I have now completed my latest stretch of seven consecutive work days and I’m a bit tired. Working so many days in a row is one thing, but doing them in the peak of the holiday shopping season during a patch of bad weather has left my thoughts feeling like the air outside my window–foggy and still.

Thankfully, I have two days off tomorrow and Friday, then I work the weekend, before having off Monday, my last day off until the day after Christmas. My boss was complaining today that he doesn’t get another day off until Christmas Day and I thought, for a moment, to ask him if he had a novel to edit in his few spare moments away from work. Then, I realized that he can barely read, much less write, so the question would probably not be taken very well. So, I instead called him a whiny crybaby. Yes sir, I am the epitome of poor professionalism. If I wasn’t so good at my job, I’d probably be in serious trouble most of the time.

In writing news, I submitted another short story two nights ago and should hear something on it in about a month or so. I’m rather hopeful about the chances this one has to be published, if not by the magazine I sent it to, then by another. I believe I did a really good job overcoming my short story phobia and turned out a pretty good yarn at about 3900 words. I’m still looking for that first publishing credit, so it would be great to start the new year off with that out of the way so I can focus on finding an agent.

I’ll be posting my Christmas short story probably on Monday, so if anyone is actually reading this, please tune in then. It is the sole survivor of my plan to produce a dozen holiday shorts, a plan that has been delayed for a year due to circumstances at least partially beyond my control. It’s a pretty good story, I think, and I hope my mostly non-existent audience agrees.

I’m also planning on posting some pics of a few houses near mine where Christmas decorating is taken to brilliant extremes. But first, I have to find my digital camera, so that may take a few days. Wish me luck!

I made it home safely after a somewhat white-knuckled ride and am now facing a Freezing Fog Advisory from my commute in the morning. What. The. Hell? Am I going to step outside in the morn and chip a tooth on a chunk of air? Bloody my nose on a gust of wind?

Anyway, I’m home and that’s what matters. I have two days off on Thursday and Friday to work on various projects, including the all-important laundry. More later if I don’t become encased in frozen fog.

That’s the view outside the hotel right now. Notice I did not say “the view outside my house” because I could not make it home in the midst of the ice storm we are currently experiencing, so I’m holed up at the local Hampton Inn about two miles from work. Road conditions are so bad that I was doing less than ten miles per hour when I pulled into the hotel parking lot and still fish-tailed.

Weather like this is uncommon here in the South and the masses, when faced with such adversity, behave accordingly–mass hysteria, runs on supplies, and horrific driving. A few flakes of snow and people act as though they’re at the beginning of some apocalypse like that in Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer winner, The Road. Not that anyone here has read that.

I continue to edit Project Superhero and am nearly three-fourths of the way through. I’m still amazed at how many inconsistencies make their way into a story along the path of composition. For example, my main character’s mother, described as working at a hospital earlier in the novel, suddenly found herself a lifelong housewife later on. This was a troubling mistake for me as a rather key decision made by my main character depended on this piece of information and it took a bit of creative scrambling to reconcile the two parts. Even with a workable solution, though, I may reverse it before I finish. That’s one of the most beautiful parts of the editorial process–changing lives in progress and stitching the scenes together so they blend into a seamless tale. Oh, the power!

And so, dear largely imaginary audience, I continue to plod onward. Still writing, still waiting, still deciding whether my characters have been employed for most of their lives.

I left work on time for a change to see my youngest daughter and my son perform in the church Christmas Program. This year, my daughter actually had an important role, playing the part of the angel. She had several lines of dialogue (actually a monologue, but who cares?), sang in the chorus, and, in one song, did a solo.

Now, music does not run in my side of the family. We are all quite musically-challenged and in my increasingly infrequent visits to that place called “home” I heard my daughter practicing for her song on various occasions and understood that, while she is adorable and sweet, she has inherited my lack of musical talent. No problem, of course, she is talented in other areas, but she is eight and really wants to sing.

Showing up at the packed church (and it’s a rather large church for this rural area), I feared for her. The last thing I wanted was for her to open her mouth in front of three hundred or so people and sound like a lone Canadian goose flying overhead. I sat in the second row, behind my wife, and waited.

Her song, of which she sang the second verse, was near the end of the program. The other cast members with singing roles have varying degrees of vocal ability themselves, ranging from truly wonderful to the sound of cats being disemboweled, and I sat through all of it until the little girl with the angel-wings and the pipe-cleaner halo took center stage and opened her mouth.

