Rejections

When I first got up the nerve to send my scribblings out into the world, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I did a little internet research to find a seemingly suitable place to peddle my work, but it was an unknown world to me. That was April 2019.

Since then I’ve submitted literally hundreds of times to a host of magazines, websites, anthologies, any place that puts out a call for submissions. I’d be lost without my spreadsheet of when what submitted where to whom.

One of the nice surprises was the friendly rejection letters. I don’t know if it’s always been that way, or the ease of email took the edge off their nerves, but it’s a nice touch. It’s obviously a canned reply, but shows that it takes no extra work to be nice to people when saying no. That’s a good thing considering the number of rejections that have crowded my inbox.

I follow a few blogs by successful writers, always interested in pointers and found there’s apparently a hierarchy of rejections. The vast majority of mine have been along the order of thanks for submitting, we enjoyed the story, not right for us, please remember us and send more. That kind of response, especially the last two words is supposedly the first level lower than acceptance. It means they think you have potential. According to the authors I’ve followed, that kind of rejection is the gold standard for acknowledgment that you have something going on.

A few of my lesser stories garnered rejections of basically thanks for your interest. No invitation to try again. I guess this is the second tier of rejections. I imagine there are even lower levels. I wonder how bad you have to be to get a restraining order filed against you? Not that it’s ever happened to me. Well, not exactly. I have been banned from one site. I had sent a fairly grim story with sexual violence and neglected to attach a trigger warning. Apparently I offended the sensibilities of someone on their staff. I figure if you put out a call for stories, you have to expect a few graphic episodes. But now I attach trigger warnings to nearly all my stories, even ones going to horror sites. I checked with some editors I liked, worried that being banned might hurt me in a wider arena, but they said not to worry, nobody paid attention to the yahoos at that particular site.

Sometimes, even though the rejections are canned, an editor attaches a personal note. These are always special. One said that she adored the story, but I should consider expanding it into a longer work. A note on a rejection of my Little Green Men story said an entire magazine issue should be devoted to that work, but his wasn’t the magazine to do it. I got a nice note on a rejection that came in today. I had submitted The Stick Men to a horror anthology. It’s adapted from a story my mom told be from her childhood. After the standard rejection verbiage the editor added that the story was rejected because they ran out of room. He asked that I please resubmit it for their next anthology. Hey, that’s almost an acceptance. I’ll take it as one, anyway. So assuming it’s still available, I’ll send it along to them when the window opens for their next anthology, sometime the middle of this year. It’s nice to have a foot in the door, so to speak.

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Nora Roberts and a Changing World

Trigger warning: sexual assault

I have an app on my tablet called BookBub. Every day it shows me cheap books in genres I select. I mean $0-$1.99 cheap. Some of them are self-published and absolutely dreadful.  Sometimes there are books by authors I’ve actually heard of. This week I saw a book listed as a thriller. It was a detective story by J. D. Robb. I’ve heard of the author before and I like a detective story, so I looked further. Turns out J. D. Robb is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts, queen of romantic schlock. She said she published it under a pseudonym so she could go in a new direction, rather than romance. The premise of the book sounded promising, so I looked further. It turns out the book is number 8 or 9 in a series of about 50 books about this female detective. All of the books are “stand alone” but I hate walking into the middle of a psycho-drama, so I picked up the first book in the series. If I like it, I’ll move on to the others.

The first book was published in 1995. But it had a science fiction edge – police work in 2058. I’m having fun seeing what she got right. In the book email is ubiquitous, as are cameras and cell phones. They also have flying cars and a few off-world colonies. Sex work is legal, as is marijuana. There’s even a back story about an uber conservative ass who wants to run for president. His platform would be to ban sex work, premarital sex, LGBT rights, abortion and end the ban on guns. Sounds familiar.

The book is following the romantic trope of she hates her romantic interest until she loves him. Not my favorite style but I guess Nora does what’s always worked for her. Never having read her before, I can’t say. But what is standing out is that the book is chauvinistic, misogynistic, patronizing, demeaning to women and celebrates sexual violence. What the hell, Nora?

I know, I know. Society has changed since 1995, but that much? Early in the book the female detective is interviewing a suspect at his home. He is obviously the one who will eventually become her romantic interest (doesn’t hurt that he’s a billionaire). He decides he wants to have sex with her. She tells him no. He maneuvers her up against a wall and begins pawing and kissing her. She resists and tells him to stop. He doesn’t. He manages to get her into his bedroom because she’s confused. I guess everyone knows that a woman loses the power to think when a handsome man assaults her. She struggles and tells him no. He gets her clothes off and begins having sex. She continues to struggle and say no. Afterward there’s a peaceful interlude (which I found very odd) until he wants to do it again. She says no. He shoves in her and does it anyway. She spends the night.

