David Stevens

Posts Tagged ‘short stories’

Well, that wouldn’t get through the slush pile, would it?

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Julian Barnes’ review in The Guardian of William Trevor’s final collection really inspires me to get it now and read it, despite the toppling pile of books my puritan-self (who the hell is that? I’ll fight him!) says I have to read before I can buy any more. Here I steal, not from the stories of course, which I have not read, but from the review, which I have:

There are also slippages of identity and function to be endured.

And there are doubts and ambiguities at every turn.

Trevor’s fiction is full of precise evasions – and evasive precisions.


But it is the reader’s pity too, as we go back over her story and better understand …


Trevor does not make a point of being demanding or obscure; but he is very subtle.

This relates to an incident whose significance escaped me for two readings.

Mr Trevor certainly was not writing for any slush pile! Thank goodness. And how generous a reader is Mr Barnes.


The theme is set, and odd it is

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2018 at 5:46 am

Sorry, but this one is a little too odd for us

Two days in a row? Are you guys talking to each other about me behind my back? 🙂

Life is short. I am never going to have a career or find celebrity as a writer. Don’t want to. In the little bits of time that I have, my magpie eye picks up on crooked shiny things, and I play with them for a while. I ignore the ordinary, because I spend enough time with it the rest of the day. The strange bits and pieces from my own tiny corner of the universe, these are the things that I want to share. The characters I have met and had fun with. The man whose mind spent too much time in the brain of a lizard, and is having trouble unpacking into that of a human. A cosmonaut heading to the land of the dead. Neil Armstrong, trapped in a child’s bedroom. A spider woman and an insect man dancing the dance of death – and love! A man who never dreams, except of blackness and things shifting around a little bit, and what he finds near his back fence. The secret true history of Lawrence of Arabia, with djinn and ghouls.

If my little oddity catches the eye of an editor, as it sometimes does, and gives some pleasure to a reader, what a bonus. A little affirmation, and a joy shared, before heading back to the mundane world. And that, dear reader, is what it is all about, for me at least.

(“Why I write”: sheesh, now he thinks he’s George Orwell.)

Having said all of that – after something of a pause, there is a new edition of Three-lobed Burning Eye magazine appearing this month, and it is extremely important that you keep an eye out for it, burning or otherwise.

Eat, Pray … Wait

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Looking for the good life? Want to express your basic nature, unworried by constraints? Need to get away from it all? You are not the only one, there’s a whole bunch of folk itching to change their surroundings …

‘Eat, Pray, Wait’, something small and nasty by moi, appears in the latest edition of Not One of Us.


“Welcome to our thirtieth-anniversary issue. We have gods and ghosts, wraiths and harlequins, a monster, a maze, and Mars, reds and rusalkas, a lost girl’s lost father, bones and stones and boxes.”


  • The Drowned Carnival, by Mat Joiner
  • Ghost Ships of the Middlesex Canal (poem), by Sonya Taaffe
  • Now That Sarah Is Gone, by Tim L. Williams
  • The Vigilant (poem), by Lynette Mejía
  • Eat, Pray, Wait, by David Stevens
  • God’s Bones, by Jennifer Crow
  • Wraith (poem), by Erik Amundsen
  • Lamp Beside the Golden Door (poem), by Beth Cato
  • Rusalka (poem), by Sandi Leibowitz
  • In a Room, by Nicole Tanquary
  • Playing the Reds (poem), by Herb Kauderer
  • Team Orderly Mars, by David Ebenbach
  • The Monster in the Maze (poem), by Alexandra Seidel
  • When the Stones Hungered for Kin, by Patricia Russo
  • The Box (poem), by Holly Day
  • Art: John Stanton

Crossed Genres Book 3

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Crossed Genres is about to release its third collection in book form, and I am delighted as it contains my story ‘My Life as a Lizard’, as well as an interview with me where I fail to be profound, but at least achieve pomposity (the state of being covered in volcano excrement, I think).

