So close

fountain pen on notepad

I received this in the ol’ email inbox this afternoon.

Thank you very much for your sto­ry, and for let­ting us hang on to it for as long as we did. The piece has received more than one read, as our first read­er enjoyed it a great deal. Due to our cur­rent (the­mat­ic) pub­li­ca­tion needs, how­ev­er, we are unable to place this story.


Although we can’t use your work at this time, we thank you for think­ing of us and encour­age you to sub­mit again in the future.

The fun­ny thing is, they did­n’t tell me which sto­ry they were reject­ing, and I could­n’t remem­ber what I’d sub­mit­ted to their mar­ket. (I also could­n’t find my ini­tial sub­mis­sion in my out­box, but that was less sur­pris­ing; a lot of mar­kets these days are using Sub­mit­table or Mok­sha or some oth­er online sub­mis­sion gateway.)

Thank heav­ens for The Sub­mis­sions Grinder. I did a quick search on the mar­ket name, and found that, yes, I had sub­mit­ted a piece to them, wa-a-a-ay back in June 2020. Their sub­mis­sions page said that they don’t gen­er­al­ly send out rejec­tions, so if you did­n’t hear in about three months, assume you were not one of the lucky ones. I had assumed that, since Sep­tem­ber came and went with no word, that I was not one of the lucky ones.

Turns out I was right, but it seems I came clos­er than I thought.

Oh well. Once more unto the breach and all that. At least they liked the sto­ry; with form rejec­tions it can be very hard to tell.

PS: If you’re a writer and you’re not using The Sub­mis­sions Grinder, I strong­ly rec­om­mend you at least look into it.

Rejection → Rewrite

A torch burning in the dark

At the start of Decem­ber I heard about an anthol­o­gy look­ing for sto­ries on the theme of “Dere­licts”. The dead­line was tight—stories had to be sub­mit­ted by Dec. 31st—but I real­ized I had a sto­ry and so I slammed it out. I wrote 7,500 words about a colony world with a medieval-Iceland–influenced society—stratification into thrall, carl, jarl, and roy­al class­es, for instance—that had been set­tled by a swarm of faster-than-light colony ships. They were sur­prised when, two cen­turies after the colony was estab­lished, a very old, slow­er-than-light ves­sel showed up. They were even more sur­prised to dis­cov­er this new ship was emp­ty, except, per­haps, for a ghost.

I sent the sto­ry off on about Dec. 29th, and this past week I got the rejec­tion note. The anthol­o­gy received 1,400 sub­mis­sions, and could take only 20 sto­ries. The odds were not in my favour.

But—after a few min­utes of unhappiness—I’m OK with this sit­u­a­tion. The sto­ry was a tight fit at 7,500 words. There’s more to tell, I think, things I was forced to elide to fit the word-count lim­it. And I was nev­er real­ly hap­py with the title, either. I called it “The Smoke” but that felt like a place­hold­er title.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, as they say, and I’ve decid­ed to dig into that. The new title is “Praise the Torch When ‘Tis Burned”, which ties into the Icelandic/Norse feel­ing I’ve got going on: One of the poems in the Poet­ic Edda is the Hávamál, the “Say­ings of Odin”, which fea­tures a stan­za that I’ve loved since I first read it: 

At evening praise the day, a torch¹ when burned,
A weapon when tried, a maid at wed­lock,
Ice when over it, ale when it is drunk.

It’s a very “don’t count your chick­ens till they hatch” piece of writ­ing. I have adopt­ed “Praise ice when over it” into my list of pre­ferred proverbs, part­ly for its wis­dom and part­ly because, where I live, you’re dri­ving on ice at least four months of the year.

So my plans for the next draft of this story:

  • New title
  • New focus
  • Improved world-build­ing

Wish me luck!

Pho­to by Igor Lep­ilin on Unsplash.

¹ Some trans­la­tions have it as “a woman when burned” or “a woman on her pyre”, and I don’t feel I’m the author to explore that.

A colourful day

Pink flamingos on the lawn

Today was Kath­leen’s birth­day. I ordered up a flock­ing from the local Kins­men club, and so this morn­ing, before dawn, two dozen plas­tic pink flamin­gos showed up on my lawn.

Pink flamingos on the lawn
In the chill of Jan­u­ary, a burst of ludi­crous trop­i­cal pink.

Then, tonight, my phone buzzed: there was a strong pos­si­bil­i­ty of auro­ra. So I grabbed my gear and drove out of town, where I found it was cold and very bright under a near­ly-full moon. There was indeed auro­ra, right at the edge of vision, but the moon washed it out quite a bit.

Faint aurora to the north
I processed the heck out of it, and you can still only just see a faint smear of green.

But I did find a new loca­tion for star trails, to be filed away for a warmer, dark­er night, so at least there’s that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I might need a hot chocolate.


The half-moon

There’s half a moon in the sky tonight. I snapped some quick pho­tos from my deck. It’s a bit chilly so I did­n’t spend much time out there.

The half-moon

Nerdy details: 1/100 sec­ond expo­sure, ISO 100, 250mm, f/5.6, hand­held. Pho­to was cropped and the colours tweaked a lit­tle bit in GIMP.


Frosty branches

It was a misty Man­i­to­ba morn­ing¹, but then the clouds cleared about 11 AM and the sun came out. I grabbed my cam­era and head­ed out at noon to see what I could see.

Which of these three do you pre­fer? I can’t choose.

¹ I hon­est­ly thought that was the name of the song, but I was wrong.