New short story

It starts with a man on a plane…

This story was one of a number that I first-drafted while on holiday over the summer. I can’t recall if I wrote this story on the plane, but it’s genesis was definitely the flight out.

So, you’re on a plane, with a hundred or so other passengers. Maybe you know a few, but most are strangers. Some look like they’re going on holiday (pale and excited), or just returning (tanned and tired). But others are more of a mystery‌—‌the lone passengers, the ones who might be on a business trip, or who might be doing‌…‌something else.

For this story, I let my imagination run wherever it wanted. What if one of these mysterious passengers were on a mission to save the world? What if the world was being invaded, and only this passenger and a handful of others knew?

And what if the invaders were winning?

The result was Hold Back The Waves, which you can read here. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

New short story – ‘Stowaway’

I’ve got a new sci-fi short for you, called Stowaway. It stands on its own, but it also ties in to the Shadows series. The main character in Stowaway, Deva, is the protagonist in the novella Shadowlair (A Shadows Prequel), and she also features in the latest book in the series, Shadowstrike (Shadows Book Three).

It’s fun revisiting characters. Often, when I’m writing, I’ll add snippets of information that hint at a character’s backstory, and short stories are a great way to expand on these snippets. So in Stowaway, we learn a bit more about how Deva made her way down to Haven.

Shadowlair is only available for readers who sign up to my newsletter, but Shadowstrike is now available on Kindle, currently at the bargain price of 99p/99c (there’s also a few chapters available as a free preview‌—‌click here). And you can read Stowaway for free by clicking here.

‘Prepared’ – new short story

Back in the summer, we had a family holiday in Portugal, in an area we’d stayed in a few years ago. Unsurprisingly, not much had changed, but I started imagining what the place might look like in the future‌—‌especially a future where we were leaving the planet. Who would visit a place like this when tourists were all going elsewhere? And as the cafes and bars and shops all closed, what would it be like for the last place standing?

This short story, Prepared, arose from those thoughts. I’m still not sure if I admire the main character for their perseverance, or am saddened by the futility of their existance.

You can read the story here, and others can be found here. And, as always, I’d love to know what you think of it.

The Power Of Words is released, and here’s a free short story to celebrate

PowerOfWordsCoverWords have power. They can be used to cure, and to cut. They can be used to build up and to tear down.

The Power Of Words is an anthology that explored these ideas, taking the First Amendment as inspiration. Four tales by four authors‌—‌M.L.S. Weech, Heidi Angell, Richard T. Drake and me. And it’s out now, on e-book and paperback (with audiobook to follow soon).

This might sound like a sales pitch, but I’ve read all the stories, and highly recommend it. And at the bargain price of 99p/99c for a limited period, you can’t go wrong.

My story in The Power Of Words is called Ghost Stream, and to give you a taste of it, I’ve written a separate short, called Rumours, that you can read here. In this tale, you’ll meet the villain of Ghost Stream, and maybe start to see how manipulative he can be. He might not lie, but his words cannot be trusted!

So check out Rumours here, and The Power Of Words here.

Short stories are back! New story ‘The Campaign’ free to read now.

After a break for the summer, I’m back into posting free short stories. I wrote quite a few first drafts while on holiday, so I have plenty to be working on over the next few months.

The first of these is The Campaign. I found myself wondering how holidays might change as virtual reality becomes increasingly realistic. Of course, there would be advantages‌—‌no need for hours spent at airports or on stuffy coaches, the ability to tailor the holiday to individual tastes, and so on. But there would be problems, too. As with any technological advance, there would be those who wished to disrupt it.

This story came from those thoughts, and you can read it here. As always, I’d love to hear your comments.

The Power Of Words now on pre-release

PowerOfWordsCoverThe Power Of Words, an anthology of stories centred on the First Amendment, is now available for pre-order at 99c/99p. Four futuristic, apocalyptic and fantasy stories by four authors‌—‌myself, Richard T. Drake, Heidi Angell and M.L.S. Weech.

The e-book will be released on 1st October, with paperback and audio versions also available around that time.

Pre-order The Power Of Words from Amazon (.com/.uk /.au)

Using short stories to try something new

 

I love reading novels, but occasionally I’ll get an anthology of short stories. I’m usually drawn to a particular title by one or two authors who I enjoy, but there are always stories by others I’m unfamiliar with. These anthologies are fantastic opportunities to try new writers without committing to hours of reading a novel would take.

