Real-Time Rejection II: The 6th Rejection of “Story X1”

Six rejections down, four more shots at fame and glory. Yep, the 6th rejection of “Story X1” has arrived. If you’d like to see the previous rejections, go here.

I’m a little late with this one–it actually came in on 1/6/17–but some computer mishaps made it impossible to post right away. Here it is in all its form-tastic glory:

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.

The only thing that stands out about this form rejection is that I received it the same day I sent the story. That’s not unusual, though, and this isn’t the first time I’ve received a same-day rejection from this market. A word of advice, don’t apply too much rejectomancy to same-day rejections. Like any other form rejection, you should focus on what the letter says (we’re not publishing your story) and not what you think the editor or the speed of the rejection means (who knows?). The former gets the story out again right away, and the latter? Well, that way lies madness, my friends. You will never, ever, ever know what an editor thinks about your story unless he or she a) publishes it or b) tells you in a personal rejection. If neither of those two things occur, move on.

“Story X1” is still under consideration at one more market, and they’re pretty quick, so I expect to hear something in the next week or so. Stay tuned for more of the thrilling saga of “Story X1.”

How are your adventures in submission land going? Tell me about your latest rejection or acceptance in the comments.

Real-Time Rejection II: The 5th Rejection of “Story X1”

Well, we’ve hit the half-way point, and “Story X1” has received its 5th rejection. If you’d like to see the previous rejections, go here.

Without further ado, here’s rejection number five:

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.

This is a standard form rejection from a pro market, one that’s in my top-ten list of publications to crack before the end of the decade. The closest I’ve gotten with this particular publisher is a further consideration letter followed by a form rejection. There’s not much you can learn from a rejection like this. The only information here is a) they read the story, and b) they aren’t going to publish it. You’ll never know why, so let these rejections bounce off that ever-thickening rejectomancer hide you’ve been growing and send that story out again.

The good news is that many of the publications I regularly submit to, both pro and semi-pro, have opened up for submissions again in the new year. As such, I’ve sim-subbed “Story X1” out to a couple of my usual suspects, so you’ll either see “Story X1” achieve glorious acceptance, or you’ll get blog posts titled “The 6th/7th Rejection of “Story X1.” Place your bets. 🙂

How are your writing endeavors going in the new year? I’d love to hear about your latest rejection or acceptance in the comments.

Real-Time Rejection II: The 4th Rejection of “Story X1”

Nearly half-way there! The fourth rejection for “Story X1” has arrived. If you’d like to see the last three rejections, go here.

Okay, here’s what number four looks like:

Thank you for your interest in our magazine. Unfortunately, after reviewing your submission, we have decided that it is not for us at this point in time. As much as we hate to reject any work of fiction, please remember that it is not a value judgment based on your lovely skills and talent; it really is us, not you. We hope to see you on our submissions list in the future!

Again, thank you for your interest in our magazine.

This is a new market, and this is my first submission to them, so I can’t quite tell if this is a standard form rejection or a higher-tier form rejection. My gut says standard despite the mention of future submissions. It’s a nice form rejection, and it reminds authors of a very important fact: rejections are not personal and are often not a reflection on your ability as a writer. Not much else to say about this one since there’s no real feedback.

Pickings are a slim right now for horror markets, and a lot of my go-to publishers are closed to submissions until next year. I know I said that after the last rejection, but I managed to find this new market shortly afterwards. I really mean it this time (unless I find another new market). Anyway, it may be a bit of a wait for the next update.

Hey, tell me about your latest rejection in the comments.

Real-Time Rejection II: The 3rd Rejection of “Story X1”

Another notch in the ol’ rejection belt, and the third rejection for “Story X1.” If you need to get caught up on the saga of “Story X1,” go here.

Let’s take a look at that rejection:

Thank you for the opportunity to read “Story X1.” Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.

In the past, we’ve provided detailed feedback on our rejections, but I’m afraid that due to time considerations, we’re no longer able to offer that service. I appreciate your interest in XXX and hope that you’ll keep us in mind in the future.

This is a standard form rejection from another top-tier market. I’ve received this rejection a bunch of times, which is not exactly surprising considering how many submission his particular market receives. Like all the top markets out there, this one is extraordinarily difficult to crack, but you have to keep trying. Perseverance has paid off for me before, and I’ll keep submitting here and to the other top publishers in the horror genre until I get an acceptance or they literally tell me to stop sending them stuff. 😉

Normally, I would have sent “Story X1” out again already, but a lot of the markets I normally submit to are closed to submissions for the moment. So “Story X1″may sit for a bit until one of those markets opens up, which should be some time in early December.

