First Reprint or Another November Story

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I didn’t plan for several of my stories to hit the market in November, but here we are. The first reprint I ever submitted was accepted by the good folks at Smoking Pen Press for their time travel anthology. I like that the editors didn’t decide on a name for the anthology until they had selected the stories to include. That way they could see what common themes came through, and they found one. Nothing good seems to come from time travel, so they titled the anthology The Trouble with Time Travel.

My contribution is “Temporally Out of Service.” If you’ve followed this blog back to its beginning, you may recall this was the first story I every wrote. It was inspired by a misspelled sign I encountered on a hotel elevator. You guessed it, that’s where the story title comes front. If you like sci-fi time travel or private detective noir or both, this is the story for you!

After the rights reverted to me last year, I happened to see this publisher’s call for time travel stories. Since reprints were accepted, I took a chance. You know what they say, don’t self reject; and I’m glad I didn’t. You can purchase the eBook here from any of your favorite online retailers. A print version should be released in the coming weeks. If you’d like a little taste, read on.

***

Not really paying close attention to the clerk beyond learning which way the woman went, I raced past the desk and headed down the hall.  I hurried by the business center on the right and then what appeared to be a tiny fitness center immediately after.  I next passed the elevator.  It was in a recessed alcove on the left with a sign taped to the door, still fluttering a little as if someone had rushed by.  On the other side of the elevator was the door to the stairs.  At the end of the hall was the south entrance, the one I did not have a view of earlier. 

All was quiet, so where did she go?  I poked my head into the stairwell.  Nothing.  No footsteps racing up the stairs.  No doors to other floors above slamming open or closed.  I opened the door to the outside and scanned the area.  Nothing.  I backtracked down the hall to peer into the business and fitness centers.  Nothing.  I started to worry I would have to go door to door and floor to floor to track her down.

Not wanting to make that scene quite yet, I retraced my steps one more time to the end of the hall.  This time when I reached the elevator I read the sign attached to the door.

TEMPORALLY

OUT OF SERVICE

THX,

MGMT

“Temporally?” I asked aloud.  “The staff can’t even spell ‘temporarily.’”  I was about to launch into a long mental diatribe about the sad state of the public education system when I noticed the sign and entire elevator door had the same sheen that had covered everything in the parking lot earlier.  If you would ask me years later why I did what I did next, I’d tell you I don’t know.  But I did it.  I pushed the UP button.  The doors opened.  I walked in, and the doors closed.

November Stories

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Many of you may be knee deep in NaNoWriMo this month. If you’re already waist deep, congratulations! I’m probably ankle deep at the moment.

For those looking to take a break, I would like to share the release of a couple of my stories. The first, “The Sea Lords Script”, previously had been published by Ash Tales. I noticed not too long ago that the story had disappeared from the publisher’s website, which was a huge disappointment. Then I get an email saying they were converting to a podcast format, and my story had been narrated and was live. Even better! You can listen here. The publisher said several kind words about the story at the start, which I am grateful for. I think he understood what I was attempting to capture with the story. A little post-apocalyptic humor anyone?

The second is a horror story title “Shadow” that I shopped around for a while, and I am glad it has found a home in the anthology Night Terrors Vol. 6. The anthology will be released on Monday, November 9, but you can pre-order it for $0.99 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited. Below is an excerpt ending on a cliffhanger that hopefully wets your appetite for more. If you do end up buying, please leave a review on Amazon, whether good, bad, or indifferent. It all helps the metrics.

***

The house is dark as Michael pulls into the garage. It is the night of Heather’s birthday party at Bria’s. The house should be ablaze as Heather gets ready. Instead, Michael opens the door leading into the kitchen and enters total darkness, at least immediately. After being under the bright lights of the garage, Michael’s eyes have trouble adjusting. He flips the light switch to his left. Nothing. He tries again. “Great, something else to add to my list,” he mumbles, not wanting Heather to hear and possibly ruin her mood for the party. “Hey, Heather, where are you, and why is it so dark?”

“In here, honey,” utters a faint voice from the bedroom.

