Category: Short Stories (Page 1 of 3)

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

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.

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.

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

New Story Day! The Regolith Eaters

Another new story?!?

I know, right! That’s three in basically a month. There are times of famine, and there are times of feasting, and apparently, this is a time of feasting. Which is a metaphor entirely appropriate for this story.

The Regolith Eaters is online at Martian Magazine. This is a fun horrific little story that I tried in a few forms until I decided to try my hand at a drabble* (for about the third time ever) and it just fell into place.

Am I bothered by repeating the word “leg” near the end? Yes! Can I change it now? No! Am I still proud of this little story? Also yes!

Fun fact: I stole the title of the story from a card in the board game Terraforming Mars. The story itself is vaguely inspired by the game since it is, technically, about terraforming Mars.

*a drabble is a story that is exactly 100 words

New Story Day! Three Resurrections and the Warm, Embracing Earth

My story “Three Resurrections and the Warm, Embracing Earth” is out today in the wonderful British magazine Shoreline of Infinity. This one isn’t a gimmick. It’s a raw, painful story about separation and sacrifice, told from the point of view of a woman called to war by a necromancer and forced to fight battle after battle through death after death, all while haunted by a creeping realization that she’s left something important behind.

New Story Day!

Gratuitous Aela photo. (Cheering for the USA during the World Cup)

You all know that I love a good gimmick story, and I cooked up a wild one this time. My story “First Sergeant Xelos Nesteroy’s Christmas List, care of Admiral Almay, Seventh Fleet, Interstellar Navy” is live today at The Dread Machine. It’s a Christmas list from a prisoner of war, addressed to the admiral who let him be captured. It’s inspired by Starship Troopers and Children of Time, but it’s a Brent story, so it Goes Places. Also, it’s a Brent story, so it’s only about 3 pages.

Publication News: The Discerning Gentleman’s Guide to 21st Century Attire

My short story “The Discerning Gentleman’s Guide to 21st Century Attire” is out in the POST ROE Alternatives: Fighting Back anthology. Like much of my work, this is a story with a grim undertone. Also like much of my work, it has a good gimmick. In this case, it’s written as if it’s a guide to style with perfectly sensible advice for suits, shirts, shoes, and ties, but there’s a thread of story woven into it, and it turns into a look at what it’s like to live in a country where the police think they’re the military and that civilians are their enemies. Modern America, in other words.

Most of my friends will likely enjoy this story. Most of my family probably won’t.

Publication News: Retirement Options for (Too) Successful Space Entrepreneurs

I am delighted to have a new story out in the May/June 2022 issue of Analog Science Fiction. “Retirement Options for (Too) Successful Space Entrepreneurs” is the story of a space entrepreneur who has achieved his goals, but found that he hasn’t quite realized his dreams. It’s a story about food, regret, and doing a little good in the world.

You can read it via most major newsstands and bookstores, or through the Analog website. My personal suggestion is to go visit your nearest independent bookshop and buy all the copies on the shelf.

Selling this story to Analog was the realization of a long-time goal when I started writing. Analog is one of the big, historical markets for SF, and having them buy one of my stories is a validation that I am, in fact, getting better at this whole writing thing.

I just re-read the story. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written. You should read it, too.

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