February has been a banner month and a great way to start the year. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk about horror with an incredible group of women at Females of Fright!–an online panel hosted by HWA and WiHM. You can watch it at the HWA’s YouTube channel HERE.
It’s wonderful to see so many women writers and diverse voices on this Stoker ballot! I think it’s simply marvelous, and I’m proud to be a member of an organization that works so hard to support all writers.
There is one thing all writers have in common, regardless of genre and skill. It doesn’t even hinge on author presence and publication history. At some point in every writer’s career, rejection hits. It’s just part of the game.
Yet, rejection stings. Every single time.
Prior to my current work in fiction and poetry, I had non-fiction career under a different name. I published hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. I was a columnist and a grant writer. I compiled white papers for private companies and confidential reports for the Department of Defense. And, I contributed to dozens of travel guides; four of which I was the sole author. Yet even then, even when referrals came in faster than I could write, I still faced rejection.
When I turned my focus to fiction in 2014, I thought I had enough grit and experience to face the inevitable. However, no one told me that the rate of rejection is exponentially higher in fiction than it is in non-fiction. Being a writer of fiction is like being tossed in a pit with starving lions. It’s a blood bath.
One of the first stories I wrote as Carina Bissett was “Rotten,” a modern take on “Snow White.” In it’s polished form, it was good enough to earn an acceptance to the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing (Popular Fiction) at Stonecoast (University of Southern Maine). Yet, it took three years from this story’s first rejection to an acceptance, and it took another sixteen months after that before it ended up in print. Over the course of the three years I submitted “Rotten,” it was rejected fourteen times. I wondered if it would ever find a home.
Needless to say, I was thrilled when it was finally accepted by Mercedes M. Yardley (an award-winning author in her own right) for inclusion in an anthology published by Crystal Lake Publishing. It was even more exciting to discover that “Rotten” was slated as the final story in the book! (This was one of my “firsts” last year. In fact, my work took the coveted spot of the last story in TWO anthologies: Arterial Bloom and Bitter Distillations.)
When Arterial Bloom came out in March 2020, I didn’t think I could be happier. (Just look at the gorgeous cover!) And then, I opened my email yesterday to discover that Arterial Bloom made the Bram Stoker Awards preliminary ballot for Superior Achievement in an Anthology!
Will Arterial Bloom make it to the final ballot? I suppose only time will tell. In any case, I will always appreciate this moment. There were times when I nearly trunked this story. I became convinced no one would want to read it, which makes it all that much sweeter that self-doubt didn’t win. I’m considering this journey a lesson in patience and resilience. Sometimes, stories just need to find the right editor to believe in them. Mercedes M. Yardley just so happened to be the perfect reader for this particular story. Thank you, Mercedes! And a special thanks to all of the readers who nominated this beautiful little book. It’s been a fabulous way to start the new year!
Superior Achievement in an Anthology
Bailey, Michael and Murano, Doug – Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors (Written Backwards)
Cagle, Ryan and Jenkins, James D. – The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories, Volume 1 (Valancourt Books)
Flynn, Geneve and Murray, Lee – Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (Omnium Gatherum Media)
Givens Kurtz, Nicole – Slay: Stories of the Vampire (Mocha Memoirs Press)
Kelly, Michael – Shadows & Tall Trees 8 (Undertow Publications)
Kolesnik, Samantha – Worst Laid Plans: An Anthology of Vacation Horror (Grindhouse Press)
Neal, David T. and Scott, Christine M. – The Fiends in the Furrows II: More Tales of Folk Horror (Nosetouch Press)
Rector, Jeani and Wild, Dean H. – The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories (HellBound Books Publishing, LLC)
Tantlinger, Sara – Not All Monsters: A Strangehouse Anthology by Women of Horror (Rooster Republic Press)
Yardley, Mercedes M. – Arterial Bloom (Crystal Lake Publishing)
I just received a parcel delivered through Royal Mail! Inside were my contributor copies of Bitter Distillations: An Anthology of Poisonous Tales, which was edited by Mark Beech and published by Egaeus Press. It is a beautiful book, and I’m beyond thrilled that my story “An Embrace of Poisonous Intent” closes out this gorgeous array of tales. I’ve been adding titles put out by Egaeus Press to by bookshelves for a couple of years now. The fact that copies of their newest anthology showed up on the last day of the year makes this story success that much sweeter.
Although 2020 has been a challenging year in many ways, it has also been one of my most productive. I finished my first novel, which I’m currently editing under the guidance of the amazing Angela Slatter. (If you have the opportunity to work with her, take it. Trust me on this.) I also wrote five original stories including “An Embrace of Poisonous Intent” and “The Stages of Monster Grief: A Guide for Middle-aged Vampires,” which came out in the October publication of Coffin Blossoms.