I don’t see how this could read as anything but a rape. But Ms. Roberts seems to be presenting it as romantic. And then we find out the woman was so severely sexually abused as a child that she has no memories from before she was 8. This new rape sure isn’t going to help her mental health.

So is this commonplace for Nora Roberts? Do all her heroines have to be raped in order to find out they love their attacker? If so, then something is seriously wrong with this woman.

Maybe I’ll buy the latest installment of this series, written in the 2020s. See if Nora has grown with the times, maybe evolved into a human being.

Another Anthology Acceptance

I hope everyone got a chance to check out my fractured fairy tale Inna Gadda da Vida when it went live September 27 on Café Lit. If not, you can still catch it at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/. It’s the second story down today, but will get further from the top daily. And I know, it’s been published elsewhere so you’ve already seen it. But I like to check out when I have a piece published in new venues to see what kind of graphics they add. Sadly, Café Lit didn’t use any graphics. Still, it’s nice to see my byline.

My newest acceptance comes from Thema Literary Society in Louisiana. They are putting together a little book called Crumpled Yellow Paper. All the stories involve something about a yellow piece of paper. I sent them a story entitled “Yellow Piece of Paper” of course. They liked it so it will appear in the anthology in June 2023. It involves a guy finding a cell phone on a nature trail and mayhem ensues. I had a lot of fun writing that one. It’s the 30th story I’ve had picked up. Weirdly, when skiing this past spring I saw something lying in the snow. It looked like a piece of trash so I stopped to get it out of the way. Turned out it was someone’s cell. I had just written Yellow Piece of Paper so after a moment of panic laced déja vu, I skied down to the base and gave it to one of the lifties. I wanted no part of it. Read the story and you’ll know why.

Writing Update

I thought I’d say a few words about what’s going on with my writing. I’ve only written a few pieces recently, mostly focusing on editing older stories. And marketing what I have available.

I had sent Welcome to Hell to an editor I have a friendly relationship with but never heard back from him. Then as I recently was scanning his online magazine for something else, I came upon the story. I guess the acceptance email got sent to my spam folder. It appeared in The Chamber on February 18. It appeared back in October on Tall Tale TV and was supposed to be on What the Writers Wrote back in June 2021, but that site went belly up. I’ve previously linked the Tall Tale TV site and at the risk of being redundant, here’s where you can find it on The Chamber.  https://thechambermagazine.com/2022/02/18/welcome-to-hell-darkly-humorous-fiction-by-curtis-bass/

I got word from Dragon Gems that their anthology including my story Little Green Men will be out sometime next year. That will be my fifth anthology inclusion. Although it’s kinda my sixth. I mean I had signed a contract for a story to be in the anthology Sounds of a Quiet House, but the project fizzled out.

The Protest Diaries was released in August with my story The Intervention included. You’ll have to buy the book to see the story, but it’s a good one. And the profits go to the ACLU, a definite good cause.

Inna Gadda da Vida, my fractured fairy tale from Genesis, where “In the beginning…” becomes “Once upon a time…” was picked up this week by Café Lit. It will be on their site as the daily story on September 27, 2022. This is its third appearance making it my most successful story. It’s also one of my favorites.

And a mystery was solved this week. Some weeks ago I posted Sing a Song of Amazon, wondering where a $10 Amazon credit came from. This week I got a notice from them of another $10 credit, but this one came with an explanation. It is from my story on Vella, Somewhere in Iowa. It’s an 8-part series that grew out of my short story The Cornfield. It’s earned me twenty bucks so far. Find it here. B093D8YP4C

Check out my author page on Amazon. It has all four books my stories are featured in and links to all my posts. https://www.amazon.com/author/curtisbooks

A final note, Dancing With The Stars started up this week. Unfortunately, I will not be able to post my impressions of the goings on this season. I refuse to purchase Disney+ just to see one program. I think it is the death knell for the show, for I believe few people are such rabid fans that they’ll follow it behind a paywall. Sorry.

Little Green Men to be published again.

