Welcome to the next installment of Ranks of the Rejected, where I interview working authors and ask them to bare their literary wounds for your amusement and edification. Make sure and check out the links to these writers’ works and websites. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Today’s victim . . . er, subject is Rose Blackthorn. I’ve worked with Rose in my role as acquisitions editor through Skull Island eXpeditions, and I’ve gone head to head with her as a writer on numerous occasions at a bi-weekly flash fiction contest out at the Shock Totem forums, where she routinely trounced me and a dozen other writers. Rose is one of those writers whose talent is so great and seemingly effortless, she makes you feel kind of worthless in comparison when you read her stuff. (Gee, thanks, Rose.) She is also a mighty 17th level Rejectomancer who commands the advanced powers Eschew Guidelines and Dispel Writer’s Block.
Here’s a bit more about Rose:
Rose Blackthorn lives in the high mountain desert with her boyfriend and two dogs, Boo and Shadow. She spends her free time writing, reading, being crafty, and photographing the surrounding wilderness.
She is a member of the HWA and her short fiction and poetry has appeared online and in print with a varied list of anthologies and magazines. Her first poetry collection Thorns, Hearts and Thistles was published in February 2015, and is available through Amazon.
More information can be found at the following links:
1. That first rejection is pretty memorable (i.e., it is burned into your cerebral cortex for all eternity). What do you remember about your first?
My first, huh? Well, that requires traveling back in time, way back into pre-history… When I first started submitting for publication, it was a novel. This was back before the internet and email, back when submitting a manuscript meant spending time at the local Xerox shop making copies to send out. Back at that time I didn’t have any friends who were writers, and the only advice I could find was gleaned from copies of the Writer’s Digest checked out from the local library. (Am I dating myself? I think I’m dating myself…) I had sent my manuscript (all 300+ pages of it) to several agents and publishers, and just waited for the offers to roll in. What I got were, as you can guess, waves of rejections. I also got a “We might be interested, if you’re willing to do some editing…” I was thrilled! So, being the naïve little newbie that I was, I forwarded my masterpiece to the ‘book doctor’ they referred me to.
*sigh* Can you see where this is going? Anyway, long story short, I forked out a lot of money for a service that should have been included with a legitimate publishing house or agency, and after all was said and done, they “changed their mind” and didn’t want it, after all. I learned a hard lesson, and good or bad, put my publishing aspirations on hold for a very long time. I didn’t stop writing, but I didn’t submit either. It wasn’t until 2009 that I started writing short stories. That’s when I began submitting again, and I’m happy to say I’ve had a lot better luck this time around! I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet (virtually) other writers, editors and publishers who have taught me so much about being a published author.
2. What do you hope to see in a rejection letter? You know, beyond the soul-crushing doubt and disappointment. What’s useful to you as a writer?
No one likes rejection. But the best kind of rejection to get, is something that gives you specific points as to why you were rejected. The “we liked your story, but it doesn’t fit” may be the absolute truth, but I usually tend to regard that as a “I don’t have time to tell you what was wrong with it”. I realize that editors are busy, and many of them simply don’t have time to write a detailed critique of an author’s submission. But as much as a rejection might sting, having a specific reason that I can look at and possibly rectify is worth more than I can say.
3. Got a favorite rejection? Funny, mean, just straight-up weird?
I don’t even have to think about this one. I received a rejection (for an anthology that I really wanted to be in) that was honestly more wonderful than some of the acceptances I’ve received! Check it out:
Unfortunately, your submission, [XXX] has not been accepted to be included in the anthology, [XXX]. I really would like to thank you, however, for your consideration to be a part of this project.
I appreciate the amount of time and work that you invested in this story and I am certain that you will be able to find a publisher for this elsewhere.
Technically you have written a nice story and I enjoyed reading it. Please know that I am not rejecting this work due to any flaw of your own ability.
Rose, I loved this story a lot. Your opening description of Shannon waking up and surfacing through the water is really beautiful – just poetic descriptions. Great idea and well-executed. You have a talent for descriptive and emotional prose.
