Reprints, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

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When I first started writing – all of four years ago – I didn’t give much thought to reprints. I didn’t even know what a reprint was. I should have though. I own a bunch. Every anthology of classic science fiction stories I’ve bought through the years contains nothing but reprints. I had no idea at the time, but all those stories had appeared previously, likely in the pulp magazines during the Golden Age of Science Fiction. (As an aside, I’m currently reading Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee; so this era is very much on my mind.)

As a novice short story writer, acceptances still don’t come all that often. I’m sitting at a baker’s dozen at the moment. When a publisher accepts a story, I’m elated. I promote the release. And I move on, primarily focusing on writing new material and continuing to submit my other stories that still need a home.

Maybe I should rethink that after my most recent acceptance. The good folks at Metastellar: Speculative Fiction and Beyond accepted my reprint “Cramping Your Style” for publication on August 18. For those keeping county, I’ve submitted a total of two reprints one time each; and both have been accepted. That means I’m batting 1.000 on reprint submissions. Gotta like that average.

“Cramping Your Style” is a middle grade soccer story with a speculative twist. If you want to read it for free, come back on the 18th. I’ll have a link to the story on my Publications page. And give some love to MetaStellar on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mag_meta, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MetaStellarMagazine, and on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MetaStellar.

2020 Update and 2021 Goals

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Last time, I caught up on my 4Q20 results. Now, let’s dive into how I did for all of 2020.

  • Words written = 34,027
  • Submissions = 91
  • Rejections = 82
  • Acceptances = 5
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 4
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

I also had a couple rewrite requests, one of which also was the lone “hold for further consideration,” and both of which turned into two of those five acceptances.

Let’s be honest; that first number isn’t great. That’s the second year in a row my total words written has decreased, setting a new low again in 2020 by about 3000 words.

Both the number of submissions and rejections were down as well when compared to prior years. The number of rejections were particularly low. I noted several markets were slower in 2020 reviewing submissions. Hey, those editors were living through a pandemic too, with all the issues that came with it. On the brighter side, I set highs in acceptances and publications. Can’t complain about that. And one of those acceptances should be published this year after a COVID-delay at the publisher.

How do those results compare to the goals set in January? I didn’t reach 50,000 words (again) and didn’t reach 100 submissions (for the first time). I did average at least one acceptance a quarter plus one! I would gladly trade fewer submissions for more acceptances.

Now for the hard part, what goals to set for 2021. I’m going with a lower 30,000 word goal. I want to focus on editing, at least at the start of the year. I have that middle grade book and several stories to go through from NaNoWriMo. Coincidentally, my fellow Northern Virginia Writers Club member, Darius Jones, who blogs over at Inside the Writer’s Mind, set a similar editing goal. Then I want to finally turn back to my work-in-progress novel, which I haven’t looked at in a year, and continue adding to my memoir. I find the latter fun and easy to write and therefore a welcome distraction when other projects get bogged down.

I’ll keep the submissions goal at 100 again. A couple stories were slow to get out last year after I finished them, which I think kept my submissions down. I need to do better at getting freshly edited stories out the door.

Then there is my reading goal. I like to include this since one of those pieces of advise you always hear is to be a good writer you have to be a good reader. For 2020, I set a goal of reading three 1000+ page tomes. What was I thinking? I got through one, and it took me from January to August, though I took a month break in the middle to read the stack of magazines that had built up. I also read (or listened to) eight other books. That latter number surprised me, so I’ll take it.

This year I’m scaling back the tomes. I’m going with reading one 1000+ pager. Then, I’ll add in another eight normal size books. That should allow me to make progress on the stack next to my nightstand that never seems to get smaller plus have room to squeeze in a couple new discoveries.

Now I’m ready to tackle 2021. How about you? Were you as productive as you hoped during the pandemic? What goals did you set for the new year?

4Q20 Update

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It’s that time of year when the writers in blog land update how they did during the prior year. Like last year, I plan to split this topic into two parts. Below is how I did in the fourth quarter. Next time I’ll write about my 2020 totals, how those compared to my 2020 goals, before finishing with my 2021 goals. Got to think about those last things though.

First, here are the numbers for 4Q20.

  • Words written = 27,201
  • Submissions = 25
  • Rejections = 31
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

I had a monster quarter word-wise. Looking back, that’s the most I’ve written in any quarter since I started this writing journey. NaNoWriMo was good to me. I flew through writing the middle grade book that was my goal for NaNoWriMo. Since I still had eight days left in November, I hammered out two flash stories and one 2000 word short story. By then I had run out of ideas that I had developed. I’m not a pantser. Though I have numerous other story ideas, I like to develop them before sitting down to write. So I started working on my memoir. Those events already happened; no need to develop them.

Finally, for good measure, in December, I wrote a 3000 word story in response to a prompt for the December meeting of the Northern Virginia Writers Club. The prompt was to take a character from one of my existing works and put the character in a holiday setting. I got carried away and took a story idea I already had and wrote a story mirroring A Christmas Carol. Might as well borrow from a classic.

I had no acceptances this quarter, which broke my streak of at least one acceptance a quarter. That was the biggest disappointment. I did have two stories published, which is always a thrill. “Temporally Out of Service” (my first published reprint) was included in the anthology The Trouble with Time Trouble, and “Shadow” found its way into Night Terrors Vol. 6. The editors of the latter were so encouraged by the reader responses that they invited authors to submit for an upcoming volume. I took advantage and sent in a horror short story I had written over the summer but hadn’t finalized until being motivated by this submission call. Hopefully, that will lead to my first acceptance of 2021. A writer can dream.

That was my fourth quarter, a strong end to a strange, strange year. How did you end the oddest year of our lifetime?

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.”