 of them to a level that I feel good about submitting them, start a new novel, and start serious work on two non-fiction projects. I’ve no shortage of ideas for the new novel, but I’m still trying to find one that I won’t mind dedicating another year (or more) of my life to working on. The non-fiction projects include a football (soccer) book about my time in London and a cookbook for the eldest child to take to college with her. I don’t know if I’ll accomplish all those, but at least they give me a direction.

Here’s to 2024, everyone.

New Story & New Poem Days

Amid all the furor of the move and the trip to Italy, I had two new publications come out in anthologies over the last two months.

My story “Three Matches and the Unlit Fuse” appeared in The Librarian Card Catalogue, a beautiful anthology in the form of stories printed on card catalogs. (My children are scratching their heads at the words “card” and “catalog” used together.) This was my first solicited story and one heavily inspired by the last few years of living in Britain. The anthology is a limited edition, and it’s so pretty.

The second story is not actually a story at all. It’s a poem. Except, it was a story, originally. “A Particle Accelerator Love Song” is a scientifically accurate* poem / romance featured in Qualia Nous: Vol. 2.

I’m proud of this story. It’s been on a journey to find its way to print. I wrote it years ago, and while my faith in it wavered as the rejections piled up, I never truly gave up hope.

It’s a story that I thought was an excellent concept and that I sent out 20+ times, trying to find it a home. After it had been through every market I could find, I let it sit a while. As in “years.” When I came back and re-read it, I saw what was missing: shape. The words are nearly identical to the original prose, but it’s been reshaped to enhance the rhythm and the visual layout.

This is far from my first anthology appearance, but it is my first time being pulished in the same table of contents as Steven King. And Chuck Palahniuk. So that’s fun.

I have another story that’s been rejected a few times, has something to say that I think the world should hear, and will likely get a similar treatment. It’s been a long time since I wrote poetry, and I’m finding that it scratches a different itch than my usual prose.

*mostly accurate with some poetic license

Italy and a New Chapter

We’ve just come home from our last big European family trip for the foreseeable future. We visited Rome, Florence, and Venice over the course of a week. It wasn’t enough time in any one place to do it justice, but it was enough to visit the belly of the Roman Empire, the heart of Renaissance Italy, and that canal city that the eldest child has been dying to visit ever since she saw an episode of Wonder Pets about Venice when she was four.

The author and Carissa overlooking the Foro Romano at night


My travels over the last five years have taken me to a number of the big European capitals. Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Dublin, and of course London. Rome, I dare say, outshines them all. It is a city built by emperors to impress the barbarians. The emperors succeeded, and the Italians that followed them have added to the grandeur. You cannot turn a corner without running into a temple, a cathedral, or a statue-limned fountain. It is not hard for me to imagine the kings of England and France sitting in their squalid barbarian villages out there on the edge of what was once a mighty empire and gazing towards Rome with hearts full of envy. They have tried to build their own imperial monuments, but they were merely children wearing their father’s clothes. And I say that as someone who has loved my years in London. 

The Foro Romano as seen from Palatine Hill

The Vatican tour was worth doing if you’re ever in the area. The guided tour was okay. The best part was probably seeing the Sistine Chapel, which I found to be more impressive than I expected. It’s a chapel, not a cathedral, but it’s still a pretty big chapel. The guided tour also had the benefit of giving us a shortcut from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Pete’s was impressive in scale and grandeur, and seeing Michaelangelo’s Pieta in person was a highlight. 

You aren’t supposed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel. That rule seemed to stop absolutely no one, but I tried to be sneaky, anyway.

Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, and Piazza Navona were fine. Complete tourist traps, and we strolled through them, took photos, and moved on. I don’t regret seeing them, but I’m in no hurry to see them again. The Foro Romano, on the other hand, I’d love to revisit and spend a few hours.

The gelato at Otaleg in Trastevere

Food in Rome is like food in most European capitals. You can hit a homerun with one meal (that’s like hitting a six, cricket fans) and strike out the next. We had some wonderful meals at Da Enzo al 29 and Pasta E Vino in the Trastevere area. If I were to return to Rome, I’d look to stay in Trastevere for the sheer quantity of amazing food within a five minute walk. We also had some amazing gelato at Otaleg in Trastevere and at Fatamorgana in Centro. While I loved the gelato, I honestly think Midwestern frozen custard compares well. The dish that really impressed me was the tiramisu. The four of us split a tiramisu at pretty much every dinner. They were all good, though the presentation at Pasta E Vino won for having a birthday sparkler in it. 