Love the ‘gator! Nearly as good as a goanna.

Crossed Genres 3rd Anthology

Crossed Genres 3rd Anthology

Grappling annually

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2014 at 7:46 pm

The interestingly named “The Grapple Annual” (Roy Slaven and HG Nelson come to mind) have announced their forthcoming publication, and the announcement includes that my short story, “The Penultimate Report of Sergeant Burns” is among the contents. (Perhaps that is the incentive I need to write some more, and blog some more. I am far from home and way out of routine, and that is a wonderful excuse!) Every piece in the annual is associated with a particular date. My story is associated with July 16th, because every official report needs to be dated, and that date is as good as any. Do not be surprised to find violence and death.


Lucky Number 113

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Just worked my way through 113 e mails, quite liked this one 🙂

Hi David,
Thank you for submitting your work to XXX, and our apologies for taking so long to provide you with a response. We were saving the acceptance emails until last.
Yes, congratulations! We’d love to publish your story, pending the editorial process.

Details to follow …

My patchwork body, bleeding over the keyboard

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2013 at 9:14 am

The world does not need this blog. It is not about huge successes, it is about dreams and memories and scratching away.  It is about little things, like rejection slips and kid’s nightmares.  Still, I have to be professional.  It does not do to encourage further rejection by blogging about how many times a particular story has been rejected, or what a loser or failure one is I am.

I commented previously on the impersonal nature of story rejections these days.  I think though that I prefer a bland general rejection to a one line critique.  Today I received an e mail rejection for a sf story in a near future suburban setting.  That is fine, I am used to it in general, and in relation to this story.   It was rejected previously by the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction with the comment “I found your humor quite good”.  It made the second round for Daily Science Fiction with (trumpets blaring) their (I assume standard) e mail for such a thing:

“We have good news and we have bad news. The good news is that your story has made our second round, rarified company that more than 90% of submissions do not reach. While half or more of our second round stories will not ultimately see publication under the DSF rocket, this story has reached the final go/no-go before launch. … thanks for sending us this worthy submission.”

While rejected by both magazines, these were good rejections to receive, at least for my ego.  In neither case was I helped in bettering the story or in improving future stories.  And that is fine.  It is not their job to provide a detailed critique.  I was though left feeling that perhaps I’m doing some things right, maybe I can build on this.

Today’s rejection for the same story went like this:

“An interesting conceit, but the patchwork writing doesn’t do much for the story and distracted me from the plot.”

I accept this as the serious opinion of the writer.  I’m not fighting against the summation, however, I don’t know what to do with it, or where to go with it.  My instant reaction was “patchy writing, shit, what have I done?”, then I re-read it and saw it was “patchwork”.  Is “patchwork writing” a thing?  Is it a bad thing?  Working out the problems from half a line is harder than my usual tea leaf reading.  I assume they mean that a more direct narrative would have been preferred.  It was sent to a genre market, after all.  Over at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, for example, those submitting are told, “We also look for clear, unaffected writing. Asimov, Niven, Tolkien, Yolen, and Hobb are more likely to be our literary exemplars than James Joyce”.   Now, if I was raging incandescently against rejection, this might be the time to try to take some stylistic high ground.  “I’m too good for youse lot, I’m like James Joyce.”  Except its not true, even if I wished it was.  And I don’t want to take any high ground, I want to learn.  However, the few words don’t help me any more than a form letter.

So I flick through a few of my stories, looking for “patchwork”, and I find it all over the place (assuming I know what it means).  Its quilt city here.  Its major scrap booking time.   First and third person narratives about men struggling with the odd in the middle of everyday life.  Often they are the stories I feel closest to.  (He wonders why.)  They came out the only way I knew to get them down, and to me at least, they had the feeling of a lived life, with its incidents that have no meaning at the time, the choices that could have been otherwise.  I’m doomed!

Am I reading too much into one line?  Why is the negative opinion always the right one?

