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Friday, November 21, 2008

to agent or not agent

Well, I've done it. I contacted an agent, and now I've got my fingers crossed.

A friend asked why I wanted an agent because of my publication history, but the truth is, while I can produce what I think are good stories with suspense and tension, I'm not expert in determining which publishers need what.

Since retiring, I've had more time. Consequently, I can produce more, but that doesn't do me much good if what I turn out simply sits in my computer.

A point I always make in my writing classes is that you have to promote your own work. I've written about my new books in my weekly columns in the papers here in Southeast Texas, done a few TV interviews (which always makes me nervous), a few book signings. I have friends who love book signings. They're hard for me, sitting there with people staring a me. I'd rather be home writing.

I know an agent cannot do the work for you or make a publisher take your book; but it is comforting to know that if I do a good job, someone out there is expert enough to know what to do with it.

I'll keep you posted.

Keep writing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

trying to catch up

The last few days has been hectic. I feel guilty that I haven't kept up on by blog, but sometimes, unexpected incidents explode in your face.

I've been trying to juggle rewriting a western, redoing another western for my editor, look after grandsons, remodel a bathroom, and to top it off, try to troubleshoot my laptop that suddenly took on the personality of a turtle.

If there's anything I dislike, it's fiddling with computers. I always mess things up. Now, my laptop is three years old. Now, we've all heard of dog years; maybe it's time to talk about computer years. I've come to the conclusion that a computer year is the equivalent of twenty of our years.

Now, I base that on personal experience. The first twenty years, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The next twenty, I took on more responsibilites--like the computer takes on more and more software. By the time I hit sixty, my eyes weren't quite as bright, and I sure wasn't as bushy-tailed as I had been forty years earlier.

Of course, most of you reading this have no idea what I mean, but trust me, it will happen.

While my stupid stunts far outnumber my smart ones, one of the latter was finding a competent computer tech. He built me a desktop about a year ago. That gave me a back up. When the laptop went down, I fiddled with it a couple days--you know, turned it off and on, hoping something would happen--then called him.

In the meantime, I switched the desktop to online, and got on with my life.

I dropped my last edited book in the mail Wednesday and got back to my rewriting. If you write, you know the comfort and satisfaction of sitting down in front of your computer and creating a story. I could do that all day, but presently, and unfortunately, the bathroom awaits. I still have two thirds of the wall paper to hang.

But first, I think I'll have a cold beer.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

grandson sleepover

Keegan slept over Tuesday night. Twenty-four hours later, we're still tired. Naturally, we like for the grandkids come over, but one thing their unceasing energy has underlined is that the good Lord had an excellent reason for . twenty and thirty year olds to bear children. ThI ey have the energy to keep up with them.
Usually when the boys are over, I don't get a lot of work done. Consequently, the ensuing days are much more hectic trying to get back on schedule. As I've told my writing classes, you have to produce everyday. It has to be so much a part of your routine that you're lost without it.
I read somewhere a succinct definition of a successful writer. I wish I'd been perceptive enough to come up with it, but it went somethin like this, "The difference in a neophyte writer and a pro is that the pro never stopped writing."
Now I might have butchered it, and if the author reads it, don't get upset. Just accept my apologies.
I worked late last night, and I will again tonight, but by tomorrow, I'll be back on schedule.
Unless we have another sleepover.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

As usual, when I start something new, the world about me seems to come alive with more demands for my time.

A couple weeks back, I started a blog, figuring I’d have time to piddle with it, you know, a tweak here, a tweak there.

Then I received an editorial letter from my editor regarding the first three novels I’d signed contracts for.

Now I have a new editor, and that is always an experience, for each has her own perceptions. While it is nice and comfortable working for years with an editor, a new one always forces me to look at my own writing.

I have a friend who complains about editorial letters. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is simply a letter asking questions about various parts of the book.

I like them. They point out not mistakes, but paragraphs or clauses or phrases I did not write clearly. Oh, I might have understood them, but others didn’t.

And one thing I learned about writing is you cannot be successful if others do not understand what you’re saying.

