New Story Out: Pacha-Mama

My new story Pacha-Mama is out now over at Scarlet Leaf Review. [UPDATE: I changed link to Kindle version of the story as of Feb. 2021.] I am very happy Scarlet Leaf picked it up, because I think it’s a fine story and I often doubted it would see the light of day.

Pacha Mama

You see, the story went through the ringer in the submission process. It was rejected many times. Here’s the breakdown. From Oct. 9, 2015 until Aug. 31, 2019, the story was:

  • Rejected 21 times
  • Withdrawn by the author from one market, after its acceptance.
  • Not responded to by three publications (Who knows? Don’t ask!)
  • Accepted for publication by one market (Scarlet Leaf Review).

For those counting, that’s one acceptance for 25 rejections or rejection-like responses. So, the lesson for writers? Persist. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Eventually someone out there (and an editor, hopefully) will “get it” and decide to publish your piece.

Also, after finishing the story I first announced the story title on this blog way back in… August…2015. Almost five years ago. Yikes!

That being said, one of the reasons I persisted was because I realized that it was getting close. Editors would reject the piece and say things like: “The staff liked this, but it wasn’t a fit for our publication.” Or “We are going to have to pass on this, but please consider sending us your stories in the future.” It was rejections like this (which I’ll call “soft rejections”) that told me there really was something to this story and that I should keep submitting it.

Also, at a Con I went to earlier, a much more well-known story writer (Lou Antonelli) said his rule of thumb was not to give up on a story until it was rejected 25 times. 25! I was right at that line and about ready to give it up. I’m glad I didn’t.

So, what is the story about? Well, it’s a fantasy piece set in contemporary Peru. An illegal mine has been set up deep in Peruvian Amazon and it’s up to the protagonists of the story to find it and shut it down.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Wind stirred the barren moonscape of the high Andes. Not far away, storm clouds tumbled into one another, warring colossi of currents and eddies gripped in battle.

Near the peak of Llullaillaco, two hooded figures sat huddled next to one another, motionless in the darkness. The wind blew and waves of dust fluttered their robes. They sat cross-legged, seemingly oblivious, their hands folded in their laps with cloth hoods over their heads. Large drops of rain began to fall one by one on the barren earth, creating dark circles as they hit the fine dust.

The story is also, to an extent, about empire (that loaded term). One of the things I learned on my trip to Peru in 2013 was that the conquests of Pizarro are not something we can comfortably assign to the distant past. It’s something that’s very much alive for Peruvians. It has determined–for better or worse–the Peru we see today. And in a way, the conquest is something that hasn’t completely ended. In some places it very much feels as if it’s not a settled question, but a conflict which continues today.

So like I said, colonialism and empire is not something we can drolly assign to the past. There are empires today, there were empires in 1492 (or 1532 in the Peruvian case), and there were empires in the Americas before 1492 (We heard an earful about Inca colonialism from one of our Aymara guides!). So, I wanted to play with that idea a bit, that these conflicts have been going on a long time and still continue today. And that maybe the “winner” is yet to be determined. The story idea came to me as I watched a thunderstorm over Lake Titicaca. I got down a brief sketch and blew it out once I got home.

In a nice final twist, this Scarlet Leaf Review is a Canadian publication. So, in a way this story completed the circuit of the Americas.

For more, head over to Scarlet Leaf Review for the whole story. You can even leave a comment if you like. I hope you enjoy it!

Until next time,


If you want to find out more about some of the pre-Columbian Inca or Aymara rituals I reference in the story, here’s a good place to start:

Giving Thanks to Pachamama: A Glimpse Into a Pre-Inca Shamanic Ritual

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