The curtains are still open, so there is some ambient light making its way inside. Michael feels grateful for even this small a blessing as it allows him not to trip over the numerous dog toys strewn all over the floor on his way to the bedroom. The bedroom is another matter. Those curtains are drawn. He can’t see a thing.

“Where in here?” Michael tries the bedroom’s light switch. This one doesn’t work either. Did they have a power surge that tripped a breaker? The garage lights work, but maybe they are on a different circuit. He will have to go check.

“In here,” the voice insists, more persistent this time.

“Are you in the closet?” Michael takes a couple of steps deeper into the darkness of the bedroom. “What are you doing in there? Are you ready for the party? Here, let me turn my phone’s flashlight on. I don’t think our lights are working.”

As Michael digs in his pants pocket for his phone, a silhouette appears in the bedroom door behind him. Finally pulling the phone out, he activates the flashlight and shines it into the closet. The silhouette silently moves closer.

“I thought you said you were in the closet,” Michael replies, after finding the space empty. “I know you’re turning 30, but that’s no reason to act all morbid.” The silhouette extends a black appendage toward Michael and grabs him on the shoulder. “I said I’m right here.”


3Q20 Update

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Another light quarter, despite more staying-at-home. Let’s see where I ended up.

  • Words written = 3450
  • Submissions = 28
  • Rejections = 18
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 0
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

The good news is I tripled my word output. The bad news is that’s not saying much when the prior benchmark was about 1100 words. The words last quarter were devoted to two new short/flash stories. The in-laws visited for a week, and all of a sudden I was able to be productive. If it weren’t for the End Times, that could happen more often, which my productivity would welcome.

The fourth quarter includes NaNoWriMo where I traditionally have my greatest output for the year. I’m hoping to continue that streak. My goal is to complete the work-in-progress by the end of the year. I still don’t know if the WIP will end up novel length or something shorter. After letting it sit since the Before Times, I’ve already started rereading it to familiarize myself with the work again.

I also won a registration to an upcoming virtual writing conference that included a slot to pitch an agent. The agent I was assigned doesn’t appear to be interested in my WIP’s genre but is interested in picture books and middle grade books. I have several of the former completed, and one of the latter started. Having never pitched an agent before, I needed to figure out what I am pitching. Then, I need to figure out how to pitch it.

The number of submissions and rejections last quarter weren’t my best but still serviceable. I need 34 submissions in the fourth quarter to reach my goal of 100 for the year. I haven’t hit that number of submissions in a quarter since the second quarter of 2019. I’m hoping to start submitting soon the two stories drafted last quarter. Fresh stories always increase the submissions number (and by extension the rejections number).

I was pleased my streak of one acceptance a quarter continued. I’m also hoping the single hold I received turns into an acceptance this quarter. The editor asked for a rewrite, which I happily obliged, and am waiting for the final decision. In the interim, that market solicited submissions for its next issue from presumable past and pending (since I received the email) contributors. The problems are it’s a genre I don’t dabble in often and a length I don’t reach that often any more (3-7k words). So I don’t have anything that’s a ready fit. I do have a story idea that would fit genre-wise and likely will be the right length, but I doubt I’ll have enough time to complete it before the submission deadline later this month, especially since I’m focusing on the agent pitch the first part of the month.

On the flip side, my streak of one publication a quarter ended. I had a work slated to be published in September, which would have continued the streak, but the published delayed the release until 2021. At least I’ll have that to look forward to. I have one more publication in the works, the sole acceptance last quarter, but there is no release date yet.

That was my July through September. Now it’s time to win over an agent with an as-yet-unselected-work and then attempt to finish a novel. No biggies.

How’d you do last quarter?

Incorporating Social Distancing in Writing

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I’ve debated this since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Should I incorporate social distancing elements in my writing? Should characters wear masks and stay 6 feet apart? Should they never greet each other with a physical gesture like a handshake or hug? Should more than one character even be in the same room together? Or do I ignore all that and write as if life is back to the old normal?