I was amazed. The sound that had been coming through her nose as recently as two days ago now came out as pure and sweet as the character she was portraying. She never stumbled, never hesitated, never wavered. Every note was pure and clean and far beyond anything I had ever heard from her. I knew she had been working hard to prepare for the role, but I had no idea until she was standing up there dazzling the audience just how hard. When the program was over and the other parents and audience members came forward to offer their congratulations, I could see that some of them were nearly as shocked as I was.

My daughter was beaming, and deservedly so. There is a great sense of triumph that comes with exceeding everyone’s expectations, including your own. Especially your own. I felt the same thing when I finished my first novel and I’ve felt it with every one since. They say you never know what someone is capable of and, while it’s generally spoken in a negative sense, it also applies, as evidenced by my daughter’s hard work and success, to the best things in life as well. We never know what someone is capable of, but sometimes is a wonderful thing to find out.

As stated in an earlier post, I had planned to do a dozen short stories, all Christmasy in theme, and post them on here for anyone who cares to read such. I have really great ideas for what I want to write, covering just about any genre I would normally be interested in writing, but what I lack, to my great sadness, is the time to write them before Christmas.

I blame myself. Had I not taken so much time to finish Project Superhero, I would have had plenty of time to write, edit, and rewrite the stories in time for posting on the twelve days leading up to Christmas. This saddens me and, although I still intend to write them, it will not be in time for this holiday.

The silver lining to this failure on my part is that they ought to be really good when I post them NEXT year. Working in retail, I tend to think about Christmas a lot more than most people (we order our Christmas merchandise in June) and another ten or so months may allow me to come up with ever better ideas than the ones I already have. Regardless, they should be quite free of typos and such when I’m done.

Still, I have one finished and I think it’s pretty good, so I’ll post it a day or so before Christmas as a consolation for my broken ego. If I’m feeling spiffy, I might even post one for other holidays like Easter and Independence Day. We’ll just have to play it by ear. I do intend to write another novel next year, if not two, so all the other stuff will just have to work itself into my busy schedule.

Halfway done with the edits on Project Superhero and the one problem I’m having is finding an extended stretch of time in which to work on it. Writing, for me at least, is guerrilla warfare–a few pages here and a few pages there, quickly in and out, until the whole thing is done. I can usually pound out my requisite thousand words in about an hour on an average day, sometimes less if I’m really into the groove. Moreover, writing is a release for me and it helps me keep my head straight in all the other things I’m doing that aren’t writing.

Editing, though, is a different matter. In order to fix the inconsistencies I created during the process of writing, I need to remember what I did throughout the book, right down to the smallest detail that might provide an embarrassing point of interest to a prospective agent or editor. For example, at one point during the composition of Superhero, I have my POV character one last name, but by the time I found an opportunity to use it again, I had forgotten about it and used a different one. It was a relatively easy fix, but it makes me wonder if there are more in there like that. It could be argued that doing an outline and/or creating extensive notes would help me avoid those problems and, for a work relying more heavily on world-building and such, I’d agree. But these characters are from here and now, so taking notes, I feel, would only stifle the creative process. That’s just not the way I roll.

My two days off have been spent catching up on other duties such as some minor repairs to both our vehicles and a bit of house cleaning. My schedule does become a little more favorable to editing over the next two weeks, though, so hopefully I’ll have the whole thing nailed down by Christmas. Then, the manuscript gets handed over to my elite team of proofreaders who will catch my remaining mistakes and taunt me mercilessly for them.

In other news, I’m preparing another short story, “The Luckiest Man on Earth,” for submission as soon as I figure out where I want to send it. I have a few candidates and will probably decide over the next week or so after I make one more pass through to make sure it’s what I want it to be.

I’m running off to pick up The Dark Knight. Also, my wife’s birthday is today, so I’m going to get a few hours of sleep before I get up and conduct my husbandly duties in that regard.

At least I’m off today and tomorrow. Nothing like working seven straight nights in retail during Christmas to make you appreciate your off days.

I am now officially halfway through the reading of Project Superhero and nearing an official working title. I’m sure my wife will be glad when this read through is complete as not only will she be able to read the whole thing, but I’ll stop sitting up in bed next to her, whispering the words as I read them. I like to hear what I’ve written as it gives me a much better idea of what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, I like doing this in bed a two in the morning.

Also, my short story, “The Pilot,” was rejected from an anthology where I had entered it on account of not staying close enough to the theme. The judge did tell me that the writing was good, which may mean nothing, but which I’m going to take as a small victory plucked from the jaws of defeat. I have another short ready to submit to some of the mags this week when I’m off, so maybe I’ll finally land some short piece of fiction somewhere.

One more thing–we writers are encouraged to read a lot and read widely. The most recent book I finished was Twilight. I’m currently reading Knight’s Cross: The Life of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. If it gets any wider than that, I don’t know how.

