Glass-Half-Full Rejection Becomes Surprise Acceptance

Photo credit: Sealle, Glass half full or half empty. 3 Aug. 2017. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Some time ago, I posted about an honorable mention in The Third Book of Corona Horror Stories. While gratifying, this was obviously not the brass ring I had been hoping for. At some point after that, I read that the anthology series was paused owing to the unfortunate coincidence of its name with the type of virus causing the pandemic. I published my story, “The Jet-Black Knight,” which I wrote about here, in 34 Orchard and thought that was the end of it, at least until I wrote enough generically congenial stories to put out my own collection.

Imagine my surprise and pleasure, therefore, to find an email from Editor Lewis Williams offering publication of the previously rejected story in The Fourth Corona Book of Horror Stories! The only wrinkle was that Editor Kristi Petersen Schoonover, of 34 Orchard, had instigated some significant revision of the story, which had necessitated (in my view) a change in the ending. This had to do with unifying the story and the narrator’s psyche using a connection between children in the work. Would Editor Williams agree with me that the revision was an improvement or prefer the older version (which, of course, I would still happily allow him to publish despite my preference for the revision)?

Within only a couple of days, he got back to me. He and his colleague, Sue, had gone over the story. Kindly, Williams revealed to me that, while Sue agreed with me and Editor Schoonover, he preferred the original, especially for its ending: “I found myself remembering the original ending long after I’d first read the story and it became something of a regret of mine that we didn’t decide to include it in The Third Book of Corona Horror Stories.” Nevertheless, he was democratically willing to go along with Sue and me and use the revised version.

Naturally, his view of the original ending was gratifying, especially since I agonized quite a lot about how much to explain in that version, and was, frankly, relieved to be rid of the agony in the revised story. His comments did raise some doubts about whether we were doing the right thing, though, as well as some thoughts about gender and reading, since I, Kristi, and Sue–all women–sacrificed the mystical existential ending Lewis liked for the sake of more emphasis on the children and greater narrative unity. In the end, I didn’t think I could make the old ending work with the revision, which I still believe is an improvement, so I sacrificed it. I would also add that the new ending is based on my father’s telling me how he used to pretend to be shot and fall down saying “Bang I’m dead” while his father was away in World War I. I found that good, chilling material, though I can also understand how Lewis saw the first ending, with the narrator alone confronting his demons, as strong.

Anyway, I hope any of you struggling with rejections will find my experience encouraging. Many thanks to Lewis Williams and Sue.

A Bouquet in My Inbox

Tomwsulcer, Floral Bouquet. 7 July 2014. Wikimedia Commons. CC0 1.0. PD.

Today I received a veritable bouquet in my inbox. First, Litterateur, Redefining World, wrote to say my poems were in the January issue, which is good to know, but they haven’t put the January issue online yet–I will update you when that happens. Then, Editor Sara Altman, of Whimsical Poet, wrote to send the link to the digital issue of that journal with “Why the Frogs Sing” in it, and to say that a paper issue will be available soon–again, I will update about that. Finally, the indefatigable David O’Nan, of Fevers of the Mind, wrote to accept my poem, “Second COVID Spring, with Azaleas.”

This last poem, sort of a sequel to my “Pandemic Spring, with Azaleas,” turns out to be somewhat prescient. I wrote it right after I was vaccinated for COVID, when it seemed we were all going to be all right. But I was somewhat leary of such hopes–partly because I’m distrustful of easy fixes by nature, and partly because it was already clear that not everyone was doing what they should to end transmission. Not only were MAGAts being MAGAts, but wealthy countries were not sending vaccines to poorer countries because big Pharma or politically unfeasible, or whatever the “reasons” were. Also, when I had the idea for the poem while rubbing my arm in the living room after the shot, I thought of again linking the azaleas’ reaction or lack thereof to the COVID situation, and I looked out our window-wall to the bank of azaleas there.

Now last time I wrote my poem, I was looking out the bedroom window. The azaleas, of various kinds, were backwards and sideways to the window, the sun was shining, and the whole thing looked like a joyous, crazy choir, completely out of step with lockdown. The azaleas in the beds outside the living room, by contrast, are planted so that the flowers face the house, and instead of variegated bushes, they are a massive phalanx of purple. I noticed they were closer than last year (they had grown), and they were framed by a gloomy atmosphere that day. They appeared to be looking in, if not trying to get in; or, if one saw the blooms as mouths, they seemed to be silently screaming something, perhaps at me.

