sad dragon
Bummer, dude

I heard back from C.C. Finlay, who’s guest editing an issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (or F&SF, for short). Regular readers of this blog may remember when I posted about submitting a story for this issue. Charlie doesn’t plan to use my story this July/August. He liked it, but he didn’t love it. Actually, here’s his email, verbatim:

Thanks for submitting “Gathering for the Feast.” I enjoyed reading it — I like the setting, the history, the magic, and characters. But in the end it didn’t quite win me over — part of that was it felt just a bit too long to me for the amount of story in it. So I’m afraid I’m going to pass on it. Best of luck with finding another home for it, and thanks again for giving me a chance to read it. If I do this again I hope to see another story from you.

A friend of mine also submitted a story, and received a rejection. In the interests of ferreting out exactly how personal my rejection letter was, and how much it was  form letter, I can report that both our rejections began and ended pretty much the same way. “Thank you for submitting [title].” appeared in both letters. So did the ending part: “Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for giving me a chance to read it. If I do this again I hope to see more stories from you.

The part where I know he actually read my story, and my friend’s—or at least, he got decent evaluations of them from a careful reader—comes in between the form sections. My friend’s center section was different from mine. Not exactly a form letter, right? Anyway, I’ve decided to take it as encouragement. Why? Because I can!

So now I need to decide what to do next. There are two options I can see. The first would be to go back in and see if I can figure out where and how the story is too long. The second would be to just go ahead and submit it elsewhere.

Here’s the thing: if I didn’t have any other projects vying for my attention, I would probably go back in there. I might find something to improve, something that’s escaped me up to this point. However, I have at least two other works in need of revision. Also there’s the whole, “what if while I’m trying to fix it, I just make it worse?” question. You know how, when you’re having the beginnings of a bad hair day, and you keep futzing around with your hair, and by the time you’re done, it looks even worse than when you started? That’s my dilemma.

Here’s the way I’m leaning: decide in a day or two.

My plan for today is to revise a different short story. I marked it up yesterday. I want to get it in shape to put up on Critique Circle. Once they’ve had a go at it, I was going to run it by my other critique group. Then I was going to push the little darling out the door.

In the meantime, I have a hot mess of a novel which requires surgery and other doctoring. I plan to get back to work on that tomorrow.

Next week is Capricon. I can see doing a first draft of something, or even marking up a draft, while also attending a con. But to do revisions I really need to spread out. Unvisited marked-up pages go on the left, finished pages go on the right, my computer is in the middle, and my pulled-out hair is in the wastebasket. I’d rather deal with all that at home, thank you. So I won’t bring my novel along. I might take my rejected F&SF short story with me for markup, if I decide to have another look at it before sending it out again.

Anyone out there on the interwebs have an opinion? Do I just submit the story elsewhere, or do I try to fix it? I’d love to see your comments below. If it’s easier for you to respond using Twitter, Google+ or Facebook, feel free to comment that way instead.

Updated Scoreboard:
Year: 2014
Submissions: 2   Acceptances: 0   Rejections: 1

The Three-legged Stool of Creativity – Part Deux

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano:
Part Two of a three-part series on helping creativity flow

Adding the second leg

I’m sure I heard the phrase “Mens Sana in Corpore Sano” long before I had any notion what it meant. Then I started reading the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia is fond of using that phrase, from the poem by Juvenal whenever extolling the value of exercise.

Elizabeth Peters – photo from website

I would like to say that after reading the first Amelia book, I started exercising. I cannot say it with a straight face. I’ve only paid attention to fitness and nutrition sporadically. However, around 2005 my doctor diagnosed me as prediabetic. Since I was already having trouble with my blood pressure, and sometimes with cholesterol and triglyceride levels, it was clear something had to change. When you have this combination, doctors may also refer to your condition as metabolic syndrome, and warn you you’re at risk for all kinds of horrible health issues.

Honestly, I wasn’t as afraid of having a stroke or heart attack as I was about becoming demented. There’s a lot of dementia on my father’s side of the family. We all figured it was Alzheimer’s Disease, but after my dad was thoroughly evaluated, it turned out that his dementia was most likely due to metabolic causes – the combination of diabetes, high BMI, high blood pressure, and unsatisfactory cholesterol and triglyceride numbers. Having seen more than enough dementia in the family,  I had a come-to-Jesus moment and determined that I’d get my BMI into the normal range.

Maintaining a healthy weight continues to be a struggle, but I’ve managed to keep about ninety pounds of the excess off for a couple of years now. I still have blood pressure issues, but my glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride numbers are good.

