16 July 2019 – THE BORDER KEEPER released!

When I pressed ‘submit’ on Tor.com Publishing’s Moksha page on 12 January 2017, I had no real expectations of success. Admittedly I didn’t have many expectations of any kind; after several consecutive nights spent editing the manuscript, I mostly just felt exhausted.

Relief, yes, I felt that, and the usual giddy excitement that accompanies sending out a story for the first time. But I’d also been struggling to sell short fiction for years, and I had previously received a form rejection from Tor.com Publishing when I sent them a novella in 2015. This looked to be merely another foray into the realms of Rejectomancy.

I’m very good at obsessing. It might not be that exceptional amongst writers, actually, but I was glued to that Moksha page. Would the queue move today? Would it move, maybe, since I last checked it an hour ago? When I started, there were 170 people in the slush pile ahead of me. As the months passed, that number slowly sank. I spent a painfully long time in queue position 67 —three months, possibly?— and there was no way of knowing what that might betoken. The first readers might have gone on holiday! The submission had gotten lost in a black hole! They had put it aside for some arcane reason so that they could batch reject it with others!

Down I went, and I began to do that dangerous thing. Hoping. A year passed. I reached single digits in queue. And then, for two weeks, I sat at Queue Position 1.

I really wasn’t doing anything glamorous or inspiring when I received the email. If I remember correctly, I was actually half-watching 90 Days to Wed. And when I saw the message popped up, I initially thought it was a rejection. Because it started with praise, and that meant there was a looming “it was great BUT…”

There’s a tendency to only report triumphs when it comes to writing. People avoid talking all that much about the difficult parts, the frustrating parts, the boring parts, or even the heartbreaking parts. For good reason — it usually comes off as whiny. But I think, from the outside, that this can result in it appearing effortless when someone does receive an acceptance or accolade. When, really, it’s just one lucky strike after a lot of failed pitches. The right editor reads your work on the right day; that’s all there is to it, as easy and as impossible as that.

It’s been pretty wild, watching my novella go through the editorial process. I’m also absolutely terrible whenever anyone asks me about it. “What’s your book about?” After a moment of blind panic, I tend to burst out with “Demons!” which doesn’t seem to be a winning strategy. Or very true to what is actually in the book. Or advisable when talking to devout Christians.

The Border Keeper tries to be weird and dark and colourful and epic on a small scale, but it’s also tricky to describe beyond the basic premise. I think it will be funnier than people anticipate, and probably more romantic too.

But it’s all out of my hands now. Go well, little story, little piece of my heart. I hope you find a reader who likes you.

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