Letting Go

I have officially put away Dead and Dying as my manuscript available for submission. Now that I am a few days away from having Gifts of the Hirakee (still a title I’m not that crazy about) ready for submission, and now that I am done waiting for any response from the agents I’ve sent DAD to over the past year, I can move on.

But retiring a manuscript is hard.

I spent most of a year working on Dead and Dying–writing, editing, rewriting, revising, polishing, submitting, waiting, waiting, waiting–and now it’s as though a bit of me has atrophied and must now be excised for me to lead a productive life.

As I put in the query letter:

Paul Phelps is dying of cancer. When a vampire takes up residence in the abandoned house behind his own, Paul views the event with more curiosity than fear and soon finds himself forming an odd friendship with the 150-year old undead creature. As he hides his interesting new neighbor from his wife, he learns more about Jasper Goetz–a former Union soldier, converted to a vampire following the Battle of Shiloh. When Paul’s oncologist dies, however, and the evidence points to a vampire attack, he must decide whether to slay his new friend or trust Jasper’s belief that a new, more dangerous threat has come to the small Tennessee community. What follows is a race against time as Paul works to save those he cares about before the cancer claims his life, all the while learning to say goodbye to his beloved wife.

What makes Dead and Dying different from other vampire novels, and what makes it something you might represent, is that it focuses more on relationships rather than on the traditional elements of horror. The ironic friendship between Paul and Jasper, a dying man and a man that cannot die, and the bittersweet love of Paul and his wife remind us that true horror is not a chainsaw-toting psychopath, but the thought that we might lose the ones we care for.

I really enjoyed this novel and thought, as subjectively as a parent could think about a beloved child, that it was good enough to reach publication. I still go back and read parts of it from time to time, enjoying certain scenes that I thought I did a particularly good job on. That hardest part, to me at least, is the process of moving your mind from saying “It’s good enough to submit. It’s good enough to submit.” To “It’s just not good enough.” It requires falling out of love with something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into and that, as anyone who has ever been dumped can tell you, is no fun at all.

So, Dead and Dying goes off into that great twilight of the rejected manuscripts. Perhaps it will resurface some day, some wonderful phoenix rising from the ashes of the twenty-something rejections I received for it. Still, this a necessary part of the process as now I am called to love another, to give it all the attention and affection that I gave its predecessor. Most of the references I’ve seen on the subject say that you can’t expect to sell a novel until you’ve written at least three that will never see the light of day, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

To Paul and Jasper and June, I say thank you for all you’ve done for me and all you’ve taught me. Without you and everything that came about because of you, I would not be where I am now, wherever that is.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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