I also still have food issues. However – and this is something you don’t think about too much when you’re lying around on the couch in front of the TV with an enormous ice cream sundae – exercise can actually be fun. It can be an adventure, the way it is when:

Cookie & I go for a long bike ride


I take a hike at Starved Rock


it just feels good. e.g., belly dancing

Day to day, I just exercise enough to make sure I’m ready for the good stuff. A hike is a lot more fun if you’ve got the wind and the strength for it, so I do something cardiovascular three to five days a week (maybe six when the weather is good), and do strength training two to three days a week.  I could stand to do some more mind-body work, like yoga, tai chi or meditation, but I fit that in sometimes.

So that’s the second leg on my stool of creativity – taking care of my body. There’s all kinds of evidence that your mind functions better if your body is in good shape. Well… I’m still pretty flaky. However, regular exercise has given me more energy to do all kinds of things, and that includes writing.

Writing exercise: doorway into adventure!

Here in the Journey, we have a history of doing simple writing exercises and prompts in our jabber chats. Katherine L. stopped by for a while to offer her help with editing; she mentioned her daughter Sabrina’s blogs from Cuba (very nice). After she left, Ajey and I decided to try a writing prompt. I came up with: write about an individual who steps through a doorway or portal into adventure. Take just 15 minutes (no editing).

Here’s Ajey’s partial entry:

Why had there been a warning sign for this part of the island? There wasn’t anything here but dense jungle foliage. It was really intense, thought Isabella, but then she looked around and let out a gasp. Some of the large bush in front of her had collapsed after the heavy, monsoon-like rains that had just passed over the island, and just behind that bush, and now visible, was a large polished marble rock. She had seen this kind of rock before, in the lobby of her newspaper building. It was not the sort of thing you would expect to find on an island.
Parting her way through the dense underbrush, Isabella slowly made her way over to the rock. She brushed some dirt off it. But the thing that most intriqued her was that the rock felt loose. She took both hands and started rocking the rock. It would only rotate in one direction, almost as if a lever had been positioned below it and somehow attached to it.
Well, “Here goes!” Isabella thought as she pulled on the rock with all her strength and then let it drop. Machinery was engaged, and the rock, with all deliberateness slid downwards, forcing her to jump up and out of the way. Now the rock, which had been a vertical eliptical shape, was laying horizontal on the ground.
“Okay, this is interesting” Isabella thought. But moving the rock didn’t seem to do anything. Its movement did not reveal a hole in the ground, or anything like that.
Momentarily unsure of herself because of what she had just done, Isabella edged back toward the road. She made sure that the sign warning trespassers away was now in front of her again. Was this just a trick to establish the fact of the islanders’ compliance, and to trick the insufficiently-compliant into revealing themselves? Would there be secret agents pulling up in Jeeps momentarily? Isabella shuddered.
Again taking stock of her surroundings, Isabella now noticed, almost outside the field of her vision, …

Here’s mine:

Sheryl stumbled into the dark, dusty room, struggling not to breathe deeply after her dead run through the hallways of this strange mansion. The light of several dim moons filtered through layers of grime and cobwebs that obscured the tall, narrow windows in the room. Ears straining to listen for signs of immediate pursuit, she fumbled with the heavy open door and wrestled it closed. The creaking hinges complained, rising to a horrible loud screech as the door closed.
Or almost closed.
Sheryl cursed to herself to see that some mismatch between the old door and the swollen wood of its frame kept the door from closing all of the way. Well, there was no helping it.
She tried to shut away the outside world, the terrors that had chased her, the dust in the room that tickled her nose in the stale air of this room. She reached out with her mindsense. Searching… searching… Yes, there it was, quite nearby now.
The Presence was bright enough in her mind that she walked forward with confidence despite her closed eyes, stepping neatly around the dark table to stand before a shelf. And there, at the level of her heart, it was: the Presence. She opened her eyes as she reached out and lifted the large, heavy book from the shelf. It seemed to emanate a strange glow her mind wanted to see behind her eyes.
She carefully placed the book on the table, her fingers tracing the delicate carvings in the old leather binding. Opening it, every blink of her eyes revealed to her the page she wanted, the page that called to her.
With the book opened before her, a faint breeze ruffled her long, dark hair. The air from the book smelled fresh. Almost she tasted the tang of the ocean upon the breeze. Almost it made the dark dustiness of the room around her fade into the background.
The door’s hinge creaked and the light from a torch cast her shadow upon the book.
Now fear made her heart rise within her. Almost she turned to face her pursuer; but her years of training steadied her will. There was no escape, no hope of survival in confronting the pursuer. There was only a moment to act.
“Sheryl! For God’s sake, don’t!” he called behind her.
She closed her eyes and stepped forward into the pages of the Book.

What do you think? I’m thinking perhaps this might be an interesting story to submit to our upcoming horror anthology.

Feel free to comment with your story/scene-let entries.