Category: Short Stories

Kintsugi for a Broken Heart

It’s another new story day. Kintsugi for a Broken Heart is out at Nature Futures.

This is a story I wrote as part of a writing community event in 2020. It’s near and dear to my heart, and if you know my children, you’ll know exactly which child inspired Violet. I’ve been told that the story should come with a warning for other parents: have a tissue handy. No children or robotic dogs are harmed in the story, but it does tug on your heartstrings. Mission Accomplished, imo.

2020 Writing Statistics

I mentioned in my end of year roundup that while 2020 has been a terrible year in general, it’s been surprisingly good for my writing. One benefit of being at home all day, every day is that I have had more time to write. Truthfully, I’ve spent much of that time watching football (soccer) and playing video games, but I have done a good bit of writing, too. At various points I’ve felt unproductive, but I think that’s a reflection of working in small, productive chunks followed by long, fallow weeks of football and video games.

Looking back, I have completed:

10 flash fiction pieces
4 short stories
1 novella
1 novel (in-progress)

All told, that’s about 100k words of fiction, not counting rewrites and edits. Even within that 100k words, not all of them were keepers. I’ve trunked (retired with no intention of submitting or publishing) a few of the short stories and the novella already. They are story-shaped pieces of prose, but they either don’t have much to say or need to be tackled with a new story rather than edits. Some of the others may end up in the trunk if they don’t sell, but there are a handful that I think are legitimately good, and three have already sold.

Selling, dear reader, does not come easy. You don’t spend long in this business without learning to deal with rejection. I’ve gone back and looked at my statistics for the year, and while I’ve had a record number of sales, I’ve also had a record number of rejections. According to the Submission Grinder, I have submitted a story 145 times this year. Of those, 104 were form rejections, 17 were personal rejections, five were sales, and the rest are either pending or were closed with no response. That may seem like a huge number of stories, but the reality is that many stories were rejected multiple times, and I have been submitting stories from prior years as well as 2020.

Five for 145 is a 3.5% success rate. It’s not great! Selling three of 15 finished stories this year is a 20% success rate, which looks better, but that still means 80% of the stories I’ve written are misses rather than hits. The 100k words written is probably my lowest since I got back into writing seriously in 2011.

And yet, I’m actually thrilled with how the year has gone.

It feels as if I’ve turned a corner in the last eighteen months. Not just the sales, though the external validation certainly feels nice, but the way I look at my own work. In the past I would write a story, feel good about it, and send it out. Sometimes the story was decent, but many times it was flawed in a way that I couldn’t personally see. Sometimes my writing group could help me see the flaws, but I couldn’t fix them in a satisfactory way. Turning the corner has meant seeing the flaws sooner. It’s meant crafting stories in a way that the flaws other people find are more-easily resolved because the story itself has stronger characters, setting, conflict. It’s also meant looking at a story, seeing what I can use later, and throwing out the other 90%. Knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does work. Writing is sometimes adding little pieces of clay to a skeleton until the sculpture is built, but other times it’s starting with a roughly-shaped block of marble and carving off the parts that don’t belong until the sculpture emerges.

2021 will mark 10 years of serious writing for me. If I’ve learned nothing else in that time, it’s that downs follow the ups, and ups follow the downs. I may not sell a single story next year. I might sell ten. I might sell ten and a novel. (Dream alert!) Obviously, I’d rather sell than not, but if it’s another year of growth and learning without any sales, that’s okay, too.

My goals for the year aren’t measured in sales, they’re measured in finished stories. I want to complete at least ten short stories, finish my current novel that’s in progress, and get another novel started. Those all feel achievable and they are within my control without being subject to the whims of editors or agents. If I can write a few more stories that I’m proud of, I’ll be a happy writer.

2020 Award Eligibility

2020 has been a terrible year in many ways, but it’s been fairly decent for my fiction career. I’ve sold four five stories and had three published. All three published this year are eligible for the major science fiction and fantasy awards.

My first sale of the year was in February. “Better in Every Way” is a user manual for your new clone. It can cook, it can clean, it can do so much more. As long as you treat it well. “Better in Every Way” is available online via Flame Tree Press.

Up next is “Where the Earth Meets the Sea and the Sea Meets the Sky.” It’s a combination of two fairy tales long after those stories end. At its heart, it’s as much romance as fantasy. A tale of two lonely, broken hearts helping each other mend at the far edge of the world. Ages ago I saw someone ask “what if a selkie story ended with a happily ever after.” I’ve tried to present how that could look. This one is not available online, but the print anthology can be purchased from Air and Nothingness Press. If you’re reading for awards and would like a copy, please reach out.

My final publication of the year was “Hope, Unrequested and Freely Given.” This is another story that’s as much romance as fantasy. It’s the tale of two elderly magicians in their twilight years. The woman is wracked with cancer, and her husband is trying desperately to save her. Ultimately, it’s about accepting and embracing the inevitable. It’s available online at Zooscape.