Water Dragon Publishing has chosen my story, “Little Green Men”, for inclusion in its upcoming anthology, Dragon Gems. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll remember Little Green Men appeared in September 2021 in Worlds Within, an online magazine. The Dragon Gems anthology will be digital only, as well.

Little Green Men is the story of our first manned mission to Mars and the pressure we put on astronauts.

This is my 26th story published and the 5th anthology I’ve been included in. You can check my Amazon Author’s Page for information about the others. https://www.amazon.com/author/curtisbooks

Now I Lay Me

My short story, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, appeared in the August 5 The Chamber online magazine. https://thechambermagazine.com/short-stories/ It is the ninth story down from the top. The story first appeared in Terror House back in January. This is an expanded version. I received critiques on the former version that I didn’t identify the murderer. That wasn’t the point of the story. The point was the relationship between the boy and his father and what it means to be a man. So I added an unmasking for those who need closure.

The Protest Diaries

The latest anthology featuring my work comes out next week. The Protest Diaries will be released on August 4. It is a collection of stories raging against corruption and evil in the world. I am proud my story, The Intervention, is among the chosen to represent the fight against oppression in all its forms. The book has been in production since last year, but has somehow come together at a perfect time. A time when people need to be reminded that so much of the time change only comes when good people say “Enough!”

Recently a friend lamented why she bothered to fight for the rights of other people who wouldn’t fight for themselves. I said, “If I don’t speak up when they take away the rights of others, who will speak up when they come for my rights?”

Today, I received the Introduction from editor Bob Brown. I found it moving and powerful. I am posting it here. If it speaks to you, consider taking a look at the book. It should be on Amazon next week. Part of the proceeds go to the ACLU.

Foreword

Christopher David is a hero, an inspiration, and a great American.

In July, 2020 Christopher David was a 53 year old Navy veteran attending his first protest in Portland where the Black Lives Matter movement was protesting the death of George Floyd.

He wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt and in the park across the street from the courthouse, he told law enforcement staff that that “You take the oath to the Constitution; you don’t take the oath to a particular person.”

This earned that Navy Veteran a beating, being threatened with a weapon, five strikes from a baton, a broken hand and a new awareness of what happens when you stand up to authority in America.

Edmund Burke is widely purported to have said that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Christopher David, demonstrated this and inspired me. Because of this man, I, a 61-year-old Navy veteran, made my own trek to Portland, I took my family.

What I found re-assured me and terrified me.

I found a community of protesters set on a course of living Edmund Burke’s words.

Daily these people endured teargas, flash bangs, bear mace and assaults. Every day of the protests the government lied about what took place and continues to do so. They lied over conditions on the ground, actions taken, and the truth in general.

It was Christopher David’s story that took me to Portland, where I found my own truths, and grew to admire the people I saw and my daughter, her husband, and two of their friends who “weren’t gonna let Bob go down there by himself.”

What we saw can be found later in this book, but the key is that all people in this country have an obligation to stand up in the face of government wrongdoing or evil WILL triumph, and it will triumph in the world we owe our children.

So thank you Cheyenne, Nathan, Quin, and Steve for standing up with me. And thank you Christopher David for showing me the way.

Decorating Hell

I have an orange sofa. Or it may be a couch. Or a settee or davenport. I guess they are all different, but I don’t know what it is. It has three cushions for sitting, and three cushions to lean back against. For the sake of argument, I’ll call it a sofa. And mine is orange.

It hasn’t always been orange. It was a light green canvas in a previous life. About fifteen years ago we reupholstered in in a faux-suede, light brown cloth. The color was called cinnamon. And it was apt. The sofa was the same color as the ground cinnamon in the jar in my kitchen.

A month or so ago my wife decided it was time to reupholster the sofa again. I guess it’s one of those biological clock things that women have, like when it’s time to strip the kitchen floor or repaint the cabinets. An internal bell goes off, and we have to act on it.

Decorating issues are fraught with problems for me. Mostly, I don’t really care how the house is decorated, as long as it isn’t bizarre. I mean, I do want to live in attractive surroundings but rarely have a deep-seated need to have a particular color or style. My wife usually picks, and I have veto power. However, on this one, I was pressed to participate. If I don’t care about the recovering of the sofa, then I don’t care about our relationship. That’s kind of a big jump for me to grasp. So apparently, I had to care about the sofa.

I considered it and came up with what is probably the most common suggestion of men backed into a decorating corner. I said let’s cover it in the same cloth – cinnamon fake suede. Surprisingly, this went over well, and the deal was made. Our sofa was taken away. A few weeks later they brought it back. It was orange. Sometime in the past fifteen years the color cinnamon apparently morphed from light brown to orange. Who knew? Color me surprised.

