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Fall arrived this morning.  I wasn’t sure it would be putting in an appearance at all; the rainy September days have been warm in the Pacific Northwest so far this year.  But today’s coffee walk was decidedly crisp, and my usual Seattle techie uniform (shorts, hoodie, smartwool socks, and Keens) not quite up to the task.

I love the fall, for a whole host of reasons:  from carving pumpkins to watching football to drinking apple cider, to the leaves turning and the days growing short, to the anticipation of winter ahead.  Generally speaking my favorite season is whatever one we happen to be in at the moment, but fall is special, the moreso as its onset is no longer ruined by the dread of returning to school.  Such is life in the working world; the last of my summer vacations ended long ago.

Maybe it was having a five-month old (five!) strapped to my chest, but for whatever reason, a distant memory from my own childhood crawled up out of my subconscious as I was shuffled over to the Hi-Spot cafe.  This has happened more and more of late,  something about the triple-barreled process of divorce and remarriage and starting a family having left me feeling more connected to – and valuing – my own deep past than I have in years.

Anyway, what came to mind was this.  When I was growing up, there was a tradition in my family, whereby my dad would, sometime around Christmas, perform from memory the entirety of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee” for we kids’ benefit.

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tails
That would make your blood run cold…”

You are perhaps familiar with the poem – but if not, the link is above.  You’ll thank me later, I promise.

So.  Your humble author is no poet – but I was challenged to cough up a bit of doggerel once, as part of a class assignment.  I’d forgotten about it until this morning.  For no particular reason, I think I’ll share it here, with apologies to basically everyone, and Klee Kai owners* in particular.


Gratuitous picture of a Schipperke pup. Over-simplifying: this plus Siberian Husky equals Klee Kai.

*I got nuthin’ but love, guys.  Miniature huskies are a great idea.  Really.

The Klee Kai’s Lament

From Anchorage to Nome
Where Athabaskans roam
And March winds blow all unfettered

Four dozen proud teams
Paws twitching in dreams
Let’s find out whose alpha is better!

Tomorrow they’ll run
O’er land with no sun
All save this one – whose master won’t let her

For a cruel twist of fate
Keeps me locked in this crate
Like some uselessly floppy-eared setter


From Anchorage to Nome
Claws and teeth; fur and bone!
Legs churning and harnesses straining

Through cold winter’s night
They’re soon lost from sight
Running free after months endless training

Ten days, maybe twelve
Across endless ice shelves
Hearts taxed and strength slowly waning

While I lay back and growl
Snap at hands, bark and howl
Stuck here in the south where it’s raining


From Anchorage to Nome
At last, far from home
Raw meat instead of beef jerky

And there at the end
Victorious with friends
Deeds praised until time has grown murky

I’d run the Iditarod if I could
Race hard through Spruce woods
But I’ve missed my chance to make history

While I might look the part
With dad’s proud Husky heart
My mother, she was a Schipperke


Today was a good day.  I just found out that my story “Necrotopia”, which originally appeared in the anthology CHILDREN OF THE MOON, is going to be reprinted by Alban Lake in their November issue of Bloodbond.  From their website:

“Bloodbond publishes short stories, poems, art, and articles, reviews, and interviews, all related to vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters. We are especially interested in stories that combine science fiction with these topics, and that take place on or in relation to other worlds.”

Talk about getting lucky with a market:  Necrotopia is in fact a sci-fi/horror mashup about werewolves… on Mars.

I mean, c’mon.

Anyway, this is enormously satisfying for a whole bunch of reasons, because Necrotopia is one of my own personal favorites.  It’s a very sad story in its own way, and a rare case where I can point to something specific as its inspiration (two somethings, in fact:  the lyrics of a Nelly Furtado song* and the anime series Wolf’s Rain).  Maybe because of that, I think its the first time I really succeeded in transferring what I was feeling at the time onto the page.

It also sketches out a world I plan to return to as the setting for a novel someday, so this is motivational, to say the least.

And finally, the story is a wonderful example of trusting your own instincts as a writer.  I wrote the first draft way back in 2008, and even though the writing wasn’t up to par yet, I was convinced the story itself worked somehow, though back then I couldn’t have said why.  I submitted that early version to a couple of markets, and got some encouraging personal rejections back.  The personal rejection is currency for beginning writers; all we are looking for is some glimmer of hope, so to be told by an editor – hey, this isn’t quite right for us, but try us again – that was a Big Damned Deal at the time (still is).

And then something happened:  with the best of intentions, I posted the story on a website where I could get more detailed feedback from People That Know What They Are Talking About.  And even though I wasn’t sure I agreed with what I heard, I did my best to follow what I was told, since these were folks with so much more experience than me.  The thing is, on one level I am sure they were right, in the sense that all feedback honestly given is right, as long as it accurately captures the reader’s authentic reaction.  The challenge is figuring out what to do with it, and back then, I felt compelled to follow the advice I was given more or less to the letter.

The result was disaster.  Necrotopia is, as mentioned above, about werewolves on Mars, which is maybe an odd choice, and certainly not a popular one among those early reviewers.  Fortunately I was wise enough to ignore some of the more, um, invasive suggestions (e.g., “lose the werewolves”, and “set it on Earth”).

But it’s also written first person present tense, which, I was told, is a Hard Point of View to Sell.  So I re-wrote it third person past tense, which was fatal, since the whole point was to be in the mind of the werewolf telling the story, and he is living in the moment the entire time.

Even worse was the re-working of the ending, which I won’t belabor – but believe me when I tell you, I made things worse.

So:  all that done, I took the new, “improved” version, submitted it to a couple of more markets, and was right back in the land of the dreaded Form Rejection.   Here’s an example (call me a masochist, but I keep ’em all):

"Dear Fellow Writer:

Thank you for allowing us to read your manuscript; 
unfortunately, we find that it does not meet our 
needs at the present time. We wish you the best of 
luck in placing it and apologize for having to respond
with a form letter but the large number of submissions 
received makes a personal response impractical.

The Editors at XXXX MARKET"

At which point I went on one of my many writing hiatuses (hiatusi?), and didn’t touch it again for a couple of years.   When I finally got back in the saddle and dusted it off again?

I hated it.

And even though at that point I still hadn’t sold a single story, I was smart enough to say – hell, if I’m going to fail at this, I may as well fail with the story the way *I* want it.  So I put it back.  I threw away almost all the changes, went back to a first person, present-tense POV, edited the heck out of it (I had grown a bit as a writer along the way)… and promptly got rejected again.

And again.

But I stayed with it.  I kept editing, re-writing, tightening, and polishing,

And then, one day, it sold.  It wasn’t the first; in fact it was the fourth story of mine that ever saw the light of day.  But it will be the first to appear as a reprint, and I couldn’t be happier.

Not a bad way to end a three-day weekend, that’s for darn sure.

Now about that novel…

*For the curious, here are the relevant lyrics from All Good Things (Come to an End):

“Well the dogs were whistling a new tune
Barking at the new moon
Hoping it would come soon
So that they could die”