So I wrote a dark poem about threatening azaleas and wariness in hopeful times. It should be out soon, and I will update you then.

For those concerned about my wrist, the doctor was surprised that it seems to be healed after only four weeks. Now I should practice again.

My Other Kindle Vella Story, and a Review

Digital book cover for “The Pussy Hat,” on Kindle Vella. Photo: Harrison Haines, Man with Rifle. 17 June 2016. Pexels. PD.

In my last post, I talked about publishing my fantasy story, The Pool of Good Purpose, on Kindle Vella. I also published the story above, The Pussy Hat, which is a feminist horror story. I wrote about this story here, when it was accepted by What the Writers Wrote podcast. Unfortunately, What the Writers Wrote stopped producing podcasts before they had my story up. This is the third time I have had something accepted and the publisher went defunct before they were able to publish my work. It is annoying. I know life happens, etc., but when I am left hanging, I can’t help but feel these people are akin to those who adopt animals only to return them when they turn out to require attention and money.

Anyway, this is why the story is now available on Kindle Vella. As I said in the previous post, it is about a young man whose girlfriend leaves him and her pussy hat behind. He develops an obsession with the hat, and later with anti-feminism of the type that throws around terms like “alpha” and “cuck” a lot. Soon, these pursuits generate a monstrous comeuppance.

I invite you to read and enjoy. As I mentioned in my last post, the first three episodes are free, so you have nothing to lose. Cheers.

And here’s A Review:

Nice Twitter Mention, a Brief Rant, and a Review

I was happy to see this tweet from Coffin Bell Journal yesterday. Both the tweet itself and the characterization of my story as “terribly beautiful” were very gratifying. Thanks, editors! I also really like the cover artwork for the issue, which is the picture here (has nothing to do with my story). It is Luis Ricardo Falero,Β Witches Going to their Sabbath, (1878).

The story is free to read, so if you’re in the mood for something “terribly beautiful,” head on over. As always, let me know what you think.


Anyway, here’s our review of the third episode of For All Mankind. We decided not to post our review of Episode 2 outside of YouTube because Episode 3 was very strong and addressed many of the concerns we had expressed after Episode 2. But if you want to see the review of Episode 2, it is on the same YouTube channel as this one.

Enjoy πŸ™‚

Some Publications Have Arrived

What Lies on the Other Side and the latest edition of Schlock! Taken by me.

I have received some publications, most of which contain work by me. First, we have What Lies on the Other Side, a compendium of issues of cc&d Magazine, a Scars publication. This contains my flash, ‘Difficulties on Theory,’ about the closeted Darwinist. Second, with the discomfiting cover, is the current issue of Schlock!. The middle story mentioned on the bottom of the cover, Eye of the Beholder, is my horror flash about a person who develops an eating disorder, as well as a few other disorders.

Then we have two issues of 34 Orchard, kindly sent me by Editor Kristi Petersen Schoonover. The first, issue 2, contains my horror story, The Jet-Black Knight, and the second, issue 3, was sent because I contributed a small amount of money to the magazine.

Issues 2 and 3 of 34 Orchard. Taken by me.

I have a lot of reading to do!

“Eye of the Beholder” Up at Schlock! And a Review

Photo credit: History of Horror, Veintitres. 19 July, 2014. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0. N.B.: This file has been removed from Wikimedia Commons.

Trigger warnings: The cover of the latest edition of Schlock! is weirdly disgusting and disturbing. I mean that in a good way, but sensitive souls may not enjoy it. Also, my story contains graphic violence and gore and is not for people sensitive to mentions of eating and compulsive exercise disorders.

And Now the Post

With no written heads up (though I believe Editor Gavin Chappell informed me of this when the piece was accepted), my horror flash, “Eye of the Beholder,” has suddenly appeared with the latest edition of Schlock!, available online at the link or in Kindle and paperback here. My thanks to Editor Chappell. It’s also nice to see the story title featured on the cover–and what a cover it is, too.

I wrote about the story here. I can’t remember what prompted me to write it–some call for horror stories, but I can’t even remember the theme now. Even though the story is schlocky in some respects, I do like the way it shows how trauma can cause people to lose perspective. If you won’t be triggered, please go and read it, and let me know what you think.

In other news, I’m somewhat embarrassed by the following review. I saw Pieces of a Woman, didn’t like it, and forgot some important details, as I do with works I don’t care for, almost immediately. Then, several weeks later, I did this review, and only remembered the details as I went along. That said, I think my reasons for not liking it are clear.