The author and a birthday tiramisu


We took the train from Rome to Florence. My fellow Americans, you don’t know what you’re missing out on when it comes to high speed rail. The train was running at 150 miles an hour, and it took us from city center to city center in about two hours. We walked to the hotel in Florence and immediately went exploring. We only had prebooked tickets for one museum, which in retrospect was a mistake. I wish we had been able to see the Uffizi Gallery in addition to the Firenze Museum. I booked the Firenze Museum mostly to see David. The statue of David was, like much of the rest of Italy, huge and impressive. Those Italians really understood how to impress barbarians.

The scale of David is obvious as soon as you turn the corner and see him. It’s no wonder Michaelangelo didn’t try to sculpt Goliath to scale.

We had dinner at Osteria Vecchio. It was superlative. The restaurant was a 15 minute walk from the middle of Florence, but I think that worked in its favor. My new hypothesis is that if your restaurant or food truck is within view of a queue at a major attraction, it’s probably an over-priced tourist trap. Going a few blocks away from the Colosseum or Trevi Fountain or–in the case of Florence–the Duomo can make a huge difference in quality and/or price. 

One night in Florence was not remotely enough. I’d love to spend a few days and go out to some of the surrounding countryside, too.


Venice itself is surreal. Being there felt like being in a city from a fantasy novel. They really don’t have cars. They really do get around with boats. There are so many little islands (and so many little bridges). 

The author and Carissa at Ponte Rialto.

Dinner was at La Colombina, which is seafood-oriented, but has some non-seafood dishes, too. It was another homerun. Every dish was excellent, but I’ll give a particular shoutout to the six piece appetizer selection for having a variety of vegetable and seafood-forward things whose names I don’t remember, but were all delicious. Carissa wants to give a special shoutout to the scallops, too. 

Months ago I asked the girls what they wanted to do on this trip. There was one clear and obvious winner: gondola ride. We did one. It was good. I’d do it again, especially if it wasn’t cold and rainy. 

Venetian houses as seen from the canal
The architecture of Venice, as seen from a gondola


It was a wonderful trip. My only regret is that I would have liked to do a few more things. When we moved to London, it was with trips like this in mind. We managed three big European adventures to Paris, Santorini, and Italy during our five years. We’ve also had some smaller adventures to Dublin, Inverness, and a few cities in the UK. This trip marked the turning of a page in the Baldwin family story. Tomorrow morning we fly back to the United States for good to start a new chapter in our lives. We’re sad to be leaving London, the United Kingdom, and Europe, but we’re excited about seeing more of our family back home and the opportunities in the States. 

Two Guinesses on a patio overlooking the Thames

Premier League 2023/2024 Predictions

I’ve been making bad Premier League predictions for a number of years, and I’m back for another chance to look foolish.

I’ve also added commentary sure to piss off someone. Yes, yes, I know that I’m an idiot and wrong.

  1. Manchester City – the machine rolls on
  2. Arsenal – the team is improved from last season’s heights but also they don’t have Haaland
  3. Liverpool – revamped midfield fixes their biggest problem last season
  4. Spurs – no Europe to impede Angeball plus GK and defensive improvements
  5. Manchester United – one Casemiro injury from being Badchester United
  6. Newcastle – overachieved last season without Europe; still good, but not that good. Yet.
  7. Chelsea – underachieved last season, but still a mess in terms of team structure
  8. Brighton – well-run team with seemingly endless depth, but also going to be dealing with Thursday night Europa League matches
  9. Villa – doesn’t have the depth to increase league position while also playing in eastern Europe on Thursday nights
  10. West Ham – Set Piece FC if JWP is taking free kicks for Maguire and Soucek to nod home. hot take: they either finish top half or get relegated after Moyes is sacked
  11. Fulham – probably okay unless Mitrovic leaves for Saudi
  12. Brentford – probably a slight decline with Raya leaving and Toney missing half the season
  13. Everton – Sean Dyche is a wizard, and Everton will concede 45 goals or less
  14. Crystal Palace – Roy keeps them decent for one more season
  15. Nottingham Forest – they survived last year and maybe the squad all know each other’s names by now
  16. Bournemouth – lucky last season, but there are worse teams, such as:
  17. Burnley – will be fun to watch despite being outclassed by 16 other sides
  18. Sheffield Utd – could finish a few spots higher; could be relegated. idk
  19. Wolves – already had their coach quit and the season hasn’t even started
  20. Luton – “we’re just happy to be here”

New Story Day: Dave the Terrible

I have a new story out today at Flash Fiction Online.

Dave the Terrible never wanted the unholy scepter, but you couldn’t refuse your mother’s dying wish. He hefted the gilt scepter from his nightstand each morning and used it to gaze upon the past and the present and sometimes even the future. It had come with a mist-cloaked fortress in the mountains that had a stone fireplace and a cozy library, so things weren’t all bad.

