Saturday, September 19, 2015

Painted Moonlight - my surreal mystery short finds a home

I'm not sure why the timing works as it does. Perhaps it's because I'm on Eastern time and thus asleep while much of the country is still awake, but anyway, I often find acceptances or rejections in my morning in-box.

My ritual works like this: I roll over and pick up my phone to shut off The Archies singing "Sugar, Sugar," my alarm tone. (On the weekend it's Dylan's "Hard Rain.")

Then I check email, and head on to coffee either dismissing rejections or singing when positive things come in. Like the summer sunshine, pour your sweeness over mee.

If there's nothing submission related, which is most days, I just sip coffee and read Zite next until the caffeine kicks in.

Last Saturday morning, I picked up my phone to discover a subtle little mystery tale, "Painted Moonlight," had been accepted by The J.J. Outré Review for online publication. It always feels good, but I was particularly pleased with this placement.

I'd worked on the story for a while. The idea came to me years ago of an artist possibly slipping into schizophrenia who stops in a small Texas town and promptly begins to pursue surreal visions toward the solution to a local mystery.

His wife, who's been coping with his developing symptoms is forced to search for him while he's drawn deeper and deeper into a world of ghostly figures and a compulsion to pursue a truth he can only sense.

I like a tale that kind of lets me, as reader, connect the dots. Robert Aickman's work has always affected me and I love stories like T.E.D. Klein's "Growing Things" and Kelly Link's "The Specialist's Hat."

I'd tried with this piece to provide a tale where the story's truth was present but did not beat the reader about the brow. I worked on the piece a while when I still lived in East Texas. The idea developed after my wife, Christine, and I took a long drive south from Tyler down to Beaumont for a memorial service.

It took things a while to gestate, but I finished the story last year, shaping it to the form I wanted.

Then I began to send it out, first to a literary-horror publication Lit Reactor seemed to think was a desirable market. I let it sit there a while but finally withdrew it after a number of calendar pages fell with neither acceptance nor rejection.

Then I collected some rejections, one for an anthology that felt it wasn't quite right and another from a publication that attached a kind P.S. to the form message: "Nice writing. This story is just not for me."

To paraphrase The Stones in  "Sympathy for the Devil," that's the nature of this game. You craft something as close to perfection as you can make it, and it either clicks or doesn't with someone else's intellect.

So, I moved on, found the home it needed with J.J., which seeks to offer mixed and crossed genre mysteries, and enjoyed the elation of my Saturday morning email.

Then I suspected I could expect a rejection next because that's how it usually goes, some law of the creative universe or something like that. I have a few more stories floating around at the moment, so someone was probably due to let the air out of one of them.

I picked up my phone last Sunday morning, almost dreading the in box, and found another email from J.J. OutrĂ© Review.

"Painted Moonlight" made it onto their Top 10 of the year list. It'll be in a print and ebook publication with the other stories as well as online.

So it goes, from ignore to "unfortunately not the right fit" to the right and comfortable home.

Sometimes getting up on the weekends doesn't mean facing a hard rain but a more gentle delight.

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