Flash in the Pan

Almost five years to the day since my first story was published (“Amy’s First” at Daily Science Fiction). As good a time as any to reflect on the path taken and to take a squint at the route ahead (or is it only into my fluff-filled navel? — hmmm, not sure).

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have twenty other stories published in the intervening years. Half in pro-paying markets, the rest in semi-pro or token; about half flash, the rest short stories and a novelette. I’ve been privileged to share ToCs with writers I’ve admired since I was a child, and I’ve been published in markets that folded shortly after my story appeared. I’ve had acceptances on first submission in less than a day, and I’ve had stories rejected over thirty times and over the course of many years before they were finally published. I’ve been paid on acceptance and never paid. I’ve had complimentary mail, messages and tweets from total strangers and I’ve had stories utterly ignored. I’ve had stories edited to an inch of their lives, and (mostly) I’ve had stories completely untouched.

Verdict? I still feel I’m very much a beginner, wandering about in the foothills. Possibly lost. Possibly making progress. Possibly just covering necessary ground to get to where I need to go. So many markets and types of stories I still aspire to that I lack the skill and courage to even attempt. Still so many stories in my trunk that I really like, but I don’t know how to fix. I can’t even tell whether they are fixable or not. So the submission process remains largely a matter of throwing stuff out and seeing what sticks. Or not. No magic secret revealed apart from sheer persistence and constantly striving to improve.

I’ve deliberately moved away from writing flash length pieces, for the time being. Nothing wrong with flash — such stories can pack a mighty punch — but it’s currently the longer lengths that I find most challenging and satisfying to work on. Consequently the more difficult to place. And I’m OK with that. That’s where I need the practice. Where I need to improve. Where I need to spend the time, no matter how long it takes.

Because don’t kid yourself. This is a long, long game.

(Which isn’t a game.)

And perhaps, one day… the novel, again.


A World of Fantasy Awaits…


“Mermaids” by Gustav Klimt

My story “Against the Venom Tide” is now up at the summer edition of Mirror Dance.

At first Osami drifted alone in the cold and the dark, the ache in her chest unbearable, the weight of the seawater above crushing the air from her lungs. But what terrified her most was the dim light far below. Growing brighter. Growing closer.

Because this was a memory as well as a dream.

As mentioned previously, it’s set in the novel-verse of the Heptatheon, with its orbiting god moons and societies dominated by them. Ueldu is just a little more briny than some of the other deities.

Please let me know what you think, either here or on the Mirror Dance site.


Mirror Dance Acceptance

My story “Against the Venom Tide” has been accepted for publication in the summer issue of Mirror Dance. It’s set – although tangentially – in the same universe as my other recent stories “In the Belly of the Angel” and “Dance of the Splintered Hands“.

Looking forward to its appearance as this online quarterly magazine has great aesthetics and the editor, Megan Arkenberg, is also an awesome writer.


“Storm Kraken” by Ionnas.

The Velna Valsis

My story “The Velna Valsis” is now up at issue #11 of Fantasy Scroll Magazine.

Herr Doktor Ostermann drops the needle. A scratchy hiss fills the decayed splendor of Charlotte’s Viennese apartment. Outside, night is falling and a crowd gathers in the plaza. There are angry shouts — “Murderers! Juden!” — the sound of dogs barking. Charlotte does not know the reason for the commotion, nor does she care; her world has shrunk to the parlor, to Ostermann’s blood-smeared smile as he turns from the gramophone and says, “Shall we dance, meine Liebe?”

“The Velna Valsis” is a dark story. Possibly the darkest I’ve written. All the more dark since it’s obvious the Velna Valsis is still being played and eagerly listened to across the world right now. Its victims and players vary and swap sides, fluid like flame, but the damage left in its wake is unmistakeable.

Someone should really lift the needle.

Inspiration came from a writing prompt featuring a photograph by the talented Robin Cristofari, together with a piece of music by Carlos D’Alessio, his Valse De L’Eden. I paired them up, put D’Alessio’s piano waltz on loop, and a little while later “The Velna Valsis” popped out. The photo is obviously not of late 1930s Vienna, and the music didn’t urge me to indulge in wanton violence, so I’m not quite sure from which strange corner of my mind this story emerged, but that’s often just how it works. At least a couple of readers have mentioned Mikhail Bulgakov. I think one said they were reminded of The Master and Margarita. I’ve not read any Bulgakov so I can’t say whether I agree, but I’ll gladly take it as a compliment.


PS. In case you’re wondering, “Velna Valsis” is Latvian for “Devil’s Waltz”. Why Latvian? No reason other than I liked the sound of it.

Full Night Over Thranrak

My story “In the Belly of the Angel” is now up at new e-zine Metaphorosis. Albino Angel Apes versus Vegan Super Powers, wheee!

It was Full Night, the climax of the two-week Festival of Threll, and the narrow streets of Thranrak heaved with the devout, the curious, and the avaricious. Freya Adinyan plunged past the torch-lit processions and the bustling market stalls, her heart pounding in time to the drums. Tonight she was determined to leave Thranrak and the world of man behind.

“Angel” began as a 17,000 word novelette, a spin-off idea from a novel in progress. Over time the story was topped and tailed, tightened and revised, until it shrank to less than half its original length. Became much better for it. Became the story you can read today.

(And in case you’re wondering: yes, the type of angel and the world described here are the same as featured in my other recently published story, “Dance of the Splintered Hands“.)

Bone Flowers

Aaaaand… a Happy New Year to you! I hope it’s a good one.

My story “The Osteomancer’s Husband” is now up at Diabolical Plots as the January 2016 story.

He warned his wife the villagers would come. With their pitchforks, their fire. Their hateful ignorance.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “We have to leave. They saw beneath my mask.”

The inspiration for this story were a couple of photographs used for a writing group prompt challenge. One image was of flowing water (“…the burbling mountain stream…”), the second was of a hand tossing what looked like tiny bones to the wind (“Like…tiny snowflake vertebrae…”), both by the talented Robin Cristofari. To me the bones looked like seedlings, so I immediately began to wonder what their origin might be.

If you like the story (or even if you don’t), please feel free to comment here or on the Diabolical Plots site. Any feedback is always welcome.

"Les Feuilles mortes 3" by Robin Cristofari

“Les Feuilles mortes 3” by Robin Cristofari.

The Dragonmaster’s Doom

Received in the post today a copy of Dragons, Droids & Doom: Year One, the collected stories from the first year of Fantasy Scroll Magazine, edited by Iulian Ionescu and Frederick Doot. Amongst many other stories by many other authors, it contains my Mevlish story, “The Dragonmaster’s Ghost”, first published in FSM #4. Very happy to see it reprinted in what is a very handsome-looking physical book. 

Dragons, Droids & Doom: Year One is available as a trade paperback or as an e-book from most of the usual places as well as from its own dedicated website.