Tag Archives: Writing

Feel-Good Progress Update

In between working on my thesis research, writing daily updates for FiftyWordStories.com, and performing my cooking duties (like a good husband), I’ve been planning for and making progress towards releasing my second collection of flash fiction, which I’m calling Feel-Good.

My plan, at the beginning, was to release one of these every month or so, and I’m hoping I won’t be too far off that target, when all is said and done. As it stands right now, I have everything written for Feel-Good except the superhero story which I received prompts for from several lucky readers of Living and Dying. I’m hoping to get that story written sometime this weekend or next week. I have the concept mostly sorted out already.

Once that story has been put together, I just have to do a couple of editing passes and the formatting and cover art.

Along with the aforementioned superhero story, Feel-Good will contain several pieces of flash fiction in the 250- to 500-word range; a piece of 555 fiction (three stories written to the same title, one 500 words long, one 50 words, and one 5 words); a few lighthearted poems; and a short story about a tugboat. Everyone loves tugboats, right?

I’ve revised the estimated release date to July 18. Feel-Good will be available as a pay-what-you-want download, and also on the Kindle Store for $0.99. Information about the special offers and preorder bonuses, as well as early access for people on the Early Access List, will be available closer to the actual release.

Some Background for “Saucer” (and a Contest!)

The short story Saucer is the centrepiece of Living and Dying, and it’s also the oldest piece of writing in the collection. I thought I’d give everyone some background on the writing of the story and its minor evolutions over time.

Scroll to the end of the post for a chance to win a print copy of Fifty-Word Stories: Volume One!


Image by Rachel Davies.In 2004 I was attending my first year of university and dabbling in a lot of different courses. I took psychology, sociology, economics, statistics, political science, english, creative writing, and more. The creative writing class I took gave me an opportunity to explore my interest in writing fiction.

I wrote a lot of things back then. I did short stories and poetry and even took a stab at some longer-form writing. In fact, I have about 30,000 words of assorted fantasy on my hard drive that I struggled for years to connect into a novel in some meaningful way. (I’ve long since given up on that project: there’s just so much poor writing!)

While a lot of what I wrote back then still exists in different forms on my various hard drives, very little of it, I find, is really any good. I was a teenager back then, and I wrote like one. I was too self-indulgent. Too overwrought. I thought my words should change people’s worlds. I felt like the things I wrote had to open people’s eyes, or shatter their illusions, or redeem their frailties. Basically, I wrote far too many sentences like that last one. And when I wasn’t writing like a teenager, I was writing like a four-year-old, tossing around purposeless paragraphs of nonsense because it tickled my fancy.

But at some point during that period, I wrote Saucer. Saucer was different. For whatever reason, Saucer was a concept that stuck with me long after I’d first written its central scene. It had something more subtle to it, something worth communicating, something that was more than just a teenage emotion wrapped in poorly folded words and tied with a clichéd little red “moral.”

I tried, at various times, to pin down exactly what this “thing worth communicating” was. I wanted to find a way to build on that theme and really turn it into something big and special. At one point I outlined a plot that would have resulted in a Saucer novella, probably somewhere in the 15,000 word range. The plot would have seen Moses escape from his cell and meet up with a resistance group, while the tiny crack in his skull that he received from his self-abuse–which he never fully allows to heal–serves to continually remind him that he is fighting against the numbness and casual comfort of a life without either pain or freedom. (Or something along those lines, anyways.)

That idea, like so many of my other grand literary plans, never came to be. I eventually wrote the brief scenes at the beginning and end of the story and left it at that, and I think that was for the best, because really, this story stands on its own. It communicates what it’s meant to communicate, and it does it at an appropriate pace, without having to push its message in the reader’s face repeatedly over time.

That’s ultimately the point of short fiction. Novels tend to be built on big concepts and complex or far-reaching events. They rely much more on being gripping and entertaining. But short fiction is built on communicating a message or an emotion, and doing so in whatever length or complexity is required, and not a scene more, not a paragraph more, not a sentence more, not a word more.

Of course, messages and emotions are always interpreted differently by different people. That’s a key part of their beauty.

If you haven’t read Saucer, or the rest of Living and Dying, yet, go get it for whatever price you want!


Take action between now and midnight PST on Sunday, June 12, and you could win a print copy of Fifty-Word Stories: Volume One.

