Rejections: The Bad Beats

A question I’m often asked with regards to my blog is: Do rejections still bother you? The answer is largely no, they don’t. Form rejections, especially, barely register anymore, and at this point, they are little more than a notification to send the story somewhere else. That said, I’m not immune to rejection woes, it just takes a particular kind of rejection to pierce my thick rejecotmancer hide.

These more potent rejections I call “bad beats,” a term you often hear in poker to describe a situation where a player has a good hand but still loses. Bad-beat rejections typically follow the same pattern: you submit a story, receive a further consideration letter, often with positive feedback attached, wait weeks to months for a decision, then, ultimately, get a rejection. More often than not, the rejection will mention that your story made it to the final round of voting or something of that nature.

Here’s an example of a bad-beat rejection I recently received.

Thank you for your submission and patience. However, we’ve decided to pass on this one. It was a very tough decision to make.

We’ve received over XXX submissions, and your story made it to the final ballot. The main reason for rejections is that we had to find the best ghost/creature/human-horror/literary/fantastical story out of the bunch. We didn’t want to print too many stories with the same theme/sub-genre.

Since you made it to the final ballot please know that we sincerely look forward to reading more fiction—short or long—from you in the future.

This rejection was preceded by a further consideration letter where the editor expressed how much he liked the story, so, as you can guess, I had my hopes up a bit more than usual. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not angry (because that would be silly) nor do I believe the editor made a “bad” decision. When you edit a magazine or anthology, you have to make tough choices, and that often means rejecting stories you like. It’s disappointing, but it’s the kind of disappointment that comes with a narrow miss, not the soul-crushing despair that makes you question whether you have any business calling yourself a writer to begin with. I’ve left that kind of disappointment behind. Well, you know, mostly.

Of course, in many ways, this is a good rejection. I’ve got a story I feel confident about submitting elsewhere, and this particular publisher wants to see more work. All that is entirely positive. Still, I wanted this one pretty bad because it’s a story I like a lot, and this would have been a great vehicle to share it with the world. Bad beat or no, it’s time to send that story out again.

Got any bad beats you’d like to share? Tell me about them in the comments.

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 10 Update

Now that the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock is complete, I’m busy doing my initial read-through and proof. These updates will change a little from the ones you’ve been reading, and we’ll focus more on the revision and editing process. In addition, I’ll bring to light some other goodies in the near future, like the cover art and longer excerpts.

Okay, here’s what I got up to in week ten.

Progress: I made it through 150 manuscript pages in my first read-through/proofing run. I’ve got about 270 left to go, which I’ll finish this week.

The Best Part: Hey, it’s not terrible. So, here’s the thing; you write the first draft of novel in a vacuum of sorts (usually), with little outside input. After months of work, you end up with a giant manuscript, and a lingering question: What the hell did I just write? I always begin my initial read-through with a strong sense of trepidation—fear, really—that what I’ve written is a train wreck of epic proportions. Then, I get about twenty pages in, and I feel better because it’s not a train wreck. It’s not perfect, sure, but all the preparation I did with the outline has paid off, and the story is more or less what I’d hoped it would be. Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of fine-tuning left to do, but I’m happy with the first draft so far.

The Hard Part: How the hell did I miss that? So, while the first draft might not be a train wreck, it is currently riddled with mistakes I’m fixing as I go along. Most of these are garden-variety continuity errors, both story and setting, which are unavoidable in a story this size. I’m talking about stuff like, oh, right, Khador spell runes are blue (I always want to make them red), or, wait a minute, which of Magnus’ arms in mechanikal? Now, there’s no way I’ll catch all of these, but I’m confident the editorial team at Privateer will catch the rest (and a hundred other things).

Mini Excerpt: Today’s mini-excerpt focuses again on one of the antagonists in the story, Assault Kommander Strakhov, and some of his more specialized troops. Today’s concept art features Strakhov’s favorite soldiers, the Assault Kommandos, of which there are many in the book.

assault-kommando



Strakhov walked down the short corridor that held the citadel’s prison cells. There were six, but only two were occupied. He could hear the battle below, though it did not concern him at the moment. The Resistance and their Cygnaran allies would almost certainly take the courtyard, as they were meant to, but gaining entrance into the citadel itself would be much more difficult.

Behind him came his aides-de-camp for this mission, a man and a woman who had distinguished themselves in combat many times over. They were nominally of the Assault Kommando Corps, though their black armor and the new Death Whisper carbines they carried indicated more specialized training. They had names and ranks, but such things were not particularly beneficial for the kind of work he called on them to do. He simply referred to the woman as Shepta, Whisper, and the man as Nev, Wrath.



