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When a Story Just Won’t Die

Last year, I found a literary journal that provides the first line to the writer, and then picks the best submissions that begin with that first line.

(The magazine is called, The First Line. Makes sense, right?)

The first issue that year featured stories that started with this first line: “Working for God is never easy.” I submitted a story and the response was, “Just missed.”

Well, any time you “just miss” you can either choose to worry about why you “missed” or you can look for the next opportunity to submit to the same outlet. For me, that came with issue number three that year: “Three thousand habitable planets in the known universe, and I’m stuck on the only one without _______________.”

Now, if you’ve read the blog for the last two years (mom) or if you know me, at all, the obvious word for me to choose to finish that first line was “coffee” and it turns out “coffee” was a pretty pedestrian response. Thankfully, out of all the coffee-less worlds submitted, the editors at The First Line liked mine best. This time, I didn’t “just miss”.

The story was Cop-Cop Cop, about a dangerous, depressing future where coffee has been replaced by a substance called Cop-Cop. (It’s a whole thing with a Galactic Starbucks Blockade, and so forth.) It’s a light story. Funny. Easy to read.

It isn’t my favorite story I’ve written. Not by a long shot. I don’t mean that it’s not good. I actually do think it’s a fine story. It did what I set out to do: Write a story with an entertaining premise, populated with quirky characters, and a little bit of campy sci-fi goodness.

But, Cop-Cop Cop isn’t the sort of story I write on a regular basis. It isn’t one of these stories I slave over, moving words and commas and whole paragraphs around like chess pieces on a board.

But then, this summer, I found another place to submit Cop-Cop Cop. The Four Cornered Universe was running a summer science fiction contest. When I read their “rules” for the contest, I thought of Cop-Cop Cop.

“It’s not necessary for every story to be set in a post-apocalyptic world where a new strain of zombies is taking over the space station, because, by the way, they’re living on a planet with an unpronounceable name such as XZHAPHA, where the aliens are interbreeding with humans to create a race of super-people to defeat the virus the evil dictator will unleash if the hero doesn’t stop him (though if someone writes that story, we definitely want to read it), but in order to be considered for the contest, every story must contain at least an element of science fiction.”

And so, after making sure they were open to having previously published materials in the contest, I submitted Cop-Cop Cop, again.

I was first runner-up. Go figure.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very happy that this story is well-received, and I am grateful to both The Four Cornered Universe AND The First Line for publishing it. I’d just like one or ten of my other stories to find homes, too.

So, if you haven’t read it yet, head on over to The Four Cornered Universe and check out Cop-Cop Cop. I hope you enjoy it.

Update #1 – 8:30 a.m. – ***As of publication of this blog post, the story isn’t posted on The Four Cornered Universe. I was told it would be posted at some point to day***

Update #2 – 1:00 p.m. ***The story is up. Here’s the link: Cop-Cop Cop***

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