Stories always represent a snapshot in time. Whether it’s the language used, the technology described, or the social norms of the characters, stories inevitably date themselves. As a science fiction writer, many of my stories occur in the future; so outdated tech usually isn’t an issue. But my characters speak and use early 21st century vocabulary and not the words, or even a separate language, developed between now and when the story takes place. And say I’m writing about a colony ship hurtling toward a new planet. What about the crew’s composition? If written 100 years ago, the crew likely would have been all male and white. Not today, at least not for me. I purposefully include an ensemble cast consisting of both sexes and multiple races and ethnicities.

Whether we like it or not, our writing dates us. Wouldn’t including elements of social distancing simply further date an already dated work? Or do such elements go too far? Or would we prefer our fiction to be just that, a fictional escape from reality? Would we rather not be reminded of this unusual and difficult time we are living through?

So far I’ve written two short stories during the pandemic. Neither one includes social distancing concepts, but I thought about doing so both times. I ultimately rejected doing so because it would have interfered with the story. For example, one story takes place at an academic conference. Those are all cancelled for the foreseeable future, so that would have killed the story. The climax wouldn’t quite have the same dramatic impact if it was a virtual conference.

There is no right answer, but I’m curious. How have you treated social distancing in your writing? Let me know in the comments.

My Daughter is a Published Author!

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For NaNoWriMo the last two years, I’ve challenged my daughter to write a book while I worked on my novel. Though only 4 years old the first year, she completed the challenge both times, whereas her father has yet to finish his first novel.

Her first book was called The Little Witch about, you guessed it, a little witch. She enjoyed it so much, she immediately wrote a second book called The Head Monster. This one you might guess was about the leader of some sort of monster group. This time you would have guessed wrong. Instead, the book was about a monster, who only had a head! I thought this book was awesome. Unfortunately, we can’t find the book she wrote during last year’s NaNoWriMo, nor can we remember the title.

One thing these books all had in common was my daughter drew the pictures but had to dictate the story to her parents. This year she started kindergarten and began the process of learning to read and write. Then quarantine shut down schools. Many aspects of her education took a hit with the move to virtual learning, but her reading and writing didn’t. Both have improved dramatically. So much so, she wanted to work on another book and write the text herself this time.

Also, during this time, I was submitting a series of stories to a flash fiction market, Smokelong Quarterly. While doing so, I discovered this market accepts stories written by children that are posted on the publication’s website in a series called Fridge Fiction. So I submitted her quarantine work. To all of our delight, her story called Who Will Win the Race? was accepted. Yep, not only was she accepted by a market I have yet to crack, she was accepted on her first try. (No, I’m not jealous. Why would you think that?)

You can read her story here. Congratulations, Amara! (I’m taking credit for the awesome author photo.)

Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to work on my next story in the hopes of getting my own acceptance rate up.

Image via Pixabay.

2Q20 Update

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I did better getting this quarterly update out much sooner than last quarter.  I’m still busy at home working the ole 9-5 or what sometimes becomes 8a-9p.  Regardless, below is what I managed to squeeze in this quarter.

  • Words written = 1146
  • Submissions = 27
  • Rejections = 21
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

After setting a new low for my written word total in 1Q20, I did it again last quarter.  And most of those few words were added to existing stories as part of revisions to get them out the door to new markets.

Those of us with small children have not found stay-at-home orders to be relaxing or productive. If you are in the same boat, I sympathize. If you are one of the lucky ones with no kids or older, self sufficient kids, I secretly despise am jealous of you.

On a more positive note, I doubled my number of submissions (and rejections) from last quarter.  Several flash fiction markets, which had been closed, opened again, and I took advantage.

I’ve already written about my short story publication this past quarter here.  This story means a lot to me. It’s YA/middle grade, and I borrowed my oldest daughter as the main character. Also, the editor, who ended up accepting it, originally asked for a rewrite (my first). I was intimidated by the prospect and took nearly a week to get back to the editor, likely jeopardizing my chances of eventual acceptance. The editor later stated she was holding a space for my story and was running up against her own deadline. That allowed me only a few short days to do the rewrite. I was fortunate, this time.  Lesson learned: get back to editors more quickly!

That’s half the year behind us.  How was your productivity during quarantine last quarter?