I hate to have to pass on this. Yours is one of those stories that, if I had more room in the book, would definitely be in. I simply received a number of other stories which also held positive attributes of their own. Due to the sheer volume of submissions, I am only able to select a small amount which most closely matches the overall character of the anthology. I received about 350 submissions for this anthology. The final Table of Contents, though not yet finished, will probably number about 26 – 29 stories.
Keep writing – You have gained a fan in me, and I look forward to reading more material from you in the future.
P.S. I anticipate a great story from you in the “Ghost IS the Machine” anthology!
4. What’s the toughest part of rejection for you? Pro tips for dealing with it?
There was a time when every rejection was a cause for tears. I tend to be rather emotional, anyway. I could show you the trunk full of pin-stuck voodoo dolls… just kidding! But really, it’s not so bad any more. Occasionally one will still come along that really stings – and that’s usually when it’s one of those “bucket list” markets that you want in so bad you can taste it. Then, if they hold it for a long time, and you end up with a rejection… Well, those still suck pretty bad.
For the most part though, the best thing to do in my opinion, is just find another market and send the story back out again. If the rejection comes with some critique, you might go through and make some edits or revisions. But sometimes it just comes down to the editor – not everyone likes the same things. If one editor doesn’t like your story, the next one very well might. I know some awesome writers, and I’ve read extensively – but I don’t like everything written by the same author, and I don’t always like the things my friends like. So just take the rejection, make a note of it, and find the next place to submit.
5. Okay, tell us about your first or latest acceptance letter.
I’ve had a couple wonderful acceptances in the last month. One was from Pedestal Magazine for a poem, and it really made my day because the guest editors for this particular issue were Marge Simon and Bruce Boston. These two people are amazing writers, and well known poets. For them to accept something I’d written was one of those dancing-around-the-house-while-squealing moments that still come along from time to time.
The other was actually an acceptance for a reprint. I wrote a story for a submission call, and the story was accepted. Unfortunately, the press putting out the anthology had all kinds of issues. There was never any publicity for the book, and it was only in print for a short time. Add to that the fact that no one made any money on it, and it was just a sad deal all the way around. But I really liked that story. I sent it out to a few different places that accept reprints, but wasn’t having much luck – it’s fairly long for a short story at just over 7400 words. So I found another market and sent it out, and waited, and waited. At about four months I finally sent a query. I got a reply back shortly after that they had set the story aside to respond to me, and my query reminded them – and they wanted to accept my manuscript. So now this story will be published again, with a company who has a history of publicizing their magazine, and I’ll get a bit of a paycheck along the way. That’s always a plus!
6) Okay, plug away. Tells us about your latest project or book and why we should run out and buy it.
My latest releases include a short story “A Thing of Beauty” released September 1st in Disturbed Digest #10. This is a sort of post-apocalyptic/dark fantasy that involves mutated monsters, the struggle to survive, and the odd paths love can take.
Another short story, “Obsidian Heart,” was released June 4th in Morpheus Tales #26. This is another dark fantasy/horror involving love and its loss, but it makes me smile… evilly. Take that as you will!
My poetry collection Thorns, Hearts and Thistles was released in February of this year and is available from Amazon.
There are a few other things in the pipeline, but I don’t have finalized release dates for them. My story “Only a Matter of Time” will be included in Not Your Average Monster: A Bestiary of Horrors, coming from Bloodshot Books before the end of the year. This may be the goriest story I have written to date, so if that’s your thing, you won’t want to miss it. A novelette titled “Worthy Vessel” will be released from Privateer Press, tentatively scheduled to come out before Halloween. That’s another new thing for me; it was fun to write, but scary, too. I’m hoping fans of the Iron Kingdoms will enjoy it. I also have poetry appearing in Chiral Mad 3 from Written Backwards and the HWA Horror Poetry Showcase Volume 2.
Thanks for letting me share a little of what’s going on with me right now!