DEBRIEF | Golden Hair, Red Lips (Nightmare Magazine’s Queers Destroy Horror)

I’m shamelessly stealing the following blog format from the excellent B.R. Sanders, who’s been posting these about their own short fiction. (Seriously, I’ve even stolen the title.) Partly this serves as a shameless announcement (Hey you! Go read my story!), partly a record of my writing along side the record of reading that this blog exists as. But I also think that writers don’t always talk about the industry as much as they should, and I find it fascinating to read about when other writers so perhaps someone will enjoy it in return. (It sure helps when you receive your 27th rejection note to be able to read of other stories that have met the same fate.)


Nightmare_37_October_2015Publication date: October 1st 2015

Where: Nightmare Magazine’s Queers Destroy Horror

Completion date: 31st March 2014

Number of times subbed: Twice – but unusually, this story was actually *accepted* twice, and suffered no rejections.

The story of the story: Golden Hair, Red Lips came about thanks to a collision between three things: a call for submissions for an anthology of stories disassembling the mythology of literary monsters, my recent discovery of Dorian Gray, and a three month obsession with the history of AIDs after attending a vigil at Manchester Pride. The idea fitted together naturally: the transposition of the eternally youthful Dorian (who is already an obvious mirror for gay culture) into an era in which youth was even more short-lived made perfect sense.

Despite having two months notice on the original call for submissions, I wrote the whole piece in two days – one day of writing, a sleep, and a day of editing. This is, hands down, the fastest I have ever written a story, but for some reason the whole thing clicked into place when I started writing it (although my editing of it was ruthless.)

Placing the story: I’m more than accustomed to story rejections, so I’m rather smug in being able to point out this story was not only never rejected, it was actually accepted twice. It was initially taken by the anthology it was intended for, who later were forced to release it back to me when the planned book never happened. Serendipitously, this occurred a few days before the close of submissions for Queers Destroy Horror. QDH was the most high-profile market I’d ever submitted to and I didn’t hold out much hope; when it was accepted, I was completely floored. It’s appearance has been a lightning bolt to both my writing—the boost in confidence from placing in a major market can’t be underestimated—and to my paying-the-bills life as a designer (if you get the paperback, the interior design comes courtesy of moi at Inkspiral.)

Also worth noting: in between its release from the first anthology and my submission to Queers Destroy Horror, I ran the story by a trusted beta reader who suggested significant changes. Ordinarily, I would have accepted their response but on this occasion I had a strong gut feeling that the story was as it should be, ignored them and was subsequently successful. Sometimes it is well worth trusting your instinct.


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