Thank you anonymous rejector of mine.  Your one line has prompted me to think, and wonder whether I took easy choices in my writing, thinking it was “good” when really it was comfortable.  I don’t know whether I will make different choices, but at least I know why you didn’t like my story.  Or do I?  Stuffed if I know!

(Meanwhile, a completely different story of mine, “Good Boy”, has recently been accepted for publication, and I am very excited about that, and will post more details later.)

Thank you v much, Scott P

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2013 at 11:59 am

The world of rejection slips is probably more impersonal than it ever was, now that form letters have been replaced by form e mails.  As a person who is able to work out what people were thinking by the way they placed a stamp on an envelope, (I have a story about that somewhere), I have been able to wring impossible meanings from the placement of a comma in a standard reply. (“They love me, they love me not, they love me – then why did they reject me?”).

So it was lovely today to open an envelope, already knowing there was a rejection in there (only the fourteenth this year), and to see the line “I found your humor quite good”.  And that from someone who last time said “the story didn’t quite work for me I’m afraid”.  Thank you Scott P, that made my day.  And if to some of you that doesn’t seem like much, all I can say is that when you are me, you grab your moments when you can.

That’s a big 10-4, Rubber Duck!

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2013 at 8:25 am

I’ve been blogging in a few places under a nom de guerre, which was all lots of fun, but the years pass by and the things I meant to do remain undone, and I realised blogging had become another distraction, or worse, an ersatz alternative to writing fiction, a trick that allows me to think, hey, look at all of the stuff I’ve done.

The answer to that is, obviously, to start another blog.

No.  I’m doing three things which require a tiny bit of discipline.  Firstly, I started the year by writing and submitting a sf – fantasy story every ten days or so (it started as a week, but there’s a highly technical reason for the change in number).  This was inspired by Ron Dionne, whose blogging I enjoyed very much, with his commentary on writing, the new publishing paradigm, pulp fiction and other things that gentlemen of a certain age can remember and relate to.  I accepted that no doubt a longer period of reflection, polishing and redrafting would help these stories enormously.  Here’s the thing.  Some of them are based on notes I wrote 20 years ago.  I figure they’ve had long enough.  I set them free and give room to new ideas to come through.  I don’t have another 20 years to wait.  Then the rejections came, which was ok, I expected that.  Then something else happened.  I started making it to the second round with magazines I respected, before being rejected.  Then the recriminations began.  If only I had polished it more!  If only I had taken a little more time!  So I stopped.  Entirely.  Stuffed up by near success.  So now I am balancing, and leaving them to mature a little longer.

Ron writes somewhere about being painfully shy and contemplating publishing his first novel under a pseudonym.  Relating greatly to the painfully shy, one of the things I like about writing is its solitary nature.  It was with great surprise that I joined an established writing group in Sydney this year.  By established, I mean the sort that already has members.  Who will be sitting in chairs when you walk into the room.  And stare at you.  Wondering why you have the audacity to walk up to them at all.  Who might not even wait until you leave to start talking about you behind your back.  But I turned up.  Not to the first meeting that I said I would, but to the one after that.  And it was nothing like I feared (nothing ever is, because nothing ever turns out to involve Cthulhu), the group was small that night, lovely and welcoming, and how wonderful to be in an environment where you can all talk about reading and writing.  So that’s the second thing.

A few years ago I made it half way through the second draft of a horror novel.  Family crises brought me to a grinding halt.  The crises continue, but I have found writing something every day, with some progress every day, gives the day meaning and purpose.  To think my silly thoughts, to put my nonsense into words, to send it out with vague hope of publication, with a dream of success – that makes me happy.  And if it works out, so much the better.  So, draft 1.5 is out, and I am working on it again.

I’ll allow myself to blog here, sometimes, about writing, and sometimes reading, and see how it goes.  If it adds a little discipline and holds me to account, great.  If not, it will die a death.