Dave the Terrible

This was a difficult one, both thematically and in terms of craft. It deals with grief and depression as seen through a fantasy lens. Getting the balance right between fantasy and reality was a challenge.

A Pet Update

A wet cat
The freshly-bathed cat, because crimes deserve punishment

We seldom call Fezzik by his name. (Aela is always “Aela” except when she’s “Doofenshmirtz.”) He’s usually Fezzio or Fezzi. When we brought him home, I had high hopes that he would, like his namesake, grow into a big bruiser who would outshine Piper at terrorizing the neighborhood cats. It didn’t turn out that way. He’s much more “smol boi” than “heckin’ chonker.” Most of Fezzi’s life has been dominated by the dog. Fezzi eats, he sleeps, and he harasses the dog. He clearly loves food more than anything else in life, but the dog isn’t too far behind. That might sound stereotypically cat, but I would hazard to say that he’s only marginally a cat. What kind of proper cat lets humans pick it up and cuddle it like a baby doll? What kind of proper cat sleeps in a toy baby carriage? What kind of proper at lets humans rub its belly? It’s something like 51% dog, 29% stuffed animal, 20% cat. 

Fezzi is strictly an indoor cat. In the US, this might sound normal, but over here we have no air conditioning and no screens on the windows or doors. It’s hard to keep a cat inside in England. He does occasionally wander into the garden to hide under the bushes or sun himself on the patio, but that is the exception rather than the norm. Fezzi has been with us for 17 months, and while he’s had those afternoons in the garden, he has little experience beyond the safety of home. Until last week, when, in a moment of feline hubris, he went adventuring.

He was last seen around 23:00, pouncing my feet. I sent him out of the bedroom and went to sleep. Sometime around 05:00, Carissa woke up and noticed that he wasn’t in his usual places at the top of the stairs or in her office. In a panic, she woke the rest of the house, who had absolutely no interest in searching for a cat at five o’clock in the morning. We did end up searching the house a bit later, but we didn’t find him. A search party was organized and sent out to roam the neighborhood before school. Still no sign of him. Signs were printed and hung from lamp posts. More searching was conducted, including along the roof and over the fences of the adjacent gardens. No sign of Fezzi.

He’s very regal when the lighting is good

A late afternoon rain shower dampened spirits and the neighborhood.

By early evening the tears were flowing faster than the rain. Another search party was organized. Doors were knocked. Flyers were shoved through mail slots. Still, no sign of Fezzi.

Shortly after dark (which is nearly 10:00 PM this time of year), I offered to go for one last search. Carissa and I gathered shoes and headed for the door. Before we could go out, inspiration struck. I ran back into the kitchen and found a metal cup. We added some cat food to it. Equipped with my newly-invented, state-of-the-art Cat Attractor ™, we ventured forth. And immediately saw our neighbors arriving home. They offered to let us look in their garden. Carissa went to look. I took the Cat Attractor ™ for its first operational testing on a stroll around the neighborhood.

Fezzi? Shake shake shake. Fezzi, where are you, you little knucklehead? Shake shake shake.

A cat emerged from the shadows. Too big to be Fezzi, but intrigued by the Cat Attractor.

I kept searching. Shake shake shake. Fezzi? Shake shake shake.

A second cat emerged. Still not Fezzi.

You might think I was losing heart, but indeed it was quite the opposite. The Cat Attractor was undeniably effective. I needed only to attract the right cat. After circling the houses immediately around us, my thought was to try the adjacent streets, but I wanted to let Carissa know the plan before I wandered off into the dark. The neighbors’ front door was still open, and Carissa was still there chatting with them, sans cat. We wished the neighbors well and exited into their front garden, where I demonstrated the cat attractor. Carissa looked over and gasped.

He can run, but he cannot hide

Fezzi was on the waist-high wall between our neighbors’ garden and their neighbors on the other side of them. “There he is.” She rushed for him.

He bolted.

But he was slow. Carissa ran around to the next house and cut him off. I corralled him toward her. Within moments he was in her grasp, only to wriggle out and force us to corral him again. The second time she made sure he couldn’t get away.

The joy was boundless.

He was damp from the rain, and he was clearly shaken by his experiences in the Great Outdoors of Suburban London, but he was alive and well. Carissa took him in for a bath because crimes deserve punishment (and he smelled like pee). I went to the computer and started adding things to my Amazon cart. And that, dear reader, is why Fezzi now has a collar with a bell and an AirTag attached to it. He can run, but he cannot hide.

