I wrote the first draft of "The Two Out of Three Rule" back in 2007. Back then, it was titled "Poison," which may be have been because I wrote the whole thing while listening to Alice Cooper's excellent rock ballad "Poison" on a continuous loop.
For the past nine years, I submitted the story to fifty different markets before it was finally accepted for publication. (I know this, because I just looked up the story's submission record on Duotrope.) One of the magazines kept the story for a whole damn year before rejecting it. (That magazine no longer exist--which allows me a slight sense of schadenfreude.)
Many would say it was a little foolhardy to keep submitting a story after it's been rejected a dozen or so times from the current pro markets. At the time, back in 2007, my excuse was that I didn't know what I was doing. I had no idea of the difference between a pro, semi-pro, and token payment market. I just wanted to get published.
Also, I received numerous encouraging, personal rejections for "The Two Out of Three Rule." The story made it out the slush pile several times, only to get rejected in the final cut. So I kept submitting. And submitting. And submitting. And I got more personal rejections. And impersonal rejections. Even a few mean rejections.
Finally, I sent the story to my friend and fellow STEW critique-mate Yang-yang Wang, who gave me some helpful advice on changing some of the minor casting.
Right after I implemented those changes, I submitted "The Two Out of Three Rule" to Flame Tree Publishing's Murder Mayhem anthology.
A few months later, it got accepted.
It was my second pro-rate sale. It was my first sale to a SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) "qualifying" market.
My reaction upon having the story get accepted was... hmmm, is ecstatic is too weak of a word? I may have run around my friend Matt's condo screaming with my hands in the air. (I know, I'm supposed to affect the attitude of a cool, seasoned pro and not admit to feeling giddy--but there you go; it felt awesome.)
Part of the reason I kept submitting the story was that even with mean rejections, I was getting personal responses... I had a male submission editor tell me that my story was anti-women. I had a female submission editor tell me that this story painted men in too negative of a light.
So, along the idea that I apparently hated everyone equally, I knew there was something there. The story had some power in it to provoke an emotional response.
I think all of the stories in the Murder Mayhem anthology may provoke an emotional response. There's some tremendously written dark stuff in there. Some by classic authors such as Conan Doyle, Poe, and Kipling, and some by up-and-comers like myself. (I plan on posting a full review sometime in the next week.)
But for now, I'd like to give my first ever disclaimers for my published fiction. Briefly, the story is about a relationship that is too good to be true. It's also in an anthology titled Murder Mayhem. The book is NOT for the faint of heart.
Also, when I found out that "The Two Out of Three Rule" was accepted for publication, I realized some folks infer some sort of, err, biographical element to the story.
So let me be clear. My story, "The Two Out of Three Rule" is absolutely not based on anyone I have ever dated. There's no winking to that statement, no subtle, "but you can read between the lines and know who I'm talking about, hey?"<nudge, nudge> I'm a pretty happy guy and holding grudges is the opposite of happiness. I've had relationships fail, but I regard all of them, even the hilariously mismatched ones, with fondness, especially as I've gotten older. Anyway, as I said, I wrote the story back in 2007, and at that point I'd been single for about two years.
The central premise (which I won't spoil here) came to me out of the blue. My reaction at the time was, "This is a really interesting metaphor for a toxic relationship. I need to write the story and find out what happens!"
So hopefully, you'll want to read the story and find out what happens as well. Because sometimes love goes bad, doesn't it? Even in a healthy relationship, both people absorb something of the other--even if it's habits, hobbies, or turns of phrase. And in unhealthy relationships, well, sometimes that becomes much worse...