The first story I ever sent out, "Mrs. Pomeroy's Garden," won me First Place (and a t-shirt) in a contest. A couple of years later, some morally bankrupt and talent-free subhuman plagiarized the story and won a hundred bucks.
Soon after that, I sent a story out called "Window Dressing." It was published in an anthology called One Step Beyond, and the dickbag that published it STILL hasn't had the decency to pay me. I don't know how many copies of the book have sold since 2008, and I don't particularly care. The place has since gone under, and I'm cool with that. At least that way they won't fuck anyone else.
I read somewhere that if you devote x number of hours to doing something, you will become masterful at doing it. I forget the number, and who the hell keeps track of the time spent doing something you like to do, anyway? But the thing is, the writing's getting better. "Well of course it is," I hear every English teacher I've ever had saying. "Don't be a jackass...practice makes perfect."
Perfect? Not by a long shot. Better? Absolutely. Yesterday I went through a short story I wrote called "Ambrosia" with comprehensive line edits by a professional editor and it struck me that I haven't had to do that before. I've also got a novel in my inbox with the same type of professional editing, and an actual deadline to get it back to the editor. In the past, I've sent a story, the editor accepted, and I crossed my fingers that it wouldn't get too mangled, but now, it feels like I'm moving up to the big kids' table. It's a good feeeling, and I'm going to keep striving for more. I told someone recently that when I'm writing, I'm not competing against someone else. I'm only trying to do better than I did last time. So far, it's working out okay.
Upcoming--I hope to have cover art to share for the Morpheus Tales Special Apocalypse Issue, which will have my story "Songs of Goodbye," and final cover art for Horror Library, Volume 5, which will include my story "Ambrosia," mentioned above. I've got a couple more short stories out, and I hope to have news to share on them soon as well.
Until then...keep reading, and I'll keep writing.