Yes, I Still Get Rejections

A while back, I posted something on Facebook about a rejection I’d received on a project. I was a bit taken aback when several people offered to “have a talk” with the editor. Others questioned the editor’s mental health for rejecting a Jim Hines story. It was flattering, in a way — I love that I have fans who are so enthusiastic about reading new stuff from me — but I think it might also reflect a basic misunderstanding.

Rejections are part of the job. They don’t suddenly stop when you become more successful. They’re less frequent, yes. Much less frequent, and my own mental well being is unspeakably grateful for that. But with the possible exception of folks like Rowling and King, we all risk rejection when we write.

Over the past year, I wrote a short story for an anthology that got cancelled. Another editor said they were interested, so I sent the story their way. They read it, said some nice things, and rejected the story. And they were right to do so.

I’ll be honest, I would have loved to sell a story to this particular editor and venue, but the story I had written didn’t match the tone and style of the venue. I appreciate them taking a chance on reading the story, but they have every right to turn it down. It’s their job to turn it down. Because it wasn’t the right story for them.

I have another project my agent has been shopping around. We’ve gotten some very nice rejections, generally saying things like it’s not quite right for that particular line, or it’s close but this or that or the other didn’t work for them.

In a slightly older example, I had a friend reject me because the story I’d written utterly missed what they were looking for in the guidelines.

Does it still sting? Sure. Twenty-two years into this, I still hate getting rejections. But I’m not unrealistic enough to think every word I write is made of gold and perfectly-suited to all editors and publishers in the world, bar none. Sometimes I’m able to sell the rejected work elsewhere, to an editor/venue that’s a better fit. Sometimes I’m not.

That’s how the business works. Even after 12 books and 50+ short stories in print. Not because the editors are misguided or wrong or blind to my brilliance, but because they’re doing their jobs.

As someone who’s currently on both sides of the desk (co-editing Invisible 3 with Mary Anne Mohanraj as well as continuing to write my own stuff), let’s keep in mind that being a good editor is hard, just like being a good writer.

As for those rejections? I recommend three things.

  1. Get the story back out there.
  2. Keep working on the next one.
  3. Eat ice cream as necessary.

Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older

Shadowshaper Cover ArtI continue to snag books out of my son’s Scholastic book order forms. One of the latest was Shadowshaper [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Daniel José Older. It’s an enjoyable, relatively quick read. Here’s the summary:

Sierra Santiago planned to have an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a mysterious fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for herself and generations to come.

The “About the Author” section notes that Older lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is where the book takes place, and it shows. Sierra’s world feels real and fully developed, populated with interesting people and places. It’s a far cry from some of the generic pseudo-New York settings you sometimes get.

I love the concept of shadowshaping, the way the magic works as a collaboration between spirits and shadowshaper, and the possibilities of that power. One of my favorite scenes was watching Sierra discovering what she could do with a simple piece of chalk.

Sierra and the rest of the cast are great, all with their own personalities and flaws and conflicts. They feel like real people…it’s just that some of them can bring their artwork to life.

My only complaint is that the villain felt a bit flat and obvious. But the ideas behind that villain, the theme of the privileged cultural outsider barging in and making a mess of things, are totally valid and powerful. I wouldn’t want that to change; I just would have liked to see a little more depth to them.

And kudos for the awesome librarian.

I’ve seen a number of reviews praising the diversity in the book. On the one hand, I do think that’s worth recognizing, and I definitely appreciated it. On the other… I don’t know. I wish we could reach a point where we don’t have to praise authors for showing the world the way it is, and could instead just note when authors fail to portray a realistically diverse world. Does that make sense? I dunno…probably something that needs a longer blog post to unpack.

Anyway, to wrap this up, the ending was lovely and made me eager to read Shadowhouse Fall, which comes out in September of this year.

Book Giveaway and Terminal Alliance Cover Reveal

The Book Smugglers are hosting the cover reveal for my next book, Terminal Alliance. While you’re admiring Dan Dos Santos‘ artwork, you can also enter to win an autographed copy of one of my published books!