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

Real-Time Rejection II: The 1st & 2nd Rejection of “Story X1”

Well, that didn’t take long, and we’ve even got a two-for in rejection land, but it’s not all bad news for “Story X1.” (If you’re just tuning in to the “Story X1” extravaganza, see the first post in this series.)

The first market I chose for “Story X1” is a top-tier, pro horror market, one I would dearly love to crack, and one that is super, lightning fast with responses. I received the following rejection six hours and nine minutes after the submission (which, oddly, is a longer than usual for them).

We have read your submission and unfortunately your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now. While we regretfully cannot provide detailed feedback due to the volume of submissions, we thank you for your interest in our magazine and hope you continue to consider us in the future.

This looks like a form letter, and that’s because it is, but it’s also appears to be a higher-tier form letter (a subject I discuss at length in this post). This is my seventh rejection from this particular market, and this is the first time they’ve included that second sentence. Yeah, I know it’s not a personal rejection or glowing praise, but it could be progress with a very tough market, and, better yet, it might tell me a little more about the type of story they’re looking for.

That first rejection came in last night, and I waited to post it until this morning. I sent the story to another top-tier market last night as well, and I’ve already received a rejection. Here it is:

Many thanks for sending “Story X1”, but I’m sorry to say that it isn’t right for XXX. I wish you luck placing it elsewhere, and hope that you’ll send me something new soon.

What’s interesting about this letter is that it looks like a higher-tier form letter because of the “send us something else soon,” which, in my experience, is the type of phrase that differentiates a standard form rejection from a higher-tier form rejection. That said, this is my sixth rejection from this market, and I’ve received the same letter each time. That could mean one of two things. One, I’ve received their higher-tier form rejection each time, or, two, they don’t have a higher-tier form rejection, and this is just the wording they chose for the standard rejection. My rejectomancer senses tell me it’s likely option two, but I could be wrong (I often am).

Of course, the saga continues, and I have chosen another top-tier market for “Story X1” and fired my poor, unwitting creation off into the void once more.

See you soon. 🙂

Real-Time Rejection II: The Saga of “Story X1”

Some of you may remember a series of posts I did called Real-Time Rejection: The Journey of “Story X.” If not, here’s the basic gist. I finished a story and then began sending it out immediately. I then posted the responses (rejections) as they came in, in “real-time.” I submitted “Story X” ten times for publication, with the caveat that if it didn’t get published by the tenth submission, I’d retire it and post it on the blog. Well, I submitted it ten times, and it was rejected ten times. I was as good as my word, and you can read “Story X,” which is actually called “The Scars You Keep,” right here. If you’d like to see all the rejection and whatnot, here’s a link to the category archive with all the “Story X” content.

Well, guess what? I’ve got another shiny new story, which I’m calling “Story X1,” and I’d like to document the journey of that piece with the same set of rules. Ten chances at publications, all responses shared with you fine folks, and retirement (and posting) if and when I receive ten rejections.

Like “Story X,” I won’t reveal the real name of “Story X1” until it’s been published or rejected ten times. “Story X1” differs from “Story X” in that it’s a true horror story not dark urban fantasy. That’ll limit my options for publication a bit, but will give me a better shot at markets that publish exclusively horror.

I’m going to start the submission process by sending it to the top-tier pro markets with quick turnaround times. Once those publications have rejected me, I’ll start targeting other publications with longer wait times or those that are in the semi-pro tier. So follow along once again as I offer up a big, steaming plate of schadenfreude for your enjoyment and edification (it’ll be like watching me eat my vegetables and getting all the nutritional benefits yourself).

The first submission(s) for “Story X1” will go out today or tomorrow, and then the fun will begin.

Real-Time Rejection: The Final Rejection of “Story X”

This morning I received the tenth and final rejection for “Story X,” thus ending its chances for fame and fortune. As promised, I will reveal the story in its entirety in this post, but first, here’s the letter that done for poor ol’ “Story X.”

Thank you for sending us “Story X.” We appreciated the chance to read it. Unfortunately, this piece is not a good fit for us. Best of luck with this in other markets.

