Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock


Today I received an acceptance for one of my short stories I always loved. “Grace Comes At Nightfall” will be printed in the May 2024 Issue of Black Sheep Magazine.

Thank you to the editors for giving my baby a home.

Now, back to work on my next novel…

Read This After Your 100th Rejection

“Writers are actually the most powerful party in the equation, because they are the sole creators of the golden eggs. The rest of us just build infrastructures. Agents and publishers curate, tweak, and manipulate; and readers consume. All of that matters, but the power to create is the supreme element. Without writers, there’s no edifice or sustenance for anyone else in the publishing world. Always honor your precious individuality without cleaving yourself from the esteemed collective to which you belong by choice. No one can remove you from your given destiny unless you let go.”

– Jeff Herman, Agent

New Short Story Published in Mystery Tribune

This is a short story I’m very proud of — thank you to the editors at Mystery Tribune for giving it a home!


A lonely, neglected sixteen-year-old boy finds a man who seems to care about him. Desperate for an encouraging father figure, he’d do anything to please this man, even if it meant hurting a stranger. But humans are complicated, and even for skilled predatory adults, outcomes can be unpredictable. Sometimes unimaginably so.

It’s Going to Be OK (Part 1)

I think it’s safe to assume that most writers are sensitive people. I mean, without a sensitivity to the human condition, how could anyone write insightful characters living in a fictional world? And who’d want to read it?

Me? I’m one of those people who are sensitive but willing to suffer and absorb significant punishment to achieve whatever I’m trying to do. I expect life to be hard, but I’m not immune to pain. Not everyone can keep getting punched in the mouth and drag themselves off the canvas for more.

So, I sometimes wonder how many writers just check out at some point. How much rejection can any one person take before it begins to suck all the fun out of writing? Whenever I start thinking like this, I remind myself of a few things.

One — the actual writing part, the part where you’re sitting down and creating a world with characters who begin to reveal themselves as the story progresses — that part is like the best drug in the world. Seriously. It’s so much fun I actually feel sorry for people who don’t get to experience it.

Two — if you can focus on that, everything else doesn’t matter. Sure, every writer wants someone to read their work, to fall in love with these flawed people who live in this fictive world, but it turns out there are apparently more writers than there are readers. If supply outstrips demand, the product’s value diminishes. And if you want to sell a book, that means it’s a product, whether you like it or not. Welcome to that sticky nexus between art and commerce. Mind your step — it’s easy to get hurt in this god-forsaken place.

Here’s the point: The only thing you can control is the actual process of creating art. Turns out that’s also where the fun is.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Reality Check

When the world seems like it’s going to shit and starts to weigh you down, stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself one question.

Have I done something for someone else today?

Just to be clear – being kind counts.

How To Live To Be 112

After following more than 700 people enrolled in a study since 1998 at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in the Bronx, all 95 or older, Dr. Nir Bazilai had this to say about super centenarians:

Did they do what we know we should do — exercise, diet and sleep and have social connectivity? The answer is mostly no. Sixty percent were smoking. Less than 50 percent did much household activity or biking. Fifty percent were overweight or obese. Less than three percent were vegetarians. So they weren’t special in that sense.

So there’s that.

Let’s Hope This Isn’t True, But it Probably Is

Just listened to a brilliant author on a podcast discussing our collective failure to address climate change over the last 70 years or so. The issue was a story element in his latest novel, so it was something he’d thought about deeply. The host asked him what he’d concluded, and his response was both honest and chilling.

“What do I really think? I don’t want to say what I really think.”

It was obvious they were friends. “C’mon, just say it…”

What I think is we’re too stupid to live.”

How to Get Better at Art (Or Anything Else)

Step 1) Jump in and go for it. Become intoxicated by your excitement. Love every fucking minute of it.

Step 2) Realize you suck, but don’t let that deter you…

Step 3) Start studying the shit that inspired you to go down this road in the first place. Take it apart and try to figure out how they did it.

Step 4) Keep working at the craft, day in, day out. Never let up.

Step 5) When professionals critique your work, use your emotional response as fuel to push harder. Then analyze their comments unemotionally, address the ones that seem legitimate, and discard the rest.

Step 6) Whenever someone tells you how much better you’re getting, take a moment to appreciate it. Your hard work got you here.

Step 7) Keep going through this list, disregarding step 2. You no longer suck.

Maybe, just maybe, if you started out with a modicum of talent for whatever it is you’re trying to do, you’ll become great at it. But if the simple act of going for it fills you with joy, then you’ve already won. Your voice will eventually emerge, and it will be yours and yours alone. Spend the rest of your days making art and die knowing you lived creating cool shit. It all ends up in the dustbin of eternity anyway.

The world always needs more art. Roll up your sleeves and get to it.

