Saturday, December 17, 2016

Perks of Fate (#guardianangel #writing #inspiration)

By Jean Roberta

As Annabeth has pointed out, gratitude has traditionally been expected from the powerless. Sermons on the benefits of a grateful attitude seem to have migrated from Christian churches into various self-help groups.

On an interpersonal level, gratitude seems like a good idea when all parties are interacting in good faith. If I’m grateful to someone who gives me something, and if s/he is grateful to me for my gratitude or for whatever I’m willing to do for them, the relationship is likely to satisfy us both, and to last.

I’m grateful to the latest editor with whom I had some email correspondence. I sent a query on December 15 (submission deadline) to ask if I could have an extension of time until Monday, December 19. The answer was fast, polite, but negative. Editor said he planned to read all the submissions on Friday, December 16, and make decisions. If I could send him my story by 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on that day, he would read it.

No pressure! (Well, there would have been less pressure if I had started much earlier.) Finishing the story therefore took precedence over my post for this blog. I emailed it on time. This morning, I got a fast rejection (“not quite right for this anthology”), although Editor said my story was an enjoyable read.

So now I have a relatively non-erotic “soft” sci-fi story that could be tweaked in various directions and sent somewhere else for consideration. I checked out submission requirements for several sci-fi and fantasy venues: Beneath Ceaseless Skies (literary adventure-fantasy, no sci-fi), Clarkesworld, Lightspeed (temporarily closed for submissions), the Magazine of Science fiction and Fantasy (venerable magazine founded in 1949 – snail-mail okay, and apparently required), Not One of Us (must focus on people/things out of place in their surroundings, can’t open .docx submissions), Strange Horizons (temporarily closed for fiction submissions).

I am grateful for the call-for-submissions that inspired me to write this story, which is actually an extreme revision (or overhaul) of an older erotic fantasy story which was apparently incomprehensible to everyone but me. It was rejected for an anthology several years ago, so I sent it to a fantasy writer I trust for an opinion, and she politely explained that she didn’t get it either.

In general, I could say that I am grateful to whatever force in the universe creates the strange, twisty road of any human life that leads to good things, but especially the lives of writers, in which “hard facts” and fantasy don’t collide as much as they intertwine. One thing often leads to another in ways that are hard to foresee at the time.

Events that startle me into gratitude are usually unexpected. Some of these events have even suggested the intervention of a Guardian Angel or some other supernatural entity.

There was a previous winter when Spouse and I were on an icy road, and another driver “threw his truck” (Spouse’s words) at us, which caused our much smaller vehicle to skid off a snow embankment and slide 180 degrees so that we were facing oncoming traffic, but all the other drivers slowed down, and we were able to turn around and continue on our way. Our car emerged without a scratch. (I didn’t remember this in time for the "Close Calls" topic.)

There was the time when I, as a poverty-stricken single mother, was walking down the street near a downtown park, and a Canadian twenty-dollar bill brushed up against my leg like a friendly dog asking for attention.

There was an earlier event in the Single-Parent Co-op, a hotbed of gossip in which I held the keys to every apartment in my building because I was the elected Block Rep, responsible for letting in repairmen as needed. The downside of my power (which was explained to me by a previous Block Rep) was that every time another resident couldn’t find an item, the holder of the keys could be accused of stealing it. Then another resident told me pointedly that she had gone to the police to report a beef roast that was stolen right off her kitchen table. (I hadn't seen it.)

This story disturbed me because the morale of the whole building could be affected by rumours about a sinister, crooked, red-meat-addicted Block Rep.

One day, when I was walking my young daughter home from school, she picked a purse off the ground in the parking lot. I located the owner (in another building of the co-op), but didn’t check out the contents, which seemed too private for my eyes. Several days later, I heard the backstory: the purse owner had cashed her entire paycheque (over $600, a large sum in the early 1980s) before going out drinking with friends, and then lost her purse in the parking lot after she drove home. She had been desperate until she retrieved her purse from me, and found every penny intact.

As I told my father later while relating this story, it would have been nice of the purse-owner to give me a small reward, which I could have spent on my daughter. My father told me that my good reputation was restored to me, and that was my reward. He had a point.

I don't have any devout faith in supernatural intervention, but if the vast, general unfolding of time sometimes throws me a juicy bone, I'm glad to acknowledge it.


  1. I'm not any kind of a traditional Christian (I grew up Jewish), but there's a Christian concept I've come upon that I like very much: grace. Grace is unforeseen and possibly even undeserved good that is bestowed upon you by the Universe (by God, if you follow the Christian view). I like to think about grace, because every time I do, I see it in action in my own life.

    Lovely post!

  2. The law of averages sometimes leans our way. Be grateful when it does. I've never seen prayer do much for misery. Could God be that capricious? And why don't the faithful complain to God when things go bad? No. We're expected to be grateful for our challenges. After all, misery on earth translates to happiness in that apocryphal afterlife.

    1. In some cultures, maybe most with religious leanings, the faithful don't exactly complain to God, but they do ask why things are going wrong and how they can get Him to favor them. This tends to result in finding people to blame--"God sends tornadoes to punish our society for tolerating gay people"--on they assumption that if they can purge these people from their midst God will look kindly on them. Kind of a business deal, with no particular gratitude involved (although here are some cases where a lack of gratitude is blamed for the bad luck.)

  3. I'm interested in the journey of the story you wrote, Jean.

    "which is actually an extreme revision (or overhaul) of an older erotic fantasy story which was apparently incomprehensible to everyone but me."

    I have a couple like this myself, stories that mean a lot to me and that I feel work the way they are, but that don't seem to work for anyone else. It's a puzzle when it's like that, and makes me wonder how well people can actually communicate with each other after all.

    I hope you wind up finding a home/a reader who understands for the story!

  4. Thank you, Annabeth! I think I figured out the problem with the original version: it should have been a fantasy novel about a dragon-worshipping culture in which I should have done more world-building. I originally made the mistake of trying to cram too much into a story with a limited word-count for a dragon-themed anthology. The revised version isn't explicitly erotic, so I can't send it to any of my usual venues, so unless I do another major overhaul, I will need to shop it around to editors who never heard of me.

    1. I would so read a fantasy novel about a dragon-worshipping culture, though


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