Anyway, after I rewrote the first novel, I received a letter on the second, and then the third. This morning, November 4, I’m almost halfway through the book.

And that on top of the unfinished remodeling job of a bathroom, four- and two-year-old grandsons, and half-a-dozen other tasks, I’ve had to neglect the blog somewhat.

Still, bear with me.

I’ve already voted, so today, I should be able to do a little more work on it.


I have five grandsons I’d like for you fine folks to meet. Here’s a column I wrote October 15, 2004.

Welcome to the World, Keegan

I’ve told just about everyone, but if you haven’t heard by now, I have a new grnadson. Yep, a brand-new, spanking clean, never-been-used-before grandson, and his grandmother is already trying to decide what position he’ll play on the Indian football team. He’s our first, though I do have three in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. Unfortunately, I don’t see them too often, but this little guy lives only about a mile from us.

And of course, such proximity means that whenever we go anywhere, Port Arthur, Winnie, Beaumont, Nederland, or Bridge City, our route goes right down in front of their house.

Right, all you grandparents?

Named Keegan Alan Johnstone, he was born October 5 at 3:27 a.m. at Christus St. Elizabeth. Only a short six hours elapsed from the time Keegan decided he was ready to take on the world until the energetic little bundle emerged, a real go-getter. He greeted the world as the proud owner of ten fingers, ten toes, two ears, and all other appropriate fixtures as well as sporting a head of black hair long enough to be braided.

It’s been twenty-eight years since I was around a new baby, but I never forgot that a new baby coming into a family creates a more sensitive awareness of just how precious is the gift of life God gives us.

Sad to say, we’re all caught up in the hustle and bustle of today’s hectic life. I think most feel as I that if we don’t stay up with it, life will steamroll over us without a backward glance, and that somehow we will be the poorer for it.

In the midst of a family working two jobs, paying bills, struggling to tuck funds away for an emergency, forced to buy two or three sets of clothing a year for growing children, constantly racing from church to soccer to Little League to football to dancing to whatever, we often tend to become more pragmatic in our approach to life. We find it easier to live more in the secular world where feelings and emotions are shunted aside in a desperate effort just to keep our lives and those of our family on an even keel.

In other words, we, the majority of us, have the tendency to wear a coat of no nonsense practicality that prevents us from enjoying those gifts in life that are truly valuable, that are truly priceless, that cannot be purchased with any amount of money.

And so when one looks down upon an infant sleeping so peacefully (whenever that might be), he realizes the value of those treasures that cannot be purchased with money.

We visited the hospital when Keegan was about seven hours old. I expected to see a red, wrinkled little lizard, but to my surprise, he was pink, and sleeping soundly. Jason, his Dad, pushed the carriage from the nursery to the room where we fussed over him for the next hour or so.

Once or twice, he opened his eyes, but the rest of the time, he slept. When I saw Gayle hold him, it brought back memories of how she had so gently and tenderly cradled our own girls.

When first offered, I declined to hold him, not that I was scared of breaking the little guy, but just because I wasn’t quite ready. And if you asked me why I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t tell you. But, after taking pictures (naturally) of Amy and Jason and Gayle with Keegan, I figured it was time.

I held him for several minutes, but when I tried to give him back to Gayle, I couldn’t figure out how to do it with taking a chance on dropping him, so I carried him over to the bed, leaned over until he was only a couple inches above the soft mattress, had Gayle slide her arms under him, and then, and only then did I transfer him to his Grandmother’s sure and steady arms.

Joyce Kilmer, the poet who died in World War I, wrote the unforgettable poem, Trees. In it, he said “Only God can make a tree.” To paraphrase the memorable line, it is certainly true that “Only God can make a baby.”

In the few nights Keegan’s been on the good earth, I’ve awakened in the early hours and thought about him and the world he will face. I’m not sure what it will be; I only know it won’t be like the one in which I was reared.

But that’s okay. He has two wonderful parents to guide him, and two sets of grandparents for support. The little fella will do well.