Of the three, I suggest “Where the Earth Meets the Sea and the Sea Meets the Sky” as the strongest. It’s a bit longer than the other two, and it ends full of hope and the promise of a new beginning. As 2020 winds to a close, I feel like hope is something we all need.

Hope, Unrequested and Freely Given

Buddy & Kathy’s Front Yard

I have another short story out in the wild today. “Hope, Unrequested and Freely Given” is live at Zooscape. There was no rapid turn-around on this story. I wrote it in 2019 and subbed it a few times before sending to Zooscape in May 2020. They accepted it a few weeks later, and it’s out now in the December 2020 issue. This is a fairly typical timeline for many stories that reach publication. Alas, they cannot all be written in a weekend, sold a few days later, and published within a week.

It’s a story written with Missouri on my mind. Baroch and Valerie’s porch has the same view as my in-laws’ porch. The mood was inspired by the Chris Stapleton song “Scarecrow in the Garden.” Sort of a quiet hopelessness, but it didn’t feel right to end the story on the same emotional note as the song, so it goes a different direction.

Where the Earth Meets the Sea and the Sea Meets the Sky

Hello Friends,

This post is entirely politics-free.

2020 has been a good year for fiction for me. I had a story out in February, and I have another out this month. “Where the Earth Meets the Sea and the Sea Meets the Sky” is the closing story in the Upon a Once Time anthology of fairy tale mashups. The anthology is print only, and it’s available at Air and Nothingness Press’s website. (If you find this link after November 2020, you’ll need to search for “Upon a Once Time” anthology and hope it’s still in stock.)

“Where the Earth Meets the Sea and the Sea Meets the Sky” is another of those stories that irritates other writers. Not the story itself. It’s possibly the kindest story I’ve ever written. It’s the way it sold. I wrote it over a weekend a few days before the anthology’s submission call ended. I edited it a bit, let Carissa read it once, and edited it a bit more. I do love rearranging adjectives. And then it just… sold. To the first market I sent it to. I sent it at 2:02 PM and it was accepted at 8:19 PM. That’s twice I’ve had super fast turn-arounds to the very first market I submitted a piece. It simply doesn’t happen.

So that was nice.

I have another story that I sold earlier in the year that should, hopefully, be available online next month. I’ll link it when it’s published.

Until next time…

Short Story Available

Blogging is one of those activities that’s deceptively simple. How hard is it to write a few hundred words a month and keep people up-to-date on things? Hard, apparently. Because my first professionally published short story came out two months ago and I’m just now posting about it. (Though if you follow me on twitter @dbrentbaldwin you would have heard about it long ago…)

Anyway, Who We Once Were, Who We Will Never Be is available from Fireside Fiction. It’s very short, only about three pages (or 750 words for my fellow writers), but it packs a punch.

The story itself is a result of my trip to China last year. One Saturday evening I found myself trying to find a cab at Luohu Port, and I decided to cut through an alley to get to a better intersection. Halfway down the alley I ran into a number women that seemed very interested in inviting me upstairs. It was a very eye-opening experience, and this story grew from the question of “what if things in the alley went terribly, horribly wrong?”

Dunning-Kruger

Messrs. Dunning & Kruger sent another letter this week, but they signed it “Neil Clarke.” I shall continue with my correspondence in the hopes that the responses grow longer.

New Story

I wrote a short story for the girls a few weeks ago. Then I looked at the word count and compared it to some of the chapter books Sophia has (that are emblazoned with the Scholastic ribbon), and realized that for the first and second grade age group, 4,000 words is a book, not a short story.

I wrote a children’s book for the girls a few weeks ago. That sounds weird. It’s a fun little story, and of course it includes a dog. One can’t write a story for Sophia without including a dog. And since both girls are now in ballet lessons, I’ve worked that in, too.

The Girl Who Danced on the Moon Cover

After the older girls in ballet make fun of her, Jersey wants to quit dance forever. The only thing that can cheer her up is her dog, Bromley. When Bromley leads her into the trees near her house, she discovers a world unlike any she’s ever known–a world of fairies. The fairy Luna flies her high into the clouds and dances with her in the moonlight. Luna teaches Jersey what it means to believe in herself, but will it be enough for her return to ballet?

I’ve looked into getting it published in dead tree form through CreateSpace, but once I got the proof back I decided that I didn’t like how Word made the text look. I’m in the process of learning Adobe InDesign so I can make it look better, but InDesign is hard and I end up finding that I’d rather write something else or read something else, so I haven’t learned it well enough to get the book layout finished yet. Someday. Maybe.

Available for Kindle
Also available for Nook
And let’s not discriminate against Kobo
I’m discriminating against Apple because their process for self-publishing is terrible.