Acceptances 2.0

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Acceptances are what it’s all about, right? Whether you’re shopping a novel to an agent or publisher, or like me, shopping short stories to various markets, it’s all about being accepted. (Really, for me who does not write for a living, it’s about validation; but we can explore that another time.)

My goal for the year, as with prior years, was to receive four acceptances. I’m pleased to say I’m already there. With two acceptances by token markets and two more by non-paying markets, I’ve reached my four. I must say I’m grateful and surprised. Last year was a little sparse on the acceptance front.

I’ve already blogged about my first set of acceptances from the two non-paying markets this year here. Both can be read for free. Check out the links on my Publications page.

The two more recent acceptances are from token markets. The first is Spaceports and Spidersilk. The editor for this one provided my very first rewrite request. I was pleased that she gave me the opportunity to transform my work into what she was looking for. I took on the challenger, and it apparently worked because she accepted the revised story.  I also think the revised version is a better story. Writers rarely like to admit it, but editors often know what they are talking about. 

My story in Spaceports and Spidersilk is a young adult science fiction piece. You can purchase the entire issue here directly from the publisher. It’s also available through Amazon and can be found on my Author Central Page.

The last acceptance is a story I had written for a very specific prompt from another market. Needless to say, that market rejected it. After reworking the story and shopping it elsewhere, I’m pleased Frostfire Worlds accepted it for the September issue. I’ll post a link to that issue on my Publications page when available. If you enjoy humorous sci-fi, this is the story for you.

So there you have it. Two more acceptances, and the year is but half over. I’d love to double that up. My output has fallen off this year, but I continue to submit what I have. None of the four accepted this year were new works. I just need to continue to make the rounds with what I have and attempt to supplement those with more stories as time, and ideas, permit.  (I’d also take an acceptance from a semi-pro or pro market, but I’ve always treated this journey as a marathon and not a sprint.)

How goes your acceptances journey this year? Let me know in the comments.

1Q20 Update

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I am way behind on posting my quarterly update.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those people faced with boredom as life moved completely online.  If anything, it’s been the opposite.  Really, that is an excuse applicable only to March, but let’s see how I did for the entire quarter.

  • Words written = 2230
  • Submissions = 11
  • Rejections = 12
  • Acceptances = 3
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

That word amount is the lowest I’ve written in a quarter since I started seriously writing in 2017.  I took on a third volunteer position at the start of the year that has eaten even more into my free time.  Still, that’s not a great excuse.  I will be the first to admit I have not made writing a priority.  I’ll discuss that more below.

The submissions, and by extension the rejections, are down by about half.  At this rate, I will not make my goal of 100 submissions in 2020.  I need to pick that up.  I have plenty of unpublished stories.  I just haven’t spent the time needed to research markets and submit to them.  I don’t have an excuse for that either.  The Authors Publish Magazine sends an email every month listing numerous markets open to submissions that month.  I recommend signing up for their emails.  It’s a valuable (and free!) resource.

The best part of my quarterly numbers is the three acceptances and two publications!  I set as a goal only four acceptances for all of 2020, and I’m already almost there.  That’s incredible, and I am grateful for each of those markets.  I’ve listed them on my Publications page.

Of the three, the one that has not yet been published is my first pro sale!  For those who have followed me from the beginning, my overarching goal is to become a full member of the Science Fiction Writers of America.  For short story writers, such as myself, that requires three pro-sales.  Now, I’m 1/3 of the way there!  Hey, I’ll take it.

For 2Q20, I’d like to write more, you know, actually make writing a priority.  I expect my volunteer positions to quiet down over the summer months, though that may be more true in 3Q20.  Regardless, it’s time for my annual pivot back to the WIP novel anyway.  I’d really like to finish a first draft of that by the end of the year and not rely on this year’s NaNoWriMo to do so.

I’d also like to get submissions up.  I don’t know if I can make up for lost time to reach 100 on the year, but I’ll give it the ole college try.

That was my first quarter.  How was yours, especially during this strange time in which we live?

 

Acceptances = Free Stories

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Everyone likes free, right? Good! We’ll get to that.