For anyone wondering why I haven’t posted in a while, I had no news to report. I am only getting the odd poem out because I am still working on the second part of a three-part science fiction novel. Did you know quantum physics is actually quite hard to understand?

I also had no reviews to post because the reviewing is on pause while my son completes his master’s in education. He only got this one up recently, and we did it some time ago. We plan to finish the Netflix Oscar fare, even though the ceremony has been and gone, when he returns here after graduation.

For anyone who was wondering about that, no, my son will not be living in our basement. I believe he will soon be hired, and he would be a credit to any junior high or high school in need of a social studies, history, government, psychology, geography, or economics teacher. We don’t even have a basement, anyway.

Pussy Hat Story Accepted by Podcast–and a Review

Lorie Shaull, Enough Pink Pussy hat, March For Our Lives, Washington DC. 25 March 2018. Flickr Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0

I am excited that Jasmine DJ, at What the Writers Wrote Podcast, has accepted my horror story, “The Pussy Hat,” and will be reading it on May 31st. I really like this story, but it has been hard to place, and I’m not sure why, though politics and feminism are not exactly staples of horror.

I did get some unsolicited feedback from a place that gives that with its rejections, and I found it somewhat flummoxing. The editor alluded to the protagonist as “an ordinary guy,” when I was under the impression that he was quite horrible–that is, if he was “ordinary,” our “ordinary” has gone horribly wrong. Anyway, the editor thought the basis for the monster was flawed. I can understand that because the basis for the monster is its manifestation of the protagonist’s horrific flaws. Obviously, if you see the protagonist as “an ordinary guy,” you will not perceive any basis for the monster and will flail around guessing and blame the story.

Suffice to say, I don’t think it’s any accident that a male editor rejected the piece, and then a female DJ/curator accepted it. But I would be interested to hear what any listeners to the May 31st podcast think about this or other issues connected with the story.

In the meantime, here is the first of our reviews of Lupin, which we liked a lot.

Schlocky Piece Accepted

I am not too proud to acknowledge that I have written what I consider to be a fine piece of schlock, called “Eye of the Beholder,” and therefore I am honored that it has just been accepted by Schlock!, a horror webzine out of the UK, where it will appear in May.

Trigger Warning: The following contains references to eating disorders, dieting, exercise, obsession with one’s looks, and incest. No details, and certainly no promotion of any of the above. But if these are topics you’d prefer to steer clear of, look away now.

The story is about a young woman who embarks on a quest for beauty with the help of her sister. Suffice to say, it does not end well.

I had trouble placing the story, mainly, I think, because it has a surreal, hallucinatory section that was overly fantastic. But I have adjusted it to ground it better in reality over the course of my submissions to various places, and I think it is now improved to the point where I will be proud to see it in public. I also think the story is a good example of why it is important for women to write horror, because anxiety over weight, dieting, exercise, and obsession with physical beauty generally affects women more than men.

Before submitting to Schlock!, I took a look at its publications. Not only do I want to get a notion of whether my piece is the kind of thing the editors are looking for; I also might come upon something I don’t want to be associated with. I have had several bad experiences in this regard, unfortunately all after acceptance, when it was really too late to do anything about it, other than removing the journal from my bios. In the worst case, I encountered a terrible story that basically promoted incest. Luckily, while I did not do a thorough job of researching Schlock!‘s content, what I did see seemed fun and unobjectionable, though not for the squeamish. I look forward to reading more.

Photo credit: History of Horror, Veintitres. 19 July, 2014. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

“Elf Houses” Nominated for a Pushcart Prize!

Unattended pushcart advertising β€œfrankfurts” with sauerkraut or onions, ice-cold soft drinks, and pies for 5 cents on a rain-soaked wharf.

Faithful readers will recall that not long ago I was disappointed when Doubleback Review was unable to nominate my story, Elf Houses, for Best of the Net. I was therefore all the more delighted when Krista Cox, Managing Editor of Doubleback, informed me that the editors have nominated “Elf Houses” for a Pushcart Prize! My thanks to the editors.

Now go read the story already!

Photo credit: Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch. New York Office. News and Features Bureau. Picture Division. Exhibit Section. (1942 – 1945). Unattended pushcart advertising β€œfrankfurts” with sauerkraut or onions, ice-cold soft drinks, and pies for 5 cents on a rain-soaked wharf. Ca. 1939. P. D. Wikimedia Commons.