A short, to-the-point form letter. At least they didn’t let “Story X” suffer.

Okay, that’s enough puling from me. A deal’s a deal, and I promised to reveal the story after its tenth rejection. So here it is, “Story X” or “The Scars You Keep.”

The Scars You Keep

By Aeryn Rudel

People have died in this room, Wyatt thought and took a long, nervous drag on his cigarette. Badly.

“Are you going to kill me?” he asked the man seated across from him at a rickety card table. They were alone in a large, square room with plain gray cinderblock walls. The only exit was a steel door directly across from where Wyatt sat. Besides the table and two chairs, the room was empty . . . if you didn’t count the stains. The floors and walls were decorated in lines, streaks, and splatters of fading brown and rust red.

The man answered Wyatt’s question with one of his own. “You are some kind of healer, yes?” His captor was a screaming cliché of the Russian mobster, complete with the black track suit, slicked-back hair, and expensive sunglasses, which he still wore, even though it was the dead of night and they were indoors. He’d be funny if he wasn’t so terrifying. His accent was minimal, audible only in the way he enunciated certain words or omitted others. The Russian was a small man–Wyatt put him at about 5’6” and a buck thirty–but he looked very fast. The butt of a large automatic pistol jutted over his waistband, and his right hand rested lightly on its grip. Wyatt had no doubt his captor could pull that pistol and put two in his brain in the blink of an eye.

The Russian’s question brought Wyatt some relief; it meant the man who’d brought him here had plans other than murder–at least for now. He took another drag, exhaled slowly, and smiled, trying to appear confident and unafraid. He doubted he succeeded at either. “You work for Mr. Koslov, right? Andrei Koslov?”

The Russian frowned. “This is dangerous name to speak aloud,” he said. Wyatt thought he might have surprised the gangster by knowing what he was and who he worked for. Good.

“I make it a habit to know the dangerous people in my vicinity who might need my services,” Wyatt said.

The Russian smiled, showing straight white teeth. It made him look like a very dangerous rodent. “Your services?” He shook his head. “Your bullshit, I think.”

“Mr. Koslov is sick, right?” Wyatt said, pressing. Andrei Koslov had been in the papers a lot lately. The state was pursuing racketeering charges against him, but most didn’t think he’d live long enough for a trial. “That’s why I’m here.”

The man nodded slowly. “A dying man is desperate, desperate enough to believe some American koldun can save him.” He leaned forward. “But you will not bring false hope. You will not take his dignity. You will prove to me you can help Mr. Koslov.”

“Well, for one thing, I’m not a koldun,” Wyatt said. “I’m not a sorcerer.”

“You speak Russian?” The man asked, cocking his head.

“No, I just know the word for hoodoo man in about every language. But if you think I’m a charlatan, why did you bring me here?”

The Russian shrugged. “I am soldier. I follow orders. But first, I check on you. I find strange things. Not strange enough to bring you to Mr. Koslov, but strange enough to bring you here.”

“And if I’m not what Mr. Koslov thinks I am?” Wyatt put his hands flat on the table to keep them from shaking.

The man smiled again. “I think you know what happens then,” he said. “But it will be quick. I do this because I like you. Most men, when I come for them, they beg and cry like women or piss in their pants. Not you. For this, I have respect.”

“Thanks, I think,” Wyatt said. He was surprised at the sudden rush of pride he felt that this bona fide slayer of men respected him.

“Have another cigarette.” The Russian slid the pack of Marlboros across the table. His captor had let him keep his smokes, but not much else.

Wyatt dropped the one he was smoking and crushed it under his foot. “Tell me your name,” he said as he pulled another smoke from the pack.

“You may call me . . . Ivan,” the man said with a crooked grin.

“Okay, Ivan,” Wyatt said and lit his cigarette. Ivan had also let him keep his lighter. “So you’re gonna run some tests, and this is going to be our laboratory, huh?”

Ivan chuckled. “This room has been many things,” he said. “Never laboratory.”

“You said you found out some strange things about me,” Wyatt said. He was starting to get the feeling Ivan liked to talk, and if he was talking, he wasn’t shooting. “Tell me what you heard.”