Looks like Strakhov has some new heavy hitters. Wonder what they’re up to? More on that soon!

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the updates for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.

Multi-Sub Publishers: Skip or Submit?

Occasionally, you will run into literary or genre markets that accept multiple submissions, where you can submit two, three, or more stories at the same time. These markets are pretty rare in my experience, much rarer than markets that accept simultaneous submissions. In general, they also tend to publish shorter works, either flash fiction or poetry, but there are a few that will take full-length short stories at two or three at a time.

So, providing you have enough stories sitting around, should you send multiple submissions if a market accepts them? I say yes, and here are two reasons why.

  1. Shotgun analytics. If there’s a better way to get an idea of the kind of story a market is looking for (without reading every issue of their magazine), I don’t know what it is. For example, I recently submitted three flash stories to market that accepts multi-subs, and each one was markedly different in tone and content. Now, even all three get rejected, I feel like I’ll have a fairly good idea what they’re NOT looking for, and that will allow me to dial in my submissions next time. Update: I wrote this post a few days ago, and since then I’ve received two rejections from the market I mentioned earlier. I received one standard form rejection and one higher-tier form rejection with an invite to submit more work. That info at least points me in the general direction of what the editors might be looking for.
  2. Better odds. Sure, it’s possible that you send three stories that the editors hate, but I think you have a better chance at an acceptance or at least some solid feedback with multiple submissions. This kind of plays into my first point. If you send stories that are all fairly different, I think you stand a better chance at getting an editor’s attention with one of them, and, at the very least, getting some useful feedback.

Now, there are potential downsides to multiple submissions too. If you’re gonna send multiple submissions, you should be prepared for multiple rejections, maybe all in the same day. That can be a blow to the ol’ ego if they’re all form letters. Also, multi-sub publishers may not accept sim-subs, and if the publisher is particularly slow to respond, you could have two or more stories tied up for a while. Both are factors you should consider before hitting send.

Here are two good markets that accept multi-subs. I’ve sent submissions to both.

  • Flash Fiction Online: This market accepts everything: genre, literary, you name it. Like their name suggests, they only accept flash fiction between 500-1000 words. You cans send up to three stories at a time, and they accept reprints too. So you can mix you submissions between original fiction and reprint. They pay pro rates for originals (0.6/word) and less for reprints (.02/word).
  • Kaleidotrope: This is a semi-pro spec-fic market that accepts up to three short stories at a time. They’re a bit different in that they’ll accept stories up to 10,000 words.

What are your thoughts on multi-subs? Know of any good markets that accept them? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 9 Update

The first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock is complete. Well, complete-ish. More on that below.

Here’s my report card for week nine.

Progress: I wrote 5,864 words and ended on chapter 35. As I said above, the first draft of the novel is complete, but this is what I call my first, first draft. What that means is I still need to go back through the manuscript line by line, clean it up, fix the issues I know are there, and get it into shape for the handoff to Privateer Press. That’ll take me a week or two, but I’m still well ahead of deadline, so I have time to be thorough. The first, first draft sits at 95,303 words, and even though I need to add at least one scene, the manuscript will undoubtedly shrink a bit after I clean it up.

The Best Part: Finish line! When you’ve spent weeks banging away at a manuscript, watching it grow, watching it become something that actually resembles a novel, and then you get to the end and type that final word, it’s an awesome feeling of accomplishment. It’s fleeting, but it’s great while it lasts.

The Hard Part: Finish line?! Yeah, now the real work begins. First drafts are that raw process of creation, brain to fingertips, go, go, go! What you’re left with, usually, is something that gives you and the publisher a clear roadmap to the final product. There’s still a lot of dialing in that needs to happen with characters, with the plot, with the setting, and a dozen other things. Now, it’s your job as the writer to make the revision process as easy a possible, but no one, and I mean no one, gets it right in the first draft. So, there’s still a lot of work to do, but the first draft is a big milestone, and I’m thrilled to have reached it with another book.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini-excerpt focuses on one of my favorite secondary characters in the Acts of War series, the trollkin sniper Corporal Horgrum.  He’ a fun character because he’s got that fish-out-of-water thing going for him. Also, he’s a seven-foot blue-skinned chunk of muscle and sinew who uses a weapon that’s really more of shoulder-fired cannon than a true rifle. What’s not to love? Today’s concept art is not an exact depiction of Horgrum, but it’s a trollkin with a big gun, so those unfamiliar with the Iron Kingdoms can get a general idea.

trollkin-sluggers-1



It looked like the Khadorans were going to fight to the bitter end, then a single booming report rang out through the canyon, and one of the Man-O-War toppled forward, a smoking, fist-sized hole in his helmet. Stryker looked around for the shooter, and saw a tall, blue-skinned form he recognized atop the east wall of the canyon, smoke pouring from the muzzle of his mammoth rifle.