But first, there’s the good news. I’ve had two flash stories accepted already this year. After missing my goal of one acceptance a quarter last year, I’m already 50% toward the same goal in 2020. Both are online only magazines, but I’m not complaining.  Both are fun publications, and I encourage you to read their content, after reading my stories first, of course.

The first of the two to be published, The Sea Lords Script, went live today at Ash Tales. This is a market devoted to post-apocalyptic stories.  I got the idea for my tale while on vacation in Luxembourg last year. Not wanting to spoil the story, I’ll say I found inspiration in something that came with my daughters’ Kinder Eggs.

The second story, All Rhodes, will be posted March 13th by Fudoki Magazine, so mark your calendar. This market is dedicated to myths, legends, fairy tales, and the like. The story features the architect who designed the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, in ancient Greece. I did a project on the Seven Wonders way back in elementary school, and that has stuck with me to this day. I consider the story to be my first stab at historical fiction. While the architect and the Colossus of Rhodes were real, I took several historical liberties from there.

What do these two stories have in common? Besides my enjoying writing them, they both have comical twist endings. And best of all, both are/will be free to read!

2020 Goals

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Before getting to my 2020 goals, here are my numbers for the entire year.

  • Words written = 37,016
  • Submissions = 125
  • Rejections = 134
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 2

How does that compare to years past? The word count is way down and the lowest of the three years I’ve been writing. The submission total is almost identical to last year’s, while I have almost 30 more rejections in 2019. I had the same number of publications as 2018 but only a third of the acceptances (1 v. 3). The hold was my first, so I added that category in 2019.  Unfortunately, it eventually became a rejection.

The words written represent a hodgepodge of projects. In that 37,000, there were 12 flash fiction stories and one longer short story (about 5700 words). The rest went toward the work-in-progress novel and a short story I’m co-writing with a friend.

I was not pleased with the drop off in words written. I took on several more time consuming volunteer projects in 2019. Those ate into my writing time and will continue to do so into 2020. So I’m going back to my 2018 goal and see if I can’t hammer out 50,000 words in 2020. I already have 700 of those thanks to a flash fiction story idea that popped into my head on Monday.  Only 49,300 to go!

I’d like to stay at 100 submissions again. To do that, I think I’ll need some new material though. The old stories have made the rounds, and I’m running out of markets. I’m also toying with the idea of putting the old stories together into a collection this year. Now that will be a big project, but it will be great experience for when I want to self-publish the WIP.

I was more successful with my other goal in 2019: reading one book a month. Before kids, I’d read 2-3 books monthly but hadn’t had as much luck since. Last year, I not only had the goal of reading one a month but reading those books I already owned. Most of these reads were physical books, though I slipped in a few ebooks, again if I already owned them. I’m pleased to say I passed this goal and ended with 19 books read.

For 2020, I plan to do the same, except instead of one a month I plan to read several large tomes collecting dust on my shelves. These are the 1000+ pagers that are difficult to hold and impossible to carry around. I’ll set a goal of reading three of these and hopefully can slip a couple smaller ones in here and there.

That was my 2019 and my goals for 2020. How did you end last year, and where do you want to go this year?

4Q19 Update

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The start of the new year is the time to look back and see how I did in 2020 (like every other writer, am I right?).  But first I want to review how the fourth quarter went.

  • Words written = 9263
  • Submissions = 29
  • Rejections = 27
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 0
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 1

The word count is almost exactly my quarterly average for 2019, which is much lower than my 2018 average.  The submissions and rejections were slightly down from my 2Q19 and 3Q19 numbers but in line with 1Q19.  The lone withdrawal was an odd one.  The market withdrew my submission stating it was closing its doors.  It’s the second time I’ve had a submission turned away because the market went belly up.  That’s more disheartening than a straight up rejection.

Once gain I didn’t have any acceptances, which is starting to weigh on me.  I’ll get to whether I achieved my acceptances goal in the next post, but (spoiler alert) I didn’t.

