While I await the results of a few short stories out on submission and in between working on this year’s Christmas short stories and before I go back to work on one of my novels-in-progress, I thought I’d update here about my recent goings-on:

–My short story, “Nehemiah’s Apparatus”, a Civil War zombie story, hit the cyber shelves this week as part of the Pill Hill Press anthology, Gone with the Dirt:  Undead Dixie.  You can order it here.

–My short story, “Santa’s Worst Stop”, is still available in the Fall issue of Ghostlight Magazine.  You can order it in print or download a digital copy here.

–I had my first interview as an author recently.  Tennessee Magnet, a local paper which covers nine counties in my little agrarian corner of the world, printed some very nice stuff about me and, as a bonus, a piece of flash fiction I did called, “Grandpa Rides the Wave”.  Thanks to Cindy and Chris for taking an interest in what I’m doing.

–My aforementioned annual Christmas stories are in the works and will hopefully be completed soon.  This will be a rough week for me after tomorrow–I’m working Thanksgiving Day and most of Black Friday, but my wife and children will be out of town the latter half of the week and, lacking offspring to yell at, I hope to use some of my alone time for finishing the last of the three and editing them all.  I also plan on re-posting a couple of my previous Christmas stories that are not currently out on submission.

–My fantasy football team, the Munchkinland Giants, after taking over sole possession of first place in my league last week, got smoked by the last place team, probably dropping me to 2nd or 3rd with the playoffs just around the corner.  Damn near everybody on my team had an off week, but hopefully they have them out of the way so they can perform well in the playoffs.

–As I mentioned before, I will be working this Thanksgiving, the first time I have done so since I left Wal-Mart eleven years ago.  My also-aforementioned wife and children will be out of town over the weekend, but we all plan on being home for Christmas this year, something that hasn’t happened the last three years while I’ve been working that holiday.

–My writing plans for the near future are as follows:  finish and post the Christmas stories, revise/rewrite a short story for a content due in February, and, when all my shorter work is floating about in search of a home, I plan on getting back to work on one of my novels, probably Project Supervillain.  I haven’t worked on this one in some time, but I think I’m about ready to start back on it.  I also plan on taking my newly-acquired publishing credits and testing the agent waters again.  While they are certainly not feature stories in Harper’s or Fantasy and Science Fiction, they are a start and I want to see if they affect my chances at all.

That’s about all for now.  I will start posting my Christmas stories somewhere around the first of December, so feel free to stop by and give them a look.  You’ll laugh.  You’ll cry.  You might even throw up a bit.  It’s okay.  I won’t be offended.  You, on the other hand . . . .

Nine radiation treatments down. Six more to go. This is what they call the “home stretch” and, fittingly, that’s where I’ll be for the next few days. After careful consideration of my not-so-careful work ethic, I’ve elected to take off the next five days while I’m doing my radiation treatments, a decision that provides both relief and a fair measure of guilt as I hate taking time off from work unless I’m near death. I just figure that working in a pharmacy, around a couple of hundred sick people every day, might not be what my compromised immune system needs right now. Also, based on the extreme fatigue I’ve been fighting just going through my daily work schedule, I could use the rest.

So, I now have a glorious stretch of five days in which to do whatever I want. I assume that mostly what I will want is sleep, but I do hope to salvage enough energy to do some other things I’ve been putting off. I still have the finished manuscript for Gifts of the Hirakee sitting on my hard drive, collecting cyber dust, and I would very much like to send out some queries to agents this week. So far, I’ve only sent this one out to two agents, both long shots, and the time has come to put some real effort in getting this story back out there, if for no other reason than to alleviate my guilt for having sat on it so long. I may also find some new outlets for Dead and Dying, which my friend and editor, Remla, has encouraged me not to give up on. I think this her her polite way of saying that GotH (purely coincidental initials) is better than DaD (again, purely coincidental), but I also agree that there are avenues out there that I have not explored. Perhaps my cancer ordeal is God’s way of telling me to get my story of Paul, also stricken with cancer, back out there. Regardless, I’ve had three full requests for that manuscript and some wonderful praise for the story and my writing, so anything else that comes along from it will be an added bonus, especially if I land an agent.

Also, I hope to get back to writing this week. I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off due to the all-consuming fatigue from my treatments and I’m starting to get that itch again, that little voice in the back of my head that says, “Quit slacking off and write something”. I’m 20k words into my new novel idea, a story about a superhero and his nemesis who aren’t quite what the public makes them out to be, and I’m having a good time watching what is taking place. The problem, and the reason I stopped for the time being, is that, to write well, I have to be able to really see what’s going on. It’s not as if I’m creating the story, more like I’m watching it and recording what I see with little control over the outcome. Lately, thanks to the sapping effects of the radiation, I haven’t had the energy–physical or mental–to get into that state of mind, to clear my head enough to see what is happening in this other world. I can pick up the occasional voice or see a shadowy figure here and there, but not enough to write with the kind of automatic detail that separates good writing from just words on a page. My best writing is that which, when I go back over it, I don’t remember writing. Therefore, I hope to get back to Gabe and Arch (and their alter egos) this week.

I have some other loose ends to check on, as well, including two short stories that I sent out for submission a while ago and haven’t heard back on. I was expecting to hear something this month, but thanks to the glacial pace of publishing, even among the smaller magazines, I’m not surprised at the delay. Still, I think they are good stories and I would very much like to see them in print, especially as I prepare another round of queries. Publishing Credits = Increased Chance of Agent = Good.

I have been reading while I’ve been out. I’m about halfway through Stephen King’s Just After Sunset, hoping that his return to the short story format will spark the same in me. I’m more of a novel guy, myself, but there are certain advantages to shorts, as evidenced in the previous paragraph. I’m also reading another book that shall remain nameless (although it is the third in a series) because I know the writing is bad and, frankly, it makes me feel better about my own work. The hard truth is that success in writing comes down to three factors–talent, work ethic, and confidence–and I’ll take the third one where I can get it, even at the expense of other, published authors.

Now, I must go to bed and try to sleep a few hours before my alarm beckons me for another round of cancer-causing radiation meant to prevent cancer from spreading in my body. I believe in literary terms that’s called irony.