Horgrum’s shot had an immediate, demoralizing effect on the Khadorans. It took the fight out of them completely, and they threw down their weapons.

***

Also present were Sergeant Sharp and the trollkin sniper Horgrum. Stryker smiled at seeing the two; they were deadly efficient, but they amused him to no end.

“Hell of a shot, Corporal Horgrum,” Stryker said. “Looks like about four hundred yards, give or take.”

“473, sir,” the trollkin responded, adjusting the sight on his weapon. “Big target. Hard to miss.”



The trollkin sniper Private Horgrum and his human spotter/handler Sergeant Sharp were minor characters I included in the first book for a bit of flavor and fun, but people really seemed to dig them, so I expanded their role a bit in Aftershock. They definitely have more screen time, and they are involved in some pretty pivotal moments in the book. So, if you’re one of the folks who liked them in the first book, there’s even more to love in the second book.

So, what come next, now that the first draft is done? Well, I’ll keep doing these weekly updates, keeping you apprised on the revisions and offering more mini-excerpts. Down the line, we’ll get to more substantial excerpts, more character details, and cool stuff like the cover art and some goodies that are secret for the moment. So, stay tuned!

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the progress reports for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 8 Update

Eight weeks of steady writing has nearly brought me to the finish line on the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock. One more week ought to do it.

Here’s how I did for week eight.

Progress: I managed 11,282 words and ended on chapter 33. My total word count was just shy of 90,000 words, and I feel pretty confident saying the first draft will be about 95,000 words total. I’m very pleased with the pace I’ve maintained, and I’ll beat my deadline by a couple of weeks minimum. That’ll give Privateer Press more time to review the manuscript, which will in turn give me more time for revisions.

The Best Part: Plot twist! You always want the resolution of your story to be somewhat unexpected. That’s not to say it should come out of the blue, but a nice surprise reveal is fun for both reader and author. Last week, I was kind of struggling with my big reveal. I knew generally what it was going to be, but I couldn’t quite nail down the details. Then I had a conversation with Privateer Press CCO Matthew D. Wilson and lead designer Jason Soles, and it all fell into place. So, thanks guys. 🙂

The Hard Part: That’s just mean. Characters in my stories tend to suffer a bit, and I often catch myself thinking, “Oh, you poor, poor bastards,” when I’m writing a scene.  I’m not trying to be sadistic, but, you know, bad stuff happens. A lot of it comes down to stakes, in that a story needs to have them. The heroes often have to sacrifice life and limb in order to achieve their goals, beat the bad guys, save their friends, and so on. I try not to pull any punches with what my characters go through, and it’s not always physical pain that’s the worst of it. Psychological wounds can be just as awful, if not worse. Stryker’s horror and disgust over the use of devil’s gasp, a type of Iron Kingdoms WMD, in the first book is a good example of a character dealing with a terrible situation that tests his moral resolve rather than his physical limits.

Of course, sometimes characters do lose their lives, and, unfortunately, for the good of the story, I had to say goodbye to a character I really liked last week.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini-excerpt sees Asheth Magnus and Ashlynn d’Elyse knocking down doors, trying to find a very important character. Ashlynn uses Crash, her pet Mule (a type of warjack), to do the gatecrashing. Today’s concept art from Geoff Shupe depicts said gatecrasher.

mule



Crash, Ashlynn’s Mule, did justice to its namesake and slammed its shoulder into the first cell door, smashing it off its hinges. The cell was empty, and they moved to the one across from it. Crash battered this one down, and it, too, was empty.

The sounds of combat ahead grew in volume and ferocity, and Magnus saw Stryker was using Rowdy to plug the passageway while he and his men returned fire around the warjack. Strakhov would overwhelm them soon.

Crash smashed in the next cell door, and the slab of wood and steel landed inches from what Magnus thought was a corpse in a tattered gambeson. When the “corpse” raised its head, revealing a tangled beard and a face that seemed little more than a skull with a thin layer of skin stretched across it, he realized they’d found who they were looking for.