I’ve submitted short stories to anthologies (and there’s one coming out in October that I’m very excited about), and a large draw is having new readers discover my work. Hopefully, a few readers will enjoy my stories enough to check out (and buy) my novels.

But there is another benefit to writing short stories, and that is the opportunity it presents to experiment. I want to improve as a writer, and that means pushing myself outside my comfort zone. That might mean trying a new genre, or it might mean trying a new style of writing. Clearly, writing complete novels for this kind of experimentation/developmental process would take too long, so I use short stories.

I’d like to highlight some of these stories here. Some have been more successful than others, but all of them have helped me improve.

And, as before, the comments below may contain spoilers, so you can always click on the title of each story to read it first.

Old Bones Burn Strong

I’ve always enjoyed fantasy. When I first read Lord Of The Rings, I’d go to my room as soon as I was home from school and spend what felt like a few hours simply reading. I remember being excited when I found Stephen R Donaldson’s Gilden Fire (the ‘lost’ chapter from one of his Thomas Covenant books) in a second-hand shop. I used to spend hours designing Dungeons And Dragons worlds, and creating new monsters.

So I wanted to try writing fantasy. I couldn’t figure out how to write a full-on epic as a short story (although I’m sure it is possible), so I came up with something smaller in scale, maybe a scene that could come from a larger story. Hopefully it stands up on its own, though.

Of course, as with science fiction, fantasy can be more of a setting than a genre, so this is also simply a story of an old man doing what he can to protect those he loves.

The Rendezvous

Another genre I read from time to time is thriller, and I wondered if I could manage an espionage story in under a thousand words. It took a lot of work, especially in editing‌—‌I needed to include the scene itself, but also hint at everything that had gone before.

Like many of my short stories, this started from an image‌—‌a man sitting outside, drinking a coffee, waiting for someone. The coffee instantly intrigued me, and I always knew there was something sinister about it. (A thought’s just come to me‌—‌maybe I should have had the man picking up the cup with his left hand, playing on the fact that the word ‘sinister’ is Latin for ‘on the left side’.)

The story, like so many others, developed as I wrote it, and required a great deal of editing. This was a fun puzzle, though‌—‌keeping enough happening in the scene itself to tell its own story, but also including enough hints and references to make the larger story understandable. Overall I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Perfect

My stories tend to be dark. There’s usually death involved, or at least pain. So I challenged myself to write something ‘gentle’‌—‌a story where nobody died, with no dark undercurrents.

I wouldn’t call this romance, but it might be close. I recall wanting the dialogue to give the idea that this couple know each other well, and I think I got close to that.

Maybe I didn’t totally escape darkness‌—‌after all, the idea of the perfect moment does imply that other moments are less than perfect. But there is more happiness than pain in this story.

Never Only One Side

I’d already written a story using nothing but dialogue (Allegiance), but I wanted to see how far I could take this idea. I wanted a whole story that was only one side of a conversation.

A monologue would have been easier, but that’s usually one person talking to themselves. I wanted another character on the other side, someone who responded to the story’s main character, but who we never directly hear. The part of the conversation we ‘hear’ had to be realistic, while at the same time the story had to hold together.

On re-reading, it’s not as clear as I’d first thought. And I did cheat by having a second voice at the end (although it is through the same phone the main character used, so maybe I’m bending the rules rather than breaking them).

The Illusion Of Control

Stories are normally written in either third person (he did this, she did that) or first person (I did this). But there’s also second person (you did this, you did that).

This isn’t used much, except in ‘choose your own adventure’ books. It’s hard to write a story and convince the reader that they are the main character. Normally, books don’t address the reader at all (’breaking the fourth wall’), and second-person can feel like this the whole time.

But just because something’s hard, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be attempted, and I’ve wanted to write a second-person story for a while now.

I still haven’t managed it, but The Illusion Of Control is close. It seems to be second person at the start, but I cheat. About half-way through, it should become clear that the reader is not the main character, but that the story’s main character (or, at least, narrator) is talking to the reader. The character (and I suppose I can use that word for an AI) is monologuing, so this story is actually in first person.

The content of this story was influenced by Surviving AI: The Promise And Peril Of Artificial Intelligence by Calum Chace (well worth a read), and while I’m intrigued by the ideas I brought into The Illusion Of Control, I’m not convinced it works as a story. I’ll probably return to these ideas, though (I already have something in mind).

And I still want to write a second-person story.


Five short stories where I pushed myself to try something different, some more successful than others. I hope you found them entertaining. If you have any comments, on these or other stories I’ve written, I’d love to hear from you‌—‌simply add a comment below.