The Latest From the Rejection Files

dragon

from “The Hobbit” (2012)

I’ve received three story rejections within a relatively short space of time recently, which is disheartening. The first one was a long shot I sent to Uncanny Magazine. I wasn’t surprised when they sent a very speedy rejection email back to me, but I figured “worth a shot.” Of course that means the short SciFi story has been rejected three times so far.

However, the other two I actually thought had a chance. Here are excerpts from them both:

Strange Pawns

NOTE: The one requirement for this anthology was that both dragons and vampires had to be included. I set my tale in alternate versions of World War Two just for giggles:

Hodhas and Meldaborne personally led the 2nd Airborne Wing of Dragons on their fourth night of successive attacks against Berlin, supported by scores of RAF Mosquitoes. The city suffered from round the clock bombing runs, with the American Army Air Force assailing the capital by day.

The RAF insignia was proudly displayed by the dragons, each wearing a large sash that encircled their torsos. Jagi, however, had hers painted directly on her scales.

“Maintain formation in the dive, my cohorts,” ordered Hodhas, who seemed all but invisible against the ebony sky. “Our plunge to the Reichstag is coming up in moments.” Each of the dragons tilted their wings in acknowledgement, deftly avoiding flak from anti-aircraft guns on the ground, or those few that were left after the last twenty-four hours of perpetual bombardment.

“On my mark…dive!” The obsidian mother dragon curved her body downward, folding her wings back like a falcon, and in unison, 58 other dragons, one of six remaining attack forces, followed, screaming out of the ether like enormous birds of prey.

“I see something ahead. Too small to be aircraft, and we know the Luftwaffe has been destroyed…” Hodhas never finished her sentence as hundreds, perhaps thousands of bats surged upward from the city under cover of darkness, each with a wingspan of six feet or more. Their cries were maddening, and both fang and claw pierced the armor of the dragons, causing blood to be drawn from a dozen wounds in a matter of seconds.

“What insanity is this?” Piritz, one of the wing commanders, was the first to break formation in the confusion, thick violet blood flinging through the air as he banked and tried to climb. A multitude of bats clung to his body, like mosquitoes or leeches.

“Hold your course.” Her command was for naught as the bizarre barrage bewildered and then panicked the dragons.

“There are too many. I can’t shake them.” Nur was diving and twisting like a corkscrew toward the ground while Jagi released a bolt of flame toward an unattached group of the bats, scattering but otherwise not injuring them. Each attacking dragon described differing and random trajectories in the air attempting to loosen the grip of the nocturnal beasts.

“Bats. It couldn’t be.” Hodhas, to avoid the aerial chaos, had stopped her dive, and was managing to climb above most of the others. Then, a large bat rose to her altitude but did not offend against her. She saw eyes that were brown like almonds, and smoldering with a hidden fire. She remembered the last time she had been in his presence. Then he rose above her as the others of his kind detached themselves from her wounds. His weight was upon her back and she knew he once more resembled a man.

“Impaler. What do you seek? Why are you here? Did not the occult machinations of Hitler’s mage send you to a new world as they did us, one where your enemy does not dwell?”

The Haunted Detective

NOTE: This anthology required stories about hard-boiled crime drama, involving the mob, tough detectives, mysteries, and murder. I decided to add a twist. 1947 Private Detective Marguerite Potter’s client is a ghost:

san francisco 1947

San Francisco Chronicle Archives – From the back of the photo: “F Car goes through – The two months long blockade of the Fourth and Market intersection ended completely yesterday morning as F cars moved from Fourth Street across Market into Stockton. While police officers experimented with the new traffic pattern at the complex five-way intersection, workmen rolled down the last of the fill in the project. City officials hope the revised schedule will end one or more downtown bottlenecks.” September 9, 1947.

Now you know how I ended up with a cracked wing and a flesh wound in my shoulder that hurts like hell, flying like a bat out of Texas into a cold hard rain, but that wasn’t the end of it.

I owed Joel Cohen more favors and money than I could ever repay. He was Moshe Katz’s uncle and the only doctor I could trust, so the geezer met me back at my office. An hour later, I was patched up and had to listen to his lecture about women and dangerous jobs and the rest of the bullshit, but he didn’t harp on me because he believed any of it. Like Katz, the Cowens, and just about nobody else, he gave a damn whether I lived or died. Made me pay my bill by showing him the evidence. I was glad he was thirty minutes gone when Ramsey beat down my outer door then barged through the inner one, a Colt M1911 in his mitt.

I was still flat on my back on the sofa, right arm in a sling, trying to push myself up with my left, watching his fedora and black raincoat drip all over my already rotting floor. The only light Cohen kept on when he left was the one on my desk, which shone upward letting me see the Boss’ yellow-gray eyes. They had the same look as when he killed Preta.

How’d ya find out, Potter? Who hired you?” He was shivering, making the gun barrel wave up and down like a cobra.

He had me cold. My .38 was in my bag sitting on top of the desk, so I had only one other move. “It’s too late. I already called the cops. Cowen and half a dozen black and whites are on their way right now. If you hurry, you can still get out of here.” The lie sounded lame, even to me.

“Nothing doing. Even if you don’t tell me, I’ll still kill you and bury the evidence so deep, no one will find it again.”

“Then I don’t have a lot of motivation to tell you shit, now do I?”

“No one could know unless…son of a bitch. That bastard Assaro. I hate his guts but I never thought he’d turn stool pigeon. Nah, that don’t make sense. He’d never hire a PI if he or Pete wanted to get rid of me.”

“He didn’t hire Marguerite. I did.”

Preta was standing at the same corner of the desk Ramsey had used to crack her skull open almost six years ago, her feet on where she bled out and died while he raped her.

That’s it for now. Still have a number of stories in the pipeline, plus one I’m probably going to submit today. In this game, you’re only as good as your latest publication.

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