“Lamb Vindaloo, Weaponized Please”

Ok, I didn’t really order it like that. More like, “I’ll have the lamb vindaloo, very spicy.” The waiter eyed me just long enough so I could add, “Indian spicy.

Now, I love Indian food, and over the years I’ve found a few restaurants that would actually give me what I asked for. Most, if they didn’t know me, would just see a white guy and serve me accordingly. I get it, why take a chance I might send it back?

The first bite triggered a neurological response of hiccups, like my brain was confused and didn’t know how to respond. Was this some kind of poison? I plowed on, undeterred. Vindaloo, chutney, bread, beer. My wife took a small bite and said, “Oh my,” before returning to her more reasonable dish.

Vindaloo, chutney, bread, beer. Vindaloo, chutney, bread, beer. As if somehow this combination could end the holocaust going on in my mouth.

“Are you alright?” I heard her ask, as my brain misfired, disoriented from the napalm I keep shoveling in. I managed to choke out, “Can’t talk now,” as reality gave way to an altered state somewhere between pain and pleasure. Is it tasty or torture?

Vindaloo, chutney, bread, beer. Vindaloo, chutney, bread, beer. Losing my sense of time and space, I can’t stop now. I’m on a mission, passing through a tunnel connecting our world with some other dimension. Starting to see a light up ahead.

Vindaloo, chutney, bread, beer. Vindaloo, chutney, bread, beer.

“Should I call an ambulance?” I hear someone say as I put down my fork and call it a day. My senses begin to return as I blow my nose and wipe the tears out of my eyes. The waiter walks over and asks, How was everything?”

“Delicious,” I reply, still dazed.

And I meant it.

The Becoming (Part 1)

All living things are in a perpetual state of motion, constantly moving forward or backward, never static.

So if becoming is the state of growth; entropy and decay are the state of what? Unbecoming, I guess.

Either we are actively engaged, or we’re slipping toward the abyss.

Best to choose wisely.


Many thanks to the editors at Brilliant Flash Fiction for publishing my latest flash fiction, “Champion,” a story about love, loss, and the redemptive power of human connection.


by David Thomas Peacock

Kiko was going to miss coming to this place. Enveloped by the quiet, she’d watch him sleep, imagining the possible futures they might share. Today was different. Legs fidgeting, she parted cracked lips painted in cheap magenta and moved in to nibble a truncated nail. The tip of her finger was stained rusty brown, like it had been held too close to a flame. Goddamn rock, she thought. Nasty. Under her bony ass it went.

Outside, the ever-present sound of honking horns mixed with the high-pitched squealing of children on their way home from school. The neighborhood’s racket was audible but muffled through the sheltering walls of this sacred space.

3:20 in the afternoon. Fucking clocks, always telling you what time it is, reminding you you’ve got nowhere to go. In the room’s coolness, a sticky film of city grit and sweat had dried to a glaze of iridescent funk on her copper skin. Working girls in the heat smelled the same everywhere, acrid and sweet — the pheromones of sex laced with cigarettes had their own allure, at least if that’s what you were looking for. She’d been strolling Broadway when her beeper went off.

Come now. J.

Yeah, this place was safe, alright. Might be the only safe place she’d ever been, a sanctuary from the streets. Digger would come looking soon enough, but for now, all was peaceful — just the two of them, hushed and alone. A furtive scan of the room confirmed the coast was clear. Kiko pulled her hands out from the hard crush of ischium that felt like rebar grinding into her fingers. Digger always sayin’ I have a flat ass. Fuck him.

Intricate patterns left behind by long-forgotten lives covered the floor like secret hieroglyphs. This building was over a hundred years old, always a fortress of healing for the city’s poor.

God bless the child.

It’s funny the things that pop into our minds. Billie Holiday’s fragile voice echoed, uninvited, conjuring memories of Sunday afternoons spent at her grandma’s years ago. Even as a little girl, she understood what the words meant. Outside, activity bustled, but in here, it was suffocating as a tomb. Marquis lay a few feet away, sprung from his incubator, looking peaceful in the sunlight streaming through the wooden blinds. Wrapped up tight. Papoosed.

Airline pilot.

That was a favorite. Captain Champion. Together, they would fly away to the far corners of the world, laughing and hugging the way people do, discovering foreign cultures that, in the end, weren’t as different from each other as you might think. He’d have on a pilot’s uniform and cap, and when they’d walk through the terminal, people would smile and nod out of respect.

Kiko had never been to an airport, never even sat on a plane. Still, it was a pleasant dream. Seemed possible, at least for a moment.

The traffic outside sounded like it was getting farther away. That’s strange.

A steady beep emanated from somewhere; she couldn’t place the location.


She could hear it now; his name paged overhead with urgency.