We put the sofa back in the den and even I could tell it clashed with the walls and curtains. Yellow walls in no way enhance an orange sofa. So the wife repainted the den. Once again, I was pressed into a decision on color, and again, I convinced her to pick and I rubber stamped it. We went with Churchill White, which isn’t white and I don’t know how Churchill got involved. It kind of looks like white that got left out in the weather for a few years.

Next my wife decided that we needed new curtains to go with the orange sofa. For the next two weekends I participated in what I called the Bataan death march. We spent the better part of two weekends going to fabric store after fabric store looking at samples of cloth. As a guy who doesn’t like shopping in any form, I was brain dead a couple hours after we started. But I gave a considered response to every piece of cloth my wife picked up. I had a few non-negotiables – no paisley, no flame tip and no cabbage roses like the print dresses my widest aunt used to wear to church.

Not happy with our excursions, my wife next decided to bring in an interior decorator to help. Excellent, I thought. Let her make the decisions. She and my wife picked out curtain fabric that was floral, but mostly non-offensive. But she decided the wall color was wrong. So my wife, the family painter, repainted the living room a beige-blue-gray color. I guess it has some imaginative name, but I think “cloudy day”.

The decorator also recommended changing the floor covering. We had basic beige carpet, twenty years old, but in excellent condition. I think the color was called wheat. We decided to go with an area rug over the carpet. She found a large rug, some 10×12 feet with patterns and colors I could live with. Not wanting to put the rug down over a dirty carpet, we called in the professional cleaners and had the carpet shampooed.

I wasn’t home the day the new rug was delivered, but we had moved the furniture out of the den so the guys could lay it out. The story I got from my wife was that the delivery guy dropped it on the porch and asked her to sign for it. She told him we had paid extra to have them lay out the carpet because it was too heavy for us to lift (we both have back issues). He wouldn’t move it, saying he didn’t care what the agreement was. So she refused to sign for it. The delivery guy refused to remove the rug and left it on our porch. My wife called the company and told them to come get the rug and return our money. They dragged their feet, so she called back after a few days and said they could collect their rug in two days or she was giving it to Good Will. They came and got the rug and refunded most of the money. They wanted to retain some of it for some nonsense about restocking fee. My wife complained to Visa, and suddenly the company made a full refund.

After the rug fiasco, my wife told me that getting a new carpet would be no more expensive than the cost of the rug. I had about had it with decorating at this point and told her to get whatever she wanted. She still brought in carpet samples for me to approve. In the end I watched them tear out our good condition, newly cleaned beige carpet and put in new beige carpet. I find the color indistinguishable from the old carpet color. They are both the color of oatmeal. She says I’m colorblind if I can’t see the difference. Colorblindness doesn’t work that way, but that’s not an argument I need to have.

So I have a new beige carpet, cloudy day walls, and mostly non-offensive curtains. And an orange sofa.

The Intervention

Last year I had a story accepted by The Protest Diaries, an anthology about protests, naturally. It was supposed to go out by the end of the year. Back in March, I think it was, I got word from them that they had made some changes. They had too many stories and were going to ax about eight, and others would need revision. Ever the pessimist, I assumed my story was on the chopping block. Last week I got notice that my story had survived but they wanted significant revisions. They kindly outlined the changes they wanted. I agreed that most of the changes strengthened the story and was glad to accommodate them. Now I’m waiting to see if the changes are acceptable. The letter implied that if I made the changes they wanted then it was a done deal. We’ll see. Until then, well, writing is a waiting game.

As a preview, my story is “The Intervention”. A high schooler remembers his father’s funeral from when he was eight years old. His father had died fighting in Afghanistan and his funeral was picketed by evangelicals similar to what we’ve seen from the Westboro Baptist Church. If you’re unfamiliar with them, check out their website -godhatesfags.com. Yeah, they’re that kind of Christian.

Anyway, he learns that the same protesters are coming to picket the funeral of a police officer who was gay and a good friend. How he handles this situation is the balance of the story.

The editor said he liked my take on the issue and definitely wanted the story for the anthology. It just needed tightening up. Sometimes I just run on and on. Anyone who has read my writing knows that about me. I’ll post here when I know more. In the meantime, I’m still waiting for a publication date for Worlds Within and my story “Changing of the Guard”, the sequel to “La Duchessa”.