An overnight success, 26 years later


Today I sold a short story to Buzzy Mag.  It’s my third pro sale, which is a very important milestone for me.

In June of 1988, I sold my first short story, “Potential Gains,” to a very semi-pro magazine called Beyond: Science Fiction and Fantasy. I probably earned enough to buy myself a beer.  Two at happy hour.

In 1993, Charlie Ryan saw fit to take on “The Motel 6 Fugue” for Aboriginal SF.  He later bought another story, “Walking Backwards Through Death’s Door.”  You can find them here.  These sales earned me a seat on the Associate member bench of SFWA, and invitations to all the cool events, like the Nebula Awards weekend and the SFWA suite at Worldcon.

Then the Great Dry Period began.  I was living in Seattle, killing my brain with early morning sections of English 101 and 104 (Business English), gaming, and generally indulging in long bouts of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  While I had time to do writing workshops, I had no money (hey, I was teaching at a community college).  Nor did I seek out anyone in Seattle’s active SF community.

Eventually, I returned to California and the Bay Area, fell in love again, got married, and became a parent.  I still wrote, but it was unfocused and sporadic. There were bills to pay, and cats to feed, and a house to clean.

My beta readers (you know who you are) loved me and encouraged me, but didn’t slap me around like I needed.

As my 50th birthday approached, my ever-supportive spouse decided—in the finest Buddhist tradition— to give me a compassionate whack to the side of the head.  She insisted that I submit an application to Viable Paradise.  Go, she said. Take a week off work and write.  Jeez.  Anything to get you out of the house.

So I submitted “Layover,” one of my depressed, first-person POV stories that had made the rounds without any success.

It was accepted.  Then critiqued.  Dissected.  Appreciated.  Revised. Re-submitted to professional markets.  Rejected.

I wrote more stories, and they were also rejected.  I seriously began to think that I would never sell another story, and be relegated to the back tables at SFWA, waving at the cool kids.

Given a bit of luck, anyone can sell a story.  If you work at it, and listen to your feedback, you can sell another one.  If you screw your courage to the sticking place, keep writing and submitting, you can earn that third sale.

Now the real work begins.

Thank you, everyone.  It’s been a long time coming, but I think it was worth it.

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