Doctor Champion. Oh, now we’re talking. People used to think she’d made up her last name, but it really was Champion. What was the origin? Who the fuck knows? No one in her family ever stuck around long enough to tell her. All she knew was her name was Kiko Champion.

Champion of nothing.

Her face hardened, then went soft. Marquis, on the other hand, was another matter entirely. Marquis Taiwan Champion. Now that was a fucking name. With a name like that, he was bound to go somewhere far away from this shithole of a neighborhood. No doubt he could be a doctor if he wanted. Maybe help mothers with sick babies. Why not?

Three days after he was born she saw a picture of Taiwan in a beer ad at the Chinese take-out on St. Nicholas. A sign. Miss J said there wasn’t any rush to name the baby, but Kiko didn’t like seeing a number on his incubator. Running to the NICU, she didn’t bother picking up Digger’s moo shu pork. Fuck Digger. The nurses all said it was a great name, and she watched through the window as they taped it to the side of his isolette. Twenty-six weeks. He was a tiny brown bean with a knit cap on his head, never touched by the warm flesh of another human. Never held by his mother. Too fragile. No immunity, the doctor said. Kiko wasn’t sure what that meant, but it didn’t sound good.

Crack baby. Marquis’s sickness was all her fault. Stupid crackhead ho. No one needed to tell her what everyone already knew.

She wanted to die.

For almost a month, Kiko would come here when she could. Not every day though. A short stint in Rikers and time lost chasing rock kept her away, but she never stopped thinking about him. Whenever she showed up, Miss J was never mean, even though she deserved it. She’d watch him through the nursery window; the nurses looked like astronauts wearing spacesuits to protect the babies. Planet crack baby. Everyone was safe here. This was where the babies grew strong enough to go home. Kiko didn’t have a home, but she was gonna make one for Marquis. Clean up like a real mother.

The door opened, startling her.

“You OK in here?”

Miss J’s head peeked in, blue eyes coruscating, a stethoscope hanging around her neck like medical jewelry. Even in her scrubs, Kiko thought she looked like a movie star.

Ashamed, she stared down; the scratches on the floor seemed to be a puzzle she couldn’t solve.

“Do I have to leave?”

Miss J walked in and sat next to her.

“You can stay as long as you want.”

Their hands touched, the nurse’s flawless mocha skin wrapped around Kiko’s reddish brown fingers, stained with the pain of a life without hope.

“He was a beautiful baby.”

Kiko began to cry.

The Lottery

75 years ago today The New Yorker published Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” a short story that continues to resonate and disturb today.

I didn’t discover it until a few years ago, and honestly haven’t read anything quite like it before or since. To say it was profoundly disturbing would be an understatement. As a writer whose natural inclination seems to be exploring the darker side of human nature, I have to tip my hat to what is possibly the most upsetting piece of short fiction I’ve ever read.

There are so many layers to peel back and explore, not the least of which is that it would be very, very difficult (if not impossible) to get this published today. That The New Yorker chose to do so in 1948 is a testament to to an editor not afraid to upset their readership. Which, of course, it did.

For the most part, magazines no longer publish short stories, because, well, print magazines no longer really exist. If you happen to write short stories, that leaves you with online literary journals, many of which publish exciting new fiction. Caveat: as long as it doesn’t upset the readership. Say what?

I guess modern readers don’t like to be upset. The thing is, provocative art that pushes buttons means it’s touching some festering nerve that doesn’t want to be touched. You know – that uncomfortable part of ourselves that needs to be explored in order for us to grow. Sometimes discomfort is the point. And yet, guidelines for submissions to many journals still ask for trigger warnings to protect their adult readers.

Ruth Franklin, in her New York Times essay, “75 Years Ago, ‘The Lottery’ Went Viral. There’s a Reason We’re Still Talking About It,” points out the danger in this kind of thinking.

The idea that authors should work to avoid offending anyone is a recipe for bad writing.”

Seeking Distraction

We all do it. These goddamn phones seem to have been invented for it. Emails, texts, social media, porn, “news,” games; the second your mind wanders, just grab your distraction machine and dive in.

Don’t get me wrong, all of these things can serve legitimate needs, but Christ – does it have to be this easy?

Maybe an unadvertised feature is the requirement to develop some discipline and self-control.

There Are No Guilty Pleasures

Go deep with the shit you love. Wear it on your sleeve with pride. Write a fucking thesis on it.

This is one of the pleasures of being alive. You get to experience the world in a visceral way, taking pleasure in how it changes you, marveling at the amazing coolness of whatever.

What we’re talking about here is the fundamental principle of consciousness. The subjective experience of living.

The act of being delighted and obsessed with dumb shit, or rather, finding meaning where no one else sees it.

When you find it, make sure you let everyone else know. If nothing else your enthusiasm may inspire them to look for their own magic.