“Cherry-Blossom Droid” Artwork: Katie Gabriel

When I learned “Cherry-Blossom Droid” would appear in The Dread Machine, I was beyond excited to also learn that the editors would allow me to submit my own art. (More experienced authors have told me that’s a rare opportunity.) So I asked my dear friend Katie Gabriel, whom I’ve known since we were kids, and she agreed to do the work.

Katie’s art is, perhaps more than anything else, nostalgic. She often paints using old photographs as references, allowing their degradation to communicate a sense of the surreal. For reasons I won’t spoil here, nostalgia is a particularly important emotion in “Cherry-Blossom Droid.” I can’t wait for Katie’s piece to set the scene before you ever start reading my story in The Dread Machine on September 17.

You can see more of Katie’s work on her website. She currently teaches at Red Rocks Community College in Colorado.

“Thank You for Submitting…”

When you start putting your stories out into the world, you quickly get used to seeing the words “Thank you for submitting…” in your inbox, and soon after, those words begin to evoke a Pavlovian panic-response, because usually they precede other words like these:

  • “Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.”
  • “Unfortunately, this story didn’t grab me and I’m going to pass on it.”
  • “Unfortunately, it’s not quite right for us.”

However, if you submit enough stories, and if you try hard to learn from all the feedback editors and readers give you, and if you do your best to learn the craft of storytelling, eventually you’ll see different words. For me, they were “We loved your story and would like to accept it for publication.”

Wow! What a moment! I ran into the other room where my spouse was and ugly-cried while waving my phone in her face, trying to get her to read the email I had been hoping to receive for more than a year. I’ll never forget that feeling.

While working toward my first fiction publication, there were periodic encouragements I got along the way: second-round reviews at pro zines and personal notes from impressive editors. All of them inspired me, and perhaps no one inspired me more than the people who loved my work enough to publish it. This post is meant as a big thank you to all the wonderful folks at The Dread Machine, as well as the many others whose not-so-small gestures kept me writing. I wouldn’t be where I am without any of them.