Most of the words this quarter went to the work-in-progress novel and were written during NaNoWriMo.  Actually, all but 50 words went to that.  The last 50 went to a dribble I wrote and submitted to a contest on a whim.  It was fun and may look to do more of those.  I already had the idea for a longer story and simply reduced it to 50 words.  I’m not a fan of writing anything lengthy on my phone, but there I was one night in bed furiously tapping with my thumbs and counting words over and over.  I still hope to expand the story to a longer form.

Next week, I’ll recap how all of 2019 went and set those goals for 2020.  How’d you finish off 2019?

 

3Q19 Update

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Another quarter is down the drain (or up in smoke or has passed us by or insert your favorite saying here). Let’s see how I did.

  • Words written = 7383
  • Submissions = 32
  • Rejections = 44
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

You’ll see I added the new “Holds” category, since I receive my first of those this quarter. The words are down again (for the third straight quarter). The submissions are down slightly, but the rejections are up. I did finally have my first acceptance and publication of the year.

If you’ve read my (infrequent) posts this year, you know I’ve struggled to find the time to write. I’ve struggled to blog this year too. I find the two related. The more I wrote last year the more ideas that writing generated for blog posts.

After beating my 2018 words goal, I am no where near the pace needed to finish with that amount again with a fourth of the year left. I’ve gone from 1100 to 9300 to 7400 over the last three quarters. The numbers show that whatever I was doing before no longer worked, so I’m trying something new.

I’m attempting to steal 15 minutes a day to get 100-200 words down. I realize that’s not even a page a day, but it’s something. And I’ve made progress.

To get motivated, I reread the novel I started during last year’s NaNoWriMo. First, I had the disheartening discovery that I lost about 1600 words due to an errant backing up procedure. Once I cried a little, I set out to give the manuscript a once over. It needed it just to be readable. Due to the speed required to attempt NaNoWriMo, I had left numerous character and place name blanks simply because I couldn’t remember what I’d used before and I didn’t want to spend the few seconds to go back and look.

That initial polish also served as a reminder of what I’d written, which had mostly escaped me. It got me excited about the story again as well.

I’m happy to report the 15 minutes/100-200 words a day has worked pretty well. I still haven’t managed it every day, but I’ve managed to add about 5000 words already. I even managed to rewrite the lost 1600.

My goal is to sustain the 100-200 words at a time up to this year’s NaNoWriMo, and then see if I can do another 15,000-20,000 during NaNoWriMo like last year. I know some people write that in a week or two, and I say more power to them. I’d love to have time and motivation for that. I lack both currently, but I’m alright taking the tortoise approach. I’m only racing myself.

How have your goals gone with 3/4 of the year behind us? Let me know in the comments.

My First Hold Response

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My writing career is still new enough that I continue to rack up a series of firsts. Earlier this month was my first published Drabbel. Now comes my first hold-for-further-consideration response!

You know, that response from a publisher that is not quite an acceptance but also not quite a rejection. I finally received one. For some reason, I find that response nonetheless a cause to celebrate. My story made it through at least one round of review and is still in the running to be published. Given my dearth of accepted stories this year, I’ll take it.

Of course, there is no guarantee the story will be accepted. Also, the publisher gave no timeline for when a decision will be made. That leaves things in limbo, which is not always the best feeling. I’m willing to deal with that though. Several publishers have rejected this story since I started submitting it last year, so I’m pleased to be one step closer to finding it a home.

There was something a little different about this submission. I don’t generally reread a story following a rejection before sending it to the next market. This time I did. This market had a lower word limit, so I needed to trim about 100 words. Normally that is not an issue. This time was a challenge. The story was already fairly short, and after rereading it, I realized the language was fairly tight as well. But I did it, and as usual when I’m forced to cut from a story, it is better for for it. I especially like this one as it’s one of my humorous stories. It had been so long since I read it, the story was new enough to me to laugh at several parts. That’s a good sign!

Have you had any writing firsts lately?  Let me know in the comments.

My First Drabble

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It’s been a while since I had a publication to announce, so I’m pleased to share one. Today, The Drabble published my drabble (an exactly 100-word story). Check it out here.

Thanks goes to my oldest daughter for the story idea.  I had just heard about drabbles as a type of story and was looking for inspiration.  She stepped up one weekend while we were doing laundry.

I hope you enjoy it!