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.

I’m thinking about starting a new feature on this blog that nobody reads called, as you can tell from the post title, “Topical Tuesday”. Here I’ll discuss current events and my sometimes benign, usually inflammatory, takes on what everyone else seems to be talking about. If nothing else, it will give me fodder to use at least one day a week while I’m going through the very boring (at least to everyone else) process of editing my novel.

Now, a picture has surfaced of Micheal Phelps, Olympic darling, taking bong hits at a party on the University of South Carolina in November. The world is responding by calling Phelps a poor role model and corporations are responding by possibly withdrawing endorsement deals that promise to make the medal-heavy swimmer a very wealthy man.

What the hell is wrong with us?

Okay, I do understand that marijuana is illegal. I accept that Phelps, knowing he is under a microscope in this world of camera phones and tabloid press, made a very poor decision in electing to light up. I’m fine with all of that. The problem I have is with our reaction and, more specifically, our expectations.

Why do we continue to consider athletes role models when, time and time again, they have proved themselves unworthy of the role? You can list countless examples–Barry Bonds, Charles Barkley, Plaxico Burress, etc. etc. etc.–that have shown us, beyond any doubt, that athletes are, if anything, more fallible and prone to poor decision making than the rest of us are. Are we so enamored by anything that appears on television that we have to engage in a sick form of hero worship or are we just jealous of their fame and compelled by this jealousy to knock them off the pedestals that we placed them upon?

Why do we so often turn to celebrities and athletes when we look for role models for our children when there are so many better ones readily available? We continue to throw our proverbial panties on the stage of these unworthy demigods and overlook the parents and teachers, the ministers and coaches, the soldiers and volunteers that, while human, embody the very characteristics we look for in role models. We do not see through our televisions; we are blinded by them.

So Michael Phelps smoked some pot? There are a good number of 23-year old guys out there who have done that, some who have gone on to fulfilling lives of service and moral behavior. In reality, it is not the disappointment in this Olympic champion that has disappointed us, it is disappointment in ourselves, that we have allowed ourselves to once again place our trust where no trust was warranted, that bothers us. We have failed again to place our reverence with someone worthy of it and that, more than any other reason, is why Michael Phelps is in such trouble.