In ’96 I started writing again. I had walked away from it for 3 years, but it had gotten too deep in my blood and I had to get back to it. Over the next two years I had a lot of ups and downs writing-wise, mostly downs. For this lesson learned I’ll talk about a small success I had during this period, which was selling my second short story—this time to Hardboiled Magazine. Some of my upcoming lessons learned will focus on close calls, near misses and mistakes that I made during this same period.
When I started up again I decided I needed to get more short stories published, and I started writing them like a demon. In ’96, though, there weren’t that many markets for tough hardboiled crime fiction. Web-zines didn’t exist, so the markets you had for tough crime fiction were a few scattered anthologies, which were mostly invite only, New Mystery and Hardboiled. I was sending Charles Raisch at New Mystery the new crime stories I was writing, and he wrote me back to let me know that they had changed their editorial board, adding 10 new members, and the new stories I were sending in were being voted down 8-10. With that news, I sent my first submission to Hardboiled, and received back an encouraging rejection from the editor, Gary Lovisi—something along the lines of that he liked the story but it wasn’t quite right for him. With that I kept sending him stories and kept getting positives rejections. Eventually I wore Gary down and he accepted my story, Next Time, which was a riff on the Cab Calloway song, Kickin’ The Gong Around. I think I ended up sending him 10 stories before Gary finally bought Next Time, but as long as he was sending back encouraging rejections I was going to keep sending in submissions. ‘Next Time’ ended up being published in issue #22 where I appeared with one of my literary heroes, Harlan Ellison. And what happened to the other stories I wrote which Gary turned down? I stored them away in a drawer and years later sold some of them, one for pretty good money, and gave the rest away to web-zines.