I find myself between edits. The Greatest Gift, a new Regency, has gone off for line edits and will be out December first. The Aussie Sinner went to contract, and I await the first edits. With nowhere to go and nothing much else to do thanks to the Covid virus, I find myself with a little time on my hands. What can I do in a week besides puzzles and crosswords? I'm reluctant to start writing a new book until the edits are out of the way. So, after reading a short story collection by my friend J.L.Salter entitled Till Death do us Part, I decided to root through my desk drawer to the very bottom and unearth a bunch of short stories, Twilight Zone style, that I'd written years ago.Some I'd revised and put on the computer, but others still languished in the depths. Maybe I had the makings of my own collection for publication.
This excursion to the very bottom of the drawer unearthed some works I'd forgotten I'd written and even a collection of poetry earnestly written in the Sixties and Seventies. None of the poems were published, probably just as well. Only one of the short stories, The Mummy, The Samurai, The Shrunken Head, and Joe Boone, was printed. It appeared in an e-anthology called Horrors, and I got a whopping ten dollars for the North American serial rights. Within a year, that press folded and the story has been relegated to oblivion. I found numerous versions of it in the great heap, most telling in the first paragraph which mentions a used car. It starts out as a VW, becomes a Saturn, and I guess now should be Hyundai. Or I could go back to VW again. It is easily my favorite of the bunch,and I'd love to see it in print again.
I found some of the others I'd been looking for to revise, A couple that I recall writing have gone missing. Along with those found, I discovered numerous rejection slips for the same, mostly form letters, but my favorite containing a note that this was a really good story, but they had to publish big names to survive. More than one rejection was signed by Marion Zimmer Bradley, famous for her Arthurian fantasies.. I rather cherish her autograph. She kindly explained that her magazine did not publish stories in which children came to harm. Actually, the children weren't harmed but were placed in jeopardy. I didn't feel I could argue with a big name like that. I didn't reread all the rejections. I'm not that tough. However, I do wonder if I have any other big names among them. Maybe during another interval I'l make that search.
As I reached the very bottom, I began to find hand-written versions of the stories and even my first novel, rewritten many times, retitled, and now published. The sequence went like this: hand-written, typed on a portable Olivetti-Underwood I'd bought for college, retyped on the Brother electric I purchased from Sears, blobs of white-out covering my typos. The most recent of course are now transcribed on the hard drive of my computer and backed up on a flash drive. I need to revise the best of them and add them to the group--some day.
Other blasts from the past: the pieces of cardboard I stockpiled to stiffen my submission envelopes and a bunch of pre-addressed SASEs, self-addressed, stamped envelopes, for the return of my treasures. Anyone else remember those? Now, most submissions I do are online as are the rejections I still occasionally get. I used to print them out, but most are form letters and not worth the effort. No famous autographs any more. I did meticulously record on each returned envelope the place where I'd sent it for consideration in order not to double up. Back in those days,there were actually many short story magazines, barely any now.
I discarded the cardboard and felt guilty about not recycling it, but our area no longer has a recycling program, too expensive they say. A few excess copies made it to the trashcan. Others can go as I transcribe the stories. I put up a light poem about my children that I'd forgotten all about on FaceBook and was immediately reprimanded for leaving out my middle child--by my middle child. I guess I should add another verse when I have the time. I couldn't bring myself to throw out the hand-written pages yet, but they will go one day. Sadly, I am not Jane Austen or Emily Dickinson, and nobody will do a master's thesis on my ink-smeared pages (I'm a lefty).
Whether this excursion into the past will result in a short story collection, I have no idea. But, if this period of isolation continues, it just might.