She’s mostly tongue, tbh

Aela is alive and well. She has, blessedly, chilled out a bit for values of “chilled out” that include “border collie.” She will spend hours a day lounging in the kitchen while I work, followed by hours of dropping a tennis ball into our laps in the unwavering hope that someone will throw it for her. This is a huge improvement over where we were this time last year, which was basically “chew anything that doesn’t move and some things that do (like Fezzi).” There were long months where I clung to the hope that someday I could take her jogging to burn off some of her energy. That hope has at last started to turn into reality, aided by One Weird Trick.

The plan was to let her get to about 1 year old so we didn’t harm her joints with running. That would have been last November, but after the marathon in October, I was only prepared to do small amounts of running in the rain and gloom of another English winter. That should have eased up in early spring, but I was confounded by two things. The first was Aela herself. When I say “chilled out a bit” I mean relative to where she was before, which was basically 40 pounds of hydrazine in a fur coat. Back in the early spring, she was still all hydrazine, all the time. Taking her for a jog was a CHORE, mostly of her trying to drag me as fast as possible to the park so I could throw the tennis ball for her. We joked about getting roller skates so she could pull us along, but I couldn’t afford the sheer number of speeding tickets that would have caused. (Or the hospital bills, you might think, but we don’t have hospital bills in the UK.) The other issue was some health-related stuff that kept me from running for a while. I was able to work through the health things, and at the same time, we discovered the greatest collie-related invention on Dog’s Green Earth.

The Gentle Leader.

That’s a brand name. You can look it up. It’s a halter that looks sort of like a muzzle, and the key thing is that it loops around the dog’s snout and makes it uncomfortable for them to pull on the lead. Aela *hates* it. She tries to rip it off for the first half mile of every walk. Sometimes she succeeds. One time she succeeded in half-tearing off her dewclaw (again!) and bleeding all over the pavement. Mostly she tries to pull it off, I call her names (Doofenshmirtz), and she stops.

Aela likes to help the children with their revision (studying)

We recently went on the best dad/dog run we’ve ever had. Three miles of easy jogging with the dog at my side and a comfortable amount of slack on the lead. I’m not taking her on every run (I need to relax sometimes, too), but at least I can see a future where she’s actually a Good Dog and not just a meme.

As mentioned earlier, Fezzi has an AirTag. Aela doesn’t. Aela does not need an AirTag. We joke that if we took Aela to Wales and dropped her off where we first met her, she’d beat us back to the house and have a tennis ball waiting. She’s a good dog. Sometimes.

The Duchess of Twickenham

On the human front, things are fine. We’re doing some university tours this summer and thinking about the future. We may see you soon, but if we don’t, I’m sorry you missed me.

Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich
Gratuitous food photo: a summer BLT

Reprint Day for First Sergeant Xelos Nesteroy

My story “First Sergeant Xelos Nesteroy’s Christmas List, care of Admiral Almay, Seventh Fleet, Interstellar Navy” is available now in the Dread Space 2 anthology.

Dread Space 2 is an anthology of dark military science fiction stories. Within these pages are soldiers doing their best to stay alive against otherworldly odds and unimaginable terrors. Twenty-two dark flash fiction stories from Wendy Nikel, Robert Bagnall, Liam Hogan, Dawn Vogel, Jonathan Ficke & many others! [editor note: Including ME!]

Why, yes, I do enjoy giving tiny stories enormous titles.

Best of British Science Fiction 2022

I’m right chuffed to be appearing in my first-ever “Best of” anthology: “Best of British Science Fiction.” I’m not British, but I live in the UK and I pay UK taxes, so they’ve let me in on a technicality.

My story “Retirement Options for (Too) Successful Space Entrepreneurs” originally appeared in Analog SF, and it’s out for a second printing this summer. You can preorder the anthology now.

New Story Day: Self From Self

Illustration by Jacey

I have a new flash piece out at Nature Futures, “Self From Self.” It should be available for free until mid-April 2023. You may be able to download the pdf from Nature even after it goes behind the paywall.

This is another very personal story. It reflects the years of my early adulthood playing World of Warcraft, my sometimes fraught relationship with my parents, and my own personal journey through parenthood. It’s a story of loneliness and worry, but also of friendship. It also includes a few of my favorite lines.

Missiles carved trails through the smoke that fogged the valley. Hot brass fell like summer hail. … For 15 glorious seconds, mechs — friendly and enemy alike — shed limbs like dandelions shed seeds, until nothing moved in the valley but the parachutes of the surviving enemy pilots.

Self From Self – Me

The opening of this came easily. The ending took a fair bit of revision to excavate. The title took days of searching until I finally broke out the Shakespeare search engine and went hunting. I’m not sure how I found the passage from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, but it seemed like it fit.

And why not death, rather than living torment?
To die is to be banished from myself,
And Silvia is myself. Banished from her
Is self from self: a deadly banishment.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona – Shakespeare
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