I opened it up and slashed the shit out of it. Took out even more extraneous words - hey, at least editing the novel is teaching me something - and now I have a product which is what I originally intended in the first place. I just needed several months' distance and a few kind words from a market editor. I like the story; it's solid, short, and frickin' scary. It's about a man who's been picked up by a creepy truck driver after his car has broken down. Here's a little excerpt:
“My wife would’ve given me hell if I hadn’t stopped,” the trucker said.What do y'all think?
“Does she ride with you?”
“Oh, yeah,” the driver said. “Rides everywhere I haul, sittin’ up pretty as paint in that seat you’re in. She loves a crossword while I’m drivin’. Makes me crazy, askin’ me all the time if I know the words in ‘em.”
Owen shifted in his seat. The cab was becoming hot and stagnant with cigarette smoke. “She’s not with you on this trip?” He looked over his shoulder at the pink curtain.
“She got sick,” the trucker said. He shook his head, his lower lip jutting out like a shelf. “Real sick.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Oh, she still rides with me,” the trucker said, tapping his chest just above the bulge of his cigarette pack. He rubbed his fingers in a circle, right over his heart. The rasp of the man’s fingertips on the rough weave of his shirt made the skin between Owen’s shoulder blades shiver. “She watches out for me, keeps me company.”
She still rides with him? Owen wondered. He imagined a woman, tentacled with IV lines and trapped in the cage of a hospital bed, sandwiched into the back of the cab.
Owen searched for words to break the silence, trying to shove the image away. His treacherous mind replaced the trucker’s sick wife with the trucker’s dead wife, a see-through woman outlined in misty gray hues like a cheap television ghost, sitting right where he was, overlaying his skin and wet clothes with her presence.
Holding a transparent crossword puzzle book in one spectral hand.
“What… what’s her name?” Owen asked. He wanted to turn around for another look at that curtain again, but held himself in check. Was that a tiny tickle of motion back there in the blocked-off sleeper section of the truck?
Of course not, he thought. Just stop it.
It was nice to get away from being mired in the briar patch of editing my novel. Honestly, this is one of the most frustrating things I've ever done, writing-wise. Editing is TEN TIMES HARDER than writing. Whew. Trying hard not to get discouraged over here.
I sent the revised copy of "Knights of the Road" out to Apex Magazine. One of the biggies. But hey... shoot for the moon, right? Even if you don't make it, you fall among the stars. Wish me luck, fellow astronauts.