Ashlynn pushed past him into the cell, and Crash rumbled down the passageway to join the battle. “Legate di Morray?” Ashlynn said, using what Magnus assumed was the man’s title within his order.



Rescue mission? Who is this Legate di Morray? What else has Crash crushed in the course of the story? These questions and many more will be answered over the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned!

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the progress reports for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.

January 2017 Submission Statement

The first month of the new year has come and gone, and it was a fairly average submission month for me. I always feel like I should send more submission out, you know, because I totally should, but half a dozen ain’t terrible. Let’s dive in.

January 2017 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 6
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 1

Rejections

Five rejections this month. Two of them are for “Story X1,” a story whose journey through the submission process I’m documenting in the series Real-Time Rejection II: The Saga of “Story X1.”

Rejection 1: Submitted 12/5/16; Rejected 1/6/2017

Thank you for submitting “Story X1” to XXX. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it is a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

Super standard form rejection from a top-tier market. Not much to see here, but I discuss this particular rejection in more detail in this post.

Rejection 2: Submitted 1/6/17; Rejected 1/6/2017

Thank you so much for thinking of XXX. Unfortunately “Story X1” is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Another rejection for “Story X1.” Yep, this one is a same-day rejection and also was part of a multi-day rejection with the last letter. I admit, that shit used to bother me a lot more. Now? Not so much. My toughened rejectomancer hide is all but numb to the form rejection at this point. 🙂 Anyway, I discuss this rejection in more detail here.

Rejection 3: Submitted 1/14/17; Rejected 1/19/2017

Thank you for submitting “XXX” to our Flash Doom contest. We were very happy to see such high-quality submissions. The judging process is never easy, but this one was tougher than most.

Unfortunately, “XXX” was not selected for our Top 10, but we very much enjoyed the chance to read it.

Thanks so much for your participation. We couldn’t do these contests without you. 

This is a standard form rejection from The Molotov Cocktail for one of my three submissions to the Flash Doom contest. And, yes, they’re totally cool with me naming the publication here. They’re a great zine, and I have nothin’ but love for Molotov.

Rejection 4: Submitted 1/14/17; Rejected 1/19/2017

Thanks so much for entering our Flash Doom contest. As always, we had so many great entries.

Unfortunately, your entry “XXX” did not make it into our Top 10. However, we are happy to report that the piece did make it through several rounds of cuts and was still in consideration until the last stages of judging. As a result, we’ve given you a “Close But No Cigar” shout-out on our Flash Doom results page (https://themolotovcocktail.com/).

We encourage folks who didn’t quite make the cut to think about submitting those pieces for consideration in our regular issues (free to submit). We’ve published a good number of them that way in the past.

Thanks again for your participation, and for writing such an entertaining story.

Another rejection from The Molotov Cocktail for the Flash Doom contest. This one fell into the “close but no cigar” category, which makes this a higher-tier rejection, I suppose. I submit a lot of stuff to The Molotov Cocktail, and they publish a fair amount of it. How much? Ten stories so far.

Rejection 5: Submitted 1/21/17; Rejected 1/28/2017

Thank you for the opportunity to read “XXX”.  Unfortunately, the story didn’t fit our current needs.  Best of luck placing it elsewhere.  

This is a form rejection from a new market, one I hadn’t tried before. They’re an audio market that publish writers from the Pacific Northwest, so I figured I’d send them a reprint as an opening bid. Most audio markets are cool with reprints since they publish in an entirely different format, so they’re not really reprints to them. Anyway, I’ll send these guys more stuff in the future.

Rejection 6: Submitted 12/7/16; Rejected 1/31/2017

Thank you for the opportunity to read your story! Though “XXX” did make our final voting round, unfortunately we’ve found it is not a good fit for our upcoming issue.  We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere. We would love to see more from you in the future!

What we have hear is a nice, encouraging personal rejection from a pro-paying market. It’s always a bit of a bummer to know you got close to an acceptance but didn’t make the final cut. Still, this tells me the story might have legs and that I should send it out again as is, which I’m totally gonna do. I’ll also be sending this publication more of my work. Hey, they said they wanted to see more, right?

Acceptances

One acceptance in January from my old pals at The Molotov Cocktail.

Acceptance 1: Submitted 1/15/17; Accepted 1/19/2017

Congratulations! Your Flash Doom entry, “An Incident on Dover Street,” has made our Top 10 as an honorable mention. This means that it will be published in our upcoming Flash Doom mega-issue (to run on January 20th) and it will be included in our third annual Prize Winners Anthology print edition this fall.

