Like so many writers I began writing at an early age. I was nine. I had no mentor, no one who inspired me to write, and no one in the family who wrote and could guide me through the pitfalls and show me the ropes. I was on my own to find my own way through the scary world of publishing. But I was an optimist and expected everything to work out just fine. In other words I thought my work would be published right away.
I learned the awful truth at the speed of light.
I had just turned 13 when I completed my first short story. Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, I had visions of greatness when I submitted my story to “Seventeen” Magazine. The submissions editor was certain to call me on the phone and personally thank me for my award worthy submission. I rode high on my dreams of becoming a published author for quite some time.
And then the day came when my self-addressed, stamped envelope came from “Seventeen”. My heart practically beat out of my chest with expectation. My hands shook with the surge of adrenaline from my excitement. When I opened the envelope and pulled out the form letter that simply stated that my story didn’t fit the type of work the magazine had in mind. I did what any kid would do with rejection: I cried. It was the first and last time I would ever cry over a rejection…and a good thing since plenty of rejections would come my way.
The amazing thing is, that rejection didn’t deter me from writing another story. I know my writer friends can relate when I say that the rejection just made me more determined than ever. Now I was in a fever to write good enough to become published. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I took correspondence courses through the mail from writing schools. Later, I took classes in writing in college. I joined Romance Writers of America. I subscribed to writers’ magazines like “Writer’s Digest” to find the answers to why my work was rejected and what I should do about it. I knew that writing was a highly competitive endeavor, but I honestly could not stop.
I began to take rejections that offered some kind of advice or critique of my work as golden opportunities to learn. Meanwhile, I went to work as a nurse and supported myself while I continued to write and reach for my goal of becoming published. I did not know any other writers then. I had no one to hash out my ideas or converse with about the road to publication. I was alone, having to figure it out as I went along.
And then in the autumn of 1996 when I was 48 years old, I got my first submission acceptance with a short science fiction story titled “Blind Intuition.” Words cannot fully express the elation I felt on that day. I cried—this time with profound joy. I called everyone to tell them my good news. My friends took me out to lunch to celebrate. My sister helped me celebrate by taking me out. I published four more short stories before I committed my writing to a novel length project.
I had a few rejections after that, but by that time, I took rejection in stride. I would just work harder. Eventually, I found a publisher that consistently liked my work. As my career began to move forward, I found other publishers more in line with my style and genre of writing and found more success. My only regret has been that my parents died before I became published. I think they would have been happy for me because they, above all others, knew how badly I wanted to be able to claim the title of “writer” and they knew my struggles to get worthy of success.
My Published Books (top shelf left of my Minions)
Rejection is hard to swallow. It was especially difficult for me at age 13. But rejection is a great motivator, too. If a person’s spirit tells them they should become a writer, absolutely nothing will stop that spirit as long as the person draws breath, to work toward the goal of becoming published. In fact, it never stops. Writers write because they cannot conceive of not writing. I personally think it’s genetic. Writers just never quit, never give up. We are built tough enough to take rejection and use it to our advantage. If I could explain how we got to be this way I would, but honestly, I don’t have the answer. It’s just who we are.
MYTHS, LEGENDS, AND MIDNIGHT KISSES/ Pennytook (my contribution)
Myths are supposed to be false…but some are terrifying and true.
Pennytook is a war weary Gypsy who longs for peace from the past and wants something meaningful in his life.
Esmeralda, a Gypsy trick rider, has harbored a deep affection for the chieftain, Pennytook, for many years. But her dark secret will never allow him into her life.
A mythological creature is about to unleash its horror and change the destinies of Esmeralda and Pennytook.
A deep ache spread through Pennytook's chest as he walked beside Esmeralda to the shelter where the horses rested. Something was very wrong and it filled him with dread. The night air had grown cold. He wanted to tuck his woolen cloak around her shoulders, but he knew she would refuse. The music of the tribe and the Chergari were distant now as if it were the music of the spirit realm. He shivered at the thought.
As Esmeralda neared the ruins of the Dark Isle, her heart began to race and something like sparks darted all through her body. She realized she had made a terrible mistake leaving the safety of the Plains of Marja to travel to Castyava on her own. Hasty decisions made in anger or fear seldom worked out well.
Sensing the danger around her, she tried to keep to the edge of the forest away from the bubbling cauldron that had once been the vast Lake of Sorrows. The smell of sulfur and evil grew rank in the air. No birds sang from the forest. No crickets made music. No creatures crept along the forest floor or rustled in the limbs of the trees. Something evil menaced from the shadows of the woods. Esmeralda sought a place for cover. Minita could not outrun anyone or anything that might pursue her, but the black steed was strong and had the stamina to endure over a long distance. It was only a small advantage and no advantage at all if whatever stalked her possessed the ability for speed.
Something drew near. She had heard the rumors of monsters and knew the terrible legends told of the Lake of Sorrows and the Niamso who still kept vigil over the lake. Her heart pounded in her chest. She had been foolish to come this way alone. Nothing but pride had made her do such a thing. Pennytook had hurt her and now she might never be able to survive to make things right.
Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: