Category: Stories

Brooks Writes Stories: How Did It Go in 2023?

In mid-2017, I started submitting and tracking my fiction writing, and have since posted updates in 2018201920202021, and 2022. How did it go with my short stories in 2023? Meh.

  • In 2023, I submitted versions and revisions of 32 stories 108 times to 54 different outlets. This included one contest.
  • Between January 1 and December 31, 2023, I received 88 rejections (including one for a story submitted in 2021 and five for stories submitted in 2022) and five acceptances (5.4%, which includes two acceptances for stories submitted in 2022).
  • Select comments from editors included:
    • “…The writing and stylistic choices in this piece are very strong.”
    • “The story is well developed for the length, but…”
    • “If the premise is to point out that odd mindset, maybe having the narrator realize how weird it is might help.” 
    • “…brimming with comedic potential…but…”

Stories Published in 2023

Five stories were published by five different venues in 2023.

On February 3rd365tomorrows published “Use for the Humans” (324 words, 2 minute read). A video of chainsaw-wielding robots working in forests sparked the idea for this dystopian flash.

On February 5thThe RavensPerch published “No Big Thing” (601 words, 3 minute read). Life can be tough. At times, this means owning our situation and choosing to move on. The title came from a story told to me by a taxidermist friend of mine, while the rest of it took a while to work out as the story was rejected and revised 19 times before finding a home. 

On April 26th101 Words published “Smell Sweet Dreams” (191 words, 1 minute read). Inspired by an AirBNB stay in Miami after my daughter asked, “hey, Dad, what’s that smell?”

On June 20thApple in the Dark published “Aliens Want Space, Too” (386 words, 2 minute read). I credit my Mom for teaching me about the importance of space and the power of chocolate chips cookies.

On July 3rdAphelion published “Aliens Making Plans” (401 words, 2 minute read). My third story published by Aphelion includes actual aliens and a nod to Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Happy New Year and thank you for reading!

Brooks Writes Stories: How Did It Go in 2022?

In mid-2017, I started submitting and tracking my fiction writing, and have since posted updates in 201820192020 and 2021. How did it go in 2022?

  • In 2022, I submitted versions and revisions of 26 stories 74 times to 46 different outlets. This included three contests.
  • Between January 1 and December 31, 2022, I received 64 rejections (including seven for stories submitted in 2021) and nine acceptances (12.3%, which includes one acceptance for a story submitted in 2020). 
  • Select comments from editors included:
    • “I liked the ease of the dialogue. However, I wasn’t convinced of the significance of the…”
    • “…we would encourage you to submit your piece to another journal…”
    • “Though quirky and funny…the story is trying to tackle too much in flash…”
    • “The family relationship here — everything feels so natural and real. I’m sorry to say no, but it’s not quite right for [us].”
    • “Love the title.” 🙂

Stories Published in 2022

Eight stories were published by six different venues in 2022.

On January 13th365tomorrows published “Aliens and Leftovers” (273 words, 2 minute read). The story, inspired by a true event, combines a brief ode to composting with the pull of suburbia.

On February 6thAphelion published “Protecting the Bean Farmers” (341 words, 2 minute read).  An interview with the late and prolific writer Harlan Ellison sparked the idea for this story (which survived 16 rejections and revisions). He said unless you spend most of your days “living life…You’re nothing but a beanfield hand.”

On March 25thThe Rye Whiskey Review published “No One Told Me” (227 words, 1 minute read). This knockout of people who talk cheap shit about people and cultures of which they know nothing, holds my record (to date) for rejections and revisions before finding a home (25).  My experience in college as a cast member of Children of a Lesser God, which included hearing and deaf actors, inspired this story.

On March 31stThe RavensPerch published “Tip Jar” (221 words, 1 minute read). Inspired by a trip to the Athens Farmer’s Market and my older daughter’s volunteering at ESP.

On April 18thMystery Tribune published “Family Picture” (689 words, 3 minute read). The mother in this story, her life spent betraying and abusing others, finally pushes her daughter too far.

On May 11th, Maudlin House published “Aliens at Rest” (531 words, 3 minute read). The editor accepted it with, “We love it and would like to publish it…” Thank you, Ms. Smart!

On September 5thAphelion published “Aliens Have Dads, Too” (285 words, 2 minute read). Accepted on the first try, this is also the first time I “made the cover” of a magazine with a story.

On December 1st365tomorrows published “Birthday Apples” (273 words, 2 minute read), a story I salvaged from the slush pile and revised with a new twist.

Finally, I would like to thank Michele-Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden, the founders, publishers and editors of Daily Science Fiction (DSF), the source of my first professional sale, “Water Carrier” (2018). On August 11th, Michele and Jonathan announced that, after more than 12 years, DSF “will go on a hiatus, either temporary or somewhat longer.” Thank you for the support and encouragement you provided to me and other writers, and for the fun, diverse, and touching stories you chose for us as readers. While selfishly hoping your hiatus is temporary, I send to you the best and warmest of wishes.

Happy New You to everyone, and thank you for reading!

Brooks Writes Stories: How Did It Go in 2021?

In mid-2017, I started submitting and tracking my fiction writing and posted updates in 20182019 and 2020. How did it go in 2021?