You can check out where your entry specifically placed by visiting the site: https://themolotovcocktail.com/

Thanks so much for your participation in the Flash Doom contest and for writing such a kick-ass story. We’re honored to be able to feature it.

An honorable mention and a publication is good stuff, and this makes ten stories The Molotov Cocktail has published. I’m already gearing up for the next flash contest, Flash Rage.

Publications

One publications this month, the aforementioned Flash Doom entry “An Incident on Dover Street.”

Publication 1: 1/20/17

“An Incident on Dover Street” – The Molotov Cocktail

Another trunk story that started out as a flash fiction piece, was expanded into a short story (and rejected a few times), then shrunk down again into a flash piece again and submitted, accepted, and published with The Molotov Cocktail. A bit if weird path to publication for this one, but I’m thrilled it has found a home.


Well, that’s my January. How has the new year been treating you? Tell me about it in the comments.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 7 Update

Seven weeks on the board, and the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock is in the home stretch.

Here’s how week seven breaks down:

Progress: I wrote 12,040 words and ended on chapter 29. My total word count is near 80,000 words, and I feel pretty confident the first draft is going to be somewhere between 90,000 and 95,000. So, with a good push, I should complete the first draft by the end of this week. That’s about a month ahead of schedule, which will give me plenty of time to go back through the draft and clean it up before I hand it over to Privateer Press.

The Best Part: Four warcasters at once! As WARMACHINE players know, warcasters are the most potent pieces on the battlefield. In the game, it’s rare to field more than one, and this is supported in the narrative in that warcasters are usually found leading large numbers of troops or even entire armies. This week, I had the chance to write a bunch of scenes with four warcasters working as a small unit. That means overlapping spells, feats, and abilities and heretofore unseen combinations of epic badassery.

The Hard Part: Four warcasters at once? Yep, another two-for this week. As fun as it is to write about a small unit of warcasters taking it to the bad guys, I had to do a fair amount of bookkeeping to make sure the spells and abilities I was describing in the narrative would actually work together on the tabletop. Sure, some creative license is okay, but you gotta try and avoid direct rules violations. For example, if Ashlynn and Magnus use their feats at the same time, there are lots of ways I can describe that and not break any rules. On the other hand, I cannot have Ashlynn hit her Mule heavy warjack with a Quicken spell and then have Magnus layer Bullet Dodger on top of that (cuz they’re both friendly upkeep spells). I gave you that last example because I wrote a scene with that exact mechanical mistake and had to go back and rewrite it. For a while, though, I was having some fun with +4 DEF, +2 SPD, and Dodge on the same warjack. That Mule was practically dancing across the battlefield.

Mini Excerpt: One of the things I most enjoy about writing in the Iron Kingdoms are warjacks. Sure, what’s not to love about multi-ton steam-powered metal monsters that can wreck buildings and flatten enemy troops by the dozen? But the really cool part about warjacks is that they are not just machines. A warjack’s cortex, its mechanikal brain, allows it to develop a personality and even rudimentary emotions as it gets older. So, in essence, warjacks are characters too, and one of the most famous character warjacks in Lord General Coleman Stryker’s personal heavy, the cantankerous Ironclad known as Ol’ Rowdy. Today’s mini-excerpt and concept art focus on the cranky old warjack and his penchant for doing whatever the hell he wants.

ol-rowdy



Stryker saw the cause of Rowdy’s alarm. The Storm Lances he’d set to guard Sergeant Harcourt had been flanked and shot down by a unit of Winter Guard riflemen. Harcourt had dismounted–or, likely, had fallen from his saddle–and was crouched down behind his horse. His ‘jack wrench was in hand, but it was obvious combat was the furthest thing from his mind. The Winter Guard were closing on him, and two of them had drawn axes to finish off the cowering mechanik.

He felt Rowdy wanting to pull away, to go and help Sergeant Harcourt, to crush those who threatened the field mechanik. Again, he was perplexed by the emotional response from the warjack. Rowdy wanted to protect Harcourt more than he wanted to follow Stryker’s orders.

I’ll help him, Stryker thought to Rowdy. You deal with that Destroyer. Mollified, Rowdy stopped fighting him and focused his attention on the Khadoran warjack. Stryker kept his promise and raced toward Harcourt, blasting one of the Winter Guard off his feet with a bolt from Quicksilver and drawing the attention of the others.



Aw, looks like Ol’ Rowdy made a new friend. Stryker’s gonna be so jealous. 😉

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the progress reports for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

***

Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.