I’m really happy with this one. I think it captures the feel of the book, and Dos Santos had a marvelous take on the ship’s computer tech Gromgimsidalgak (Grom) — that’s the yellow alien on the right.

The book comes out on November 7. But, of course, you can preorder any time you like! 😉

State of the Jim: Terminal Alliance, Invisible 3, and More

Life has been…let’s call it hectic. A random sampling of recent excitement includes a minor car accident (everyone’s fine), a $200+ insurance mix-up (I think they’re straightening it out now), a podcast interview (I’ll post links when it goes live), increased work at the 10 hours/week day job, and more.

All manageable, but there’s been an ongoing sense of running without ever getting a chance to stop. (Though Amy and I did sneak out to see Logan earlier this month. Yay!)

And then there are the various writing-related projects. Here are the updates on those!

Terminal Alliance

As some of you may have seen, the official release date for Terminal Alliance has been moved back to November 7. This is on me. Writing my first science fiction novel has taken longer than I anticipated, and I’ve needed additional time to make it as good as possible.

Happily, I turned a complete manuscript in to my editor last week, and am now working on final revisions. Everything is on schedule for that November release, and I’m happy with how the story and characters have turned out.

I’m particularly happy with the cover art Dan Dos Santos did for the book. The big cover reveal has officially been scheduled for this coming Monday, March 20. I can’t wait to show it off! There should be a giveaway to go with it.

Invisible 3

Mary Anne and I have responded to all but five submissions, and we’re hoping to get back to those people within the next week. I’m really excited about the essays and poems we’ve accepted so far. We don’t have a firm schedule yet, but I expect we’ll see some of the essays as guest blog posts next month, with the anthology going on sale in either late April or May.

Other Writing

I revised and returned a story called “The Fallow Grave of Dream” for the anthology The Death of All Things. The story has not been officially accepted or rejected yet, but regardless what happens, I’m very proud of this one. It’s short — only 2700 words, and the first story I’ve ever done in present tense, second person. It’s about death and dreams and disability and family and love and hope and despair, and it’s just really different from anything I’ve done before. One way or another, I look forward to sharing it with you.

Obligatory Hugo Reminder

For those of you doing your Hugo noms, my Magic ex Libris series is eligible for the Best Series Hugo, and our cat Chewie is eligible for Best Melted Cat.

Nova, by Margaret Fortune

Cover of NovaI am shamefully overdue on reviewing Margaret Fortune‘s book Nova [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound]. I’d been hoping to review and provide a blurb before the sequel came out. Since the sequel was released on Tuesday of this week, it looks like I blew it.

Here’s some of the publisher’s summary:

Lia Johansen was created for only one purpose: to slip onto the strategically placed New Sol Space Station and explode.

But her mission goes to hell when her clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go. With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia has no idea what to do next. Her life gets even more complicated when she meets Michael Sorenson, the real Lia’s childhood best friend.

There’s a lot going on here. In some respects, this reads like a pretty standard coming-of-age story, with Lia learning about herself, developing relationships and a romantic interest, and finding purpose. In space!

It’s enjoyable on that level, and for a good 3/4 of the book, Lia’s personal growth takes center stage. But all this is happening against a background of interplanetary war, in which Lia is a literal weapon for the other side. Fortune sprinkles hints and clues as we go, preparing us for the big revelations at the end.

I guessed one of those revelations pretty early on. Others were more of a surprise. The pace really picks up as we learn the truth about Lia’s past and the war she’s fighting. I had a really hard time putting down the book during those final chapters.

In some respects, it reminded me of reading Heinlein as a kid — engaging teen protagonist and interesting space stuff, all written in a way that pulls you along for the story. (But without the more problematic aspects of Heinlein.) The fact that her glitched clock keeps starting and stopping, slowly whittling away the seconds, adds a nice layer of tension and conflict.

I would have liked to see Lia grapple a bit more deeply with the fact that she’s both a suicide bomber and the bomb itself, but the ending resolves that pretty well.

All in all, a fun read. I suspect more experienced SF writers might find parts of it familiar, but it’s still enjoyable. (And best of all, the ebook edition is currently on sale for $1.99.)

Book two of the five-book series, Archangel, came out on March 7.

Jim C. Hines