  • In 2021, I submitted versions and revisions of 24 stories 106 times to 50 different outlets. This included one contest.
  • Between January 1 and December 31, 2021, I received 114 rejections (including 20 for stories submitted in 2020) and five acceptances (4.2%). I also withdrew two stories.
  • Several rejections included brief comments from editors, some encouraging and others less so. A few examples:
    • “While this… was not chosen… I thought it was well written, stark and true…”
    • “…feels more like a punch line, than a short story.”
    • “…it felt arresting to read and didn’t full cohere.”
    • “I like how you take this parent-child relationship and make it larger than life.”
    • “This is ripe, fascinating.”

Stories Published in 2021

Six stories were published (one accepted in 2020) by six different venues in 2021.

On June 1stSpank the Carp published “Anxiety Afterglow” (275 words, 2 minute read). Inspired by an actual, unknown seatmate who aggressively, compulsively picked her face during a flight in South America.  I wrote the first draft in my journal during the flight. The story speaks to the importance and power of having a purpose, regardless our state of mind. 

On June 22ndFlash Fiction Magazine published “Grady Shelton” (671 words, 3 minute read). Rejected and revised 15 times before finding a home, this story was a consistent near miss and, based on the comments and feedback, has been my most popular story to date.

On June 30thMystery Tribune published “Short Books for My Cellmate” (924 words, 4 minute read). Two cellmates, passing time with books and with each other, maneuver to get the upper hand.

On July 14th101 Words published “Know Your Customer” (101 words, 1 minute read). The editor wrote, “I love the surprise, I almost screamed Oh, good Lord! This is really well crafted.”

On August 10thThe RavensPerch published “Drive the Road” (575 words, 3 minute read). Inspired by a report about a hijacked truck, the backstory came from my personal interest in the Vietnam War (my Dad is a vet). This is a case where I loved/believed in/wanted this one more than the editors: it notched 19 rejections (and revisions) before finding a home as a much better story. Thanks, TRP!

On November 10thMason Street Blog published “Putt for Show” (335 words, 2 minute read). A mix of golf, real estate schemes and The Sopranos.

Please enjoy the stories and thank you for reading!

Stories 2020: How Did It Go?

In 2017, I began submitting and tracking my fiction writing and then posted updates in 2018 and 2019. How did it go during 2020?

  • In 2020, I submitted versions and revisions of 33 stories 128 times to 64 different outlets. This included 5 contests.
  • Between January 1 and December 31, 2020, I received 114 rejections (including several for stories submitted in 2019) and eight acceptances (6.6%).
  • Several rejection notices included brief comments from editors. A few to give the flavor:
    • “Too much to pack into a flash piece…”
    • “Your avenging aunt is, of course, an attractive character, bringing justice…”
    • “It so accurately shows how cruel kids that age can be! [but] …it’s not quite right for [us].”
    • “Some great details put us immediately on stage… [but] …the narrator is lost in this draft.”

Stories Published in 2020

Seven stories were published by six venues in 2020.

On April 28thMystery Tribune published “Tour De Forest” (910 words, 4 minute read). This story went through several versions prior to finding a home. One outlet requested a stronger “sense of place” which led me to conduct more research on a mountainous region in France, where the story is set. 

On August 4thMicrofiction Monday Magazine published “Business as Usual” (100 words; 1 minute read). I know a guy who knew a guy that wore corduroys with lobsters on them.

On September 5th365tomorrows published “Carried Away Forever” (558 words, 3 minute read). This story started as a contest submission in 2017 soon after the Las Vegas music festival shooting. It was rejected 13 times and went through multiple wholesale rewrites. It came together after switching the narrator from a man to a woman.

On October 30th, London-based Storgy published “Substitutions” (48 words, 1 minute read). The original idea for this microfiction piece arrived while I listened to an NPR story about Thanksgiving family recipes, and a person discussed a few of her favorite (and secret) substitutions.

On November 3rdDaily Science Fiction published “Holes in the Fence” (935 words, 4 minute read). This story found firmer footing after a wonderful person and friend died in 2019. He made powerful arguments with a light touch. “Holes in the Fence” is dedicated to Jim Fendig. 

On December 1stMystery Tribune published “Too Hip to Upgrade” (583 words, 3 minute read). My first published noir story: in a dark, futuristic Beantown, two criminals struggle to cooperate or get the job done.

On December 22nd101 Words published my Christmas-themed “Party Crasher” (101 words, 1 minute read). Based on the comments and emails, this has been one of my most popular pubs to date.

Enjoy the stories and thank you for reading!

Mystery Tribune Publishes “Tour De Forest”

Mystery Tribune, a magazine of fiction, non-fiction, art and photography that celebrates mystery and suspense, just published my story “Tour De Forest” (910 words; 4 minute read).

In this story, Philippe, a rising competitive cyclist who just won a stage on the Tour for the first time, wakes to find his bike stolen. In a mountainous and agrarian region of France, Inspector Coudert helps Philippe shed his naivety while working the case.

This story went through several versions prior to finding a home. One outlet wanted a stronger “sense of place” and which led me to conduct research. Limousin is (was) an actual agrarian region/province in France (now called Nouvelle-Aquitaine). The region, with fewer people and less development, has a strong tradition of local music that includes playing old style instruments (like bagpipes). 

Several readers suggested I write other stories with characters from this one. What do you think? I welcome your thoughts in the comments.