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POINT OF VIEW: Crashing Back to Earth

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Two weeks ago today, “Ithani” hit the stands. Well, not so much the stands as the ‘zons and ‘nobles and ‘spinners of the virtual world.

It started out amazingly, with five-star reviews – deep, insightful ones that made me cry and feel like I had finally figured this whole writing gig out. I sold some books, and basked in the praise.

I even asked Angel to call me a “soulless, derivative hack”, to help bring me down a few pegs from those shining heights. It’s never good for your writing when you become overly confident, and sometimes you need life to step in remind you that there’s still a lot more to learn.

Well, mission accomplished.

I am trying to make it into the Science Fiction Writer’s Association (SFWA), and one of the ways to do so is to get published in one of the big sci fi mags. I figured I got this – I’m a fantastic writer (everybody says so), and I write really unique stuff.

How hard could it be?

My first short story submission, “Chinatown,” is still pending, but my second one, “The Last Run,” was ready to go on Friday, so I sent it out to one of the esteemed sci fi magazines on my list.

It’s not that I actually expected them to take it. I mean, it’s only my second shot at this, and I know how many folks submit to these places. I hoped they would, though. At the least, I figured I’d hear back in a month or so – a good time for them to truly consider the amazingness of my story – and then if they said no, I’d move on to the next magazine on the list.

As I mentioned above, life has a way of upending our expectations.

Sixteen hours after I submitted my story, I got this:

“Thank you very much for letting us see “The Last Run.” We appreciate your taking the time to send it in for our consideration. Although it does not suit the needs of the magazine at this time, we wish you luck with placing it elsewhere.”


Fear not, dear reader. This is NOT going to be one of those posts bellyaching about why a publisher didn’t take my story. They have their own styles and space and needs, and I get that “The Last Run” didn’t fit them for one reason or another.

Instead, it’s a chance for me to sit back and reflect on where I am as a writer.

I have grown comfortable in the queer romance and queer sci fi niches, with my name becoming fairly well known in those circles. It’s rare anymore that I get out-and-out rejected these days. More often, I either get accepted, or I get a note that the publisher likes the story but wants x, y, and z changes.

I seem to have gotten a little bit spoiled.

But the mainstream sci fi market is a new one for me. I have few friends or contacts there. Few folks in that space know who I am. To them, I’m just another face in the horde of sci fi writers that submit to them every month.

So while being rejected with a form letter reply – after just 16 hours!!! – stung (Why don’t you love me? Waaah), it also reminded me that in many ways I am starting out fresh in this new market. It’s like being a newbie writer, all over again.

What’s different this time around is that I actually know how to write. I have spent the last five years honing my skills – I am not going into this battle unarmed.

And this rejection also reminded me that, as good as those skills may be, there’s still more to learn.

So I’m crashing to Earth right now, sure. But I’m also dusting myself off and shooting back up into the sky like a phoenix and…

Well, ok, I stretched that metaphor as far as it will go. Big picture, I’m not giving up like I did last time I tackled this mountain, and failed.

To my writer friends, what humbling experience set you back, and what did you learn from it?

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