“I hear stories about a man who heals,” Ivan said and shrugged. “A boy in New Mexico, his mother tells me he had brain tumor, now it is gone because a man came and healed him. A woman in New York tells me she has leukemia, only weeks to live, and now she is better because a man comes to see her. A soldier here in Seattle is burned on his face in Iraq. I saw pictures. Terrible burns. He is not burned any more. He says because of skin grafts, but this is not true, the burns are gone because a man came to see him. All three describe the same man. They describe you.”

“Did you hurt them?” He tried not to let it show on his face, but it was the first time since Ivan had dragged him from his apartment that he wasn’t merely afraid. He was terrified. Those people had been through so much already, and the thought of this thug hurting them further made him sick.

Ivan shook his head. “There was no need. They wanted to talk about you. ”

Relief flooded through Wyatt. “Thank you,” he said and meant it. “I don’t blame them for talking, but they didn’t tell you everything.”


“The boy in New Mexico, did you talk to his father?”

“I did not.”

“The woman in New York, did you talk to her husband?”

Ivan raised an eyebrow. “No.”

“And the soldier here in Seattle, did you see his mother?”

“Why do you ask these questions?”

“Because I’m not a healer, like Mr. Koslov thinks. The boy’s father is dead, from a brain tumor. The woman’s husband is dead too. He died of leukemia. And the soldier’s mother doesn’t go out in public because her face looks like month-old hamburger.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying you don’t know what Mr. Koslov is asking for, and neither does he.”

Ivan’s eyes narrowed. “Then you will show me,” he said. “Now.”

“Okay, I’ll show you . . . something, but I’ll need you to do what I ask.”

Ivan again offered him that crooked grin. “This is laboratory, like you said. We will experiment.”

“Okay then,” Wyatt said and drew in a deep breath. “I’m going to ask you to do something, something that will sound crazy, but I need you to do it if you really want to “experiment.”

The Russian waved a hand at him, urging him to continue.

“Pick up that lighter, please,” Wyatt said.

Ivan did as he was asked.

“Now burn your hand with it,” he said, trying to keep his voice from shaking. Even with the warning, he had no idea how Ivan would react to such a command.

The small Russian man chuckled. “This is why I like you. You have balls. But I understand what you ask.” He flicked the top of the lighter with his right hand, then held his left over the tiny spear of flame. He stared at Wyatt unflinching as the flame burned his palm, sending up a curl of smoke and producing a smell not unlike cooked pork.

“Okay,” Wyatt said, and Ivan let the flame die.

The Russian gangster held up his hand. There was a small circle of burnt flesh in the middle of the palm. It had to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch, but Ivan showed no sign of discomfort. “Enough?”

“Yeah,” Wyatt said. “Okay, for this to work, I have to touch you.”

Ivan pulled the pistol from his belt and laid it on the table in front of him, resting his right hand on top of it. He held out his left arm and stared at Wyatt. “I am fast, koldun. You understand?”

“Yeah, I get it.” Wyatt laid his hand on the Russian’s forearm. He closed his eyes and let the power come. It rose up from his belly, from somewhere deep inside him, and flowed along his limbs like an electric current. It wasn’t painful, but it always made him feel a little sick. He could now feel Ivan, feel all the man’s wounds and sicknesses: the minor tears in his muscles from lifting weights, a mild hangover from drinking too much the night before, and the tiny tumor that had just begun to grow in Ivan’s right testicle, but he focused on the newest injury, the burn. He felt Ivan jerk, and then a sudden sharp pain in Wyatt’s palm told him it was over.

Wyatt opened his eyes and saw Ivan was pointing the gun at him, its barrel a yawning black hole aimed at his forehead. He put his hands in the air. “Your palm, Ivan,” Wyatt said, trying not to look at the gun.

Ivan turned his left hand over and looked down. His eyes went wide and he stood up, knocking the chair over behind him. The mafia enforcer spat a stream of rapid-fire Russian and took a big step away from Wyatt, still pointing the gun at him.

Wyatt lowered his left arm and showed Ivan his palm. “You get it now?”

Ivan stared at him for a moment and then lowered the gun. “What did you do?”

“I moved the burn from you to me. That’s what I do. I’m no healer. I can’t cure a fucking thing. I can just move pain and sickness from one person to another.”

The Russian walked back to the table and picked up the chair. He sat down, but did not put the gun back in his pants.  “The boy’s father . . .” Ivan began.

“Yes, he took the tumor for his son. The woman’s husband took her leukemia, and the soldier’s mother took his burns.”