Having a novel published is long odds, even in the best of times. Right now, with the economy in shambles and the publishing industry in a worldwide funk, those odds are even greater, stacked against new authors in particular.

Still, we are still out here writing and there are still certain people that should be thanked when the novel is done. I worked very hard on my recently finished manuscript, but all that work would have been harder, if not impossible, without help. Therefore, although I believe that my novel will find an agent and, subsequently, a publisher, I would like to thank the following people for their contribution to Project Superhero:

–My wife, Amy. Without doing all the little things like feeding me and allowing me time away from her and the children (not to mention my household chores), I could not even hope to be a writer. She is my inspiration as well as a sharp-eyed critic and I am thankful for those roles, along with every other role she plays in my life.

–Remla. She is my lead beta reader and without her, Dead and Dying would have just been dead. She is a lovely woman, made all the more lovely by the amount of free time she gave up to proofread my last manuscript and the encouragement she has given me during the process of writing Superhero. She is obviously insane, as she is really looking forward to reading the new novel, and for that I am very grateful.

–My children. They have an early bedtime and they generally observe it. More or less. Also, they don’t laugh at me when I say I like to write stories and they don’t ask me if they’ll sell like Harry Potter. They’re good kids like that. I particularly want to thank my daughter, Alex, who has repeatedly asked to help edit the book despite my telling her no way at least a dozen times. It always helps to have at least one fan.

–The cast and crew of Rent. Throughout the course of writing Superhero, I found that the songs from Jonathan Larson’s musical really shared a similar tone with the story I was seeing. Granted, none of my characters are gay, nor are they dying of AIDS, nor are they living in a ramshackle apartment in New York, nor are they abusing or recovering from abusing drugs, nor is there a single musical aspect to the book. Anyway, I listened to the whole score at least fifty times while writing the book and am damn near ready to join a touring cast as Mark Cohen (no Jewish characters, either) should one happen by, and I want to thank the cast and crew for providing the underscore to my book.

–Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, Rachminoff, Strauss, Elton John, George Michael, Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder, and any number of others I listened to during my writing sessions. Thanks for having talent I will never possess, but that nonetheless helps me use the one I do.

–Cherie Priest. Thanks for giving me a bar to reach for, even if it is a crowbar so I can hit myself over the head every time you have a new book come out. By the way, because I know you’ll read this, I’m getting Fathom for Christmas.

–Jaye Wells. Thanks for our lengthy conversations about books we haven’t read and such. Hopefully, I’ll have this one published so you can skip reading it as well.

–And finally, my lead characters. Thank you Micah, John, Brandon, Seth, Mindy, and Lauren for making the job so easy.

As of this post, I am about a third of the way through my second read-through on Project Superhero. Last night, I hit the first of the three scenes that I knew I would have to completely rewrite and I think, after about an hour and a half of work, that it came out much better than in the rough draft. Doing these rewrites is like picking through the ruins of a house fire, looking for anything that might be salvageable. Some of what I find–a clever phrase, a dead-on analogy, a snappy bit of dialogue–finds its way back into the narrative as I redo the scene. Some of it, like a blanket that will never lose that smell of smoke–gets tossed aside. Kill your darlings, as Hemingway said.

I still have two significant rewrites, including the climax, but based on how easily this one went, I’m not worried about them. The scene I redid last night was the only part of the story where I was really losing momentum, so it was the most in need of retooling. The rest should be pretty easy.

I received another rejection for Dead and Dying last night. I can’t say that I’m too upset over this. The agent was one I just happened to read about on another blog and couldn’t tell you now even what authors she represents. I know I still have a few queries out there, along with the two full manuscripts that I’ve been waiting on since May, but for all intents and purposes, Dead and Dying is officially dead.

Another story I’m waiting to hear on is one I submitted recently for an anthology. I don’t have high hopes for it getting picked up, but the story is pretty good and, depending on what other stories were submitted, you never know . . . . I also have a couple more shorts that I’m going to start flogging around. I’d really like at least one short credit before I start my submissions for Project Superhero.

Aside from all of that, I do have one Christmas-themed short story complete that I will post on here the week of Christmas. If I finish more before them, I’ll post those as well, although with everything else going on, I’m not promising anything. The ideas are there, but there are only so many hours in a day and the pro bono projects take a backseat to the ones that might actually pay something.

And finally, despite everything else, I’m still deciding on what to write next. My mind changes at least once and hour and it may come down to drawing from a hat if I don’t decide before I send Superhero out to my beta readers.

That is all the updatery for now. Have a good Saturday.