I’d love to hear how some readers have interpreted Saucer. I’m not tied up in any ideas of a “right” or “wrong” way to interpret the story, so feel free to share your thoughts, and maybe we can get some discussion going.

Every person who comments on this post (with a legitimate, non-spam comment) will receive one entry into the draw for the copy of my book.

There are also other ways to get additional entries into the draw. One way is to Like my new Page on Facebook. Every person who has Liked that page will have their name put in the draw. The last method is to share the FiftyWordStories website on Twitter using the hashtag #50wordstories. So that’s a maximum of three entries in the draw per person.

I will be picking the winner’s name out of a hat on Monday, June 13.

(Note: If the winner lives outside of North America, they’ll have to cover the difference between the North American and outside-of-North-America shipping.)

Living and Dying Sample Story: “Mouths to Feed”

For those of you who haven’t downloaded and read Living and Dying yet, either from the TS Store or the Kindle Store, I thought I’d post one of the stories from the collection to give you a sense of what it’s like.

This story, Mouths to Feed, was originally written on TypeTrigger, based on the prompt phrase “I first knew.” After writing it on TypeTrigger, I spent a fair amount of time polishing and rewriting it before including it in Living and Dying. The end result was what you can read below.


Mouths to Feed

I first knew how much trouble we were in when the engine sputtered for the fourth time.

The first couple of sputters didn’t seem like a big deal. Let’s be realistic: you’re bound to get the occasional booster hiccup when you’re fourteen years into a twenty-year journey to the center of the solar system and back. But I’m a smart kid, and I know that while two can be coincidence, three is a pattern, which means four is something worth paying attention to.

So I called up the engineer. “Dad,” I said, “I think we might have a problem.” And he put down his call-it-breakfast-but-we’re-pointed-straight-at-the-sun-so-really-it’s-pretty-much-always-lunch-time, and he popped his head up into the cockpit with a relaxed, what-is-it-this-time-bud grin, and by then I’d counted eight-and-a-half sputters, and a look at the diagnostics screen made his smile disappear pretty quickly.

He entered a handful of bypass codes to shut the boosters off, which made the trip calculator go absolutely crazy with warnings and red numbers, and then, as he scrolled through the emergency maintenance manual, he started humming.

I’d never heard him hum before. The song was slow, and soft, and haunting. It made me feel like I was looking out a porthole into space, but couldn’t see any stars.

It creeped me out, so I went and found the captain, and she told me the last time she’d heard my dad humming was when he found out she was pregnant with me, which was almost ten years ago, and she bet she knew what song he was humming, too.

“Mom,” I said, “for every hour we have the boosters shut down, we’re adding a month to our trip time.”

“I know, bud,” she said.

“And with three people drawing from the supplies, we can’t afford to add on any more than about two years, or we’ll run out of rations before we arrive.”

“I know, bud,” she said.

“That means we have 24 hours to fix—”

I know,” she said. And then she climbed up into the cockpit with my dad and locked the hatch behind her.

We’d all memorized those numbers a long time ago, of course. They were one of the first things I learned as a kid, when I started to ask questions about what we were doing here, my mom, my dad, and I, tearing through space in a tin can made for two.

If I’d never shown up, there would have been a lot more margin for error with a problem like this one. The rations and the recycling system had been designed for two mouths, not three. There wasn’t supposed to have been a romance. There wasn’t supposed to have been a pregnancy. There wasn’t supposed to have been a Me.

But a Me there was. My parents had learned to cope. They’d recalculated the rations. They’d made the sacrifices they needed to make. And now we had less than two days to save ourselves from seven years of hopelessness and one year of death by dehydration.


That all happened about nine months ago. I don’t remember much about the frantic whirlwind that those two days became, but I do remember two failed reboosts, three emotional breakdowns, a lot of yelling, and being locked out of the sleeping quarters “overnight” at the end of it all.

Ultimately, we found a way to keep the engine burning, but our workaround means that someone has to constantly be watching to manually make the small, vital adjustments that are keeping our hopes, our faintest of hopes, alive.

I take a regular shift. I didn’t, at first, but eventually I had to, out of sheer necessity, because of my parents’ fatigue, and now I think they’ve grown to trust me.

And they should. I do a good job, even though it’s sometimes hard to concentrate when there’s a newborn around.

My dad hums all the time, now.