Ivan stared at Wyatt, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why are you not rich man?” he said. “I have seen men on the TV who pretend to do what you do; they are wealthy, powerful. But no one knows you. Your home is small. You drive shit car. Why?”

“I’ve found the less people who know about what I can do, the better,” Wyatt said and gestured at Ivan. “Case in point.”

The Russian laughed.

“The people I help sometimes tell others, even though I ask them not to,” Wyatt said. “Usually, no one believes them.”

Ivan was quiet for a moment, and his dark eyes never left Wyatt’s. Wyatt could see he was looking for the lie, the con. “You have scar,” he said at last. “There, above your eye. Why?”

“You mean, why didn’t I give it to someone else?”

Ivan nodded.

“Well, one, I’m not a monster. I don’t inflict my pain on others if I can help it. And two, I got that scar because I let myself get in a bad situation. Some scars you have to keep, as a reminder.”

Ivan said nothing, but he seemed satisfied with Wyatt’s answer. “You can help Mr. Koslov,” It was statement not a question.

“Yes, I can help him,” Wyatt said. “But who gets his cancer. I hear it’s something really nasty. Are you going to take one for the team, Ivan?”

“I see no problem,” Ivan said and stood. He pointed the gun at Wyatt. “You took my burn; you will take Mr. Koslov’s cancer.”

“Then what?”

Ivan shrugged. “Then you give to someone else. We will bring someone.”

“And then I get to be Koslov’s pet—what was the word you used—koldun?” Wyatt said, making no attempt to hide his disgust. “You and the other leg-breakers do your jobs, and if you get a little fucked up in the process, I keep you going by hurting an innocent person. Does that about sum it up?”

Ivan shrugged “Why do you care? You will live, and you will have good life. Mr. Koslov will be very grateful. Now get up.”

Ivan was holding the gun at his side, aiming it at Wyatt in a casual, even sloppy way. Something resembling a plan formed in Wyatt’s mind. It was absurd, and terrifying, but it was something. Ivan was not a large man, and Wyatt figured he had about seventy pounds on the Russian. If he could reach him, maybe it would be enough.

Before he could really think about what he was doing, Wyatt shot to his feet and flipped the card table up into the air, obscuring him from Ivan for one crucial second, giving him enough time to charge forward. He slammed into the Russian, grabbed him in a bear hug, and bore him to the ground.

The gun went off three times in rapid succession, and Wyatt gasped as the bullets entered his body. Two tore through his liver and stomach, and the last put a gaping hole in his heart. The pain was immense and death was close.

Ivan wasn’t stupid, he knew what was happening. He stopped firing, and tried to squirm free, but there was two hundred pounds of dead weight on top of him, and Wyatt used the last of his strength to hold Ivan close, pressing his body into the Russian’s.

The power came, surging through Wyatt and into Ivan. The Russian screamed and fired the gun again and again, fired until the pistol clicked empty. The bullets ripped into Wyatt, but the gun was pressed into his abdomen, pinned there by his weight, and none of the shots were instantly lethal. They hurt like hell, but the pain was soon washed away.

Ivan’s struggles weakened, slowed, and then stopped. Wyatt held him there for a few seconds to make sure, then rolled off the Russian and sat up. Ivan lay on his back, the pistol crushed against his side, eight bullet holes in his chest and stomach. He stared up at the ceiling, but he was long past seeing anything.

Wyatt stood, wobbling a bit, and put one hand against the wall to steady himself. He felt like vomiting. He’d never used the power like that, although he’d always wondered if it was possible. He hoped he’d never have to use it that way again.

He stepped over Ivan’s body, avoiding the widening pool of scarlet, and tried the door. It was unlocked. Ivan’s car, a big black Mercedes, was parked in front of the tiny kill room Koslov had built out in the middle of nowhere, miles into the Cascade Mountains.

Wyatt returned to Ivan’s body and dug through his pockets. He found the car keys and hurried through the door and out into the night. He’d have to leave Seattle–Koslov’s men would be looking for him–but he was used to moving around a lot and at a moment’s notice. He didn’t mind leaving his few meager possessions behind.

He got into the car and slid behind the wheel. The Mercedes started up immediately, the rumble of its big engine reassuring. Wyatt looked down at the palm of his left hand, at the burn that had again started to throb painfully as the adrenaline rush faded. He closed his fist around it and nodded.

Some scars you had to keep.