Wednesday, July 18, 2012


So quoteth Alex Thorleifson, a wonderful romance writer and fabulous Native American sculptress.  About fifteen years ago, almost every week, Alex and I would meet for lunch at the Blackeyed Pea in Missouri City (Texas).  On one of these occasions, I was crowing about a great scene I had written.  BUT!  (Isn't there always a BUT!)  It really did not belong in the place I had it, and I was loath to delete it.

Alex's response was the above quote.  My bubble burst and I was heartsick.  "I don't want to lose it," I whined.  "It's really good."

Alex was a taskmaster.  "As you gain experience, you will write another scene equally as good, or better."

And so I have.  Heed this piece of advice.  Words are not gold.  There are enough words in the English language to write many glorious scenes.  You have my permission to borrow some from other languages.  (I had my sister-in-law translate some dialogue into Japanese for my novel, THE PEARL AFFAIR.)  To set this firmly in your mind, I will share the wisdom of great film directors.  While editing any film, great lengths of it will always wind up on the cutting room floor.  In interviews with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, these words are often repeated.  For instance, Kevin Costner.  Lawrence Kasdan hired him for the role of the dead friend of a close knit group of college-radical friends who dropped back into mainstream society in The Big Chill.  Kasdan apologized to Costner because his footage didn't make the movie but promised Costner he would use him in his next film.  Kasdan kept his word and cast Costner as Jake in the very successful Silverado.

Writers' rejects don't wind up on the cutting room floor, but the comparison is apt.  It is also commonSo don't get teary-eyed when you contemplate something brilliant that you've written but doesn't add to, fit in, make sense, or all the other related no-nos.  Just read it with affection, blow a kiss goodbye and hit the delete key.  Or save it to a special file.  You may have a use for it later.  Probably not, but it will make you feel better.

This morning, I just finished the third of three reviews that I promised I would write for a friend, and a fourth one, which I wrote for my mentor.  I hope my friends won't think, "What a nerve!"  But I calls 'em as I sees 'em.  Most reviews I've read are rather stilted, too long and bore me to death.  After these many years, I've grown jaded and a little irreverent.  I use my peculiar sense of humor when I write my reviews to prevent the stilted parts from becoming stifling.  I love my friends, and I love their writing.

Words.  Words.  Words.  This is the writer's medium.  His or her tools.  Don't take them for granted, but on the other hand, don't fall in love with them.  They can be fickle.  They are a bit like the pretty girl or the good looking guy that you've been waiting for all your life.  Once you're hooked, they run after some other chump without a backward glance.  Never fear.  Wait awhile and another one will come along.  Someone even better.  That is, if you've learned your lesson and recognize the signs.  Yep, it works for writing too.  Funny the way the Universe works, ain't it?

I hate to have to say it, but public education has gone to the dogs.  Back in the 80's, after I quit teaching, I worked temporary for companies where young executives couldn't write a proper sentence.  They had never been taught English grammar.  Brrrr!  One young man, who happened to come from England, told me his sentence structure was perfectly fine and he didn't want me changing it.  "It's British grammar," he said.  Without the hint of a smile, mind you.  "British grammar," said I, "There ain't no such thing as 'British grammar'.  You might write this way to your friends, but you sound like a damned fool in a business letter."  That made him laugh.  He signed the letter as I rewrote it and I never heard another word.

The point of this story is:  The Chicago Manual of Style, The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors and Publishers

Even though I learned grammar back in the seventh grade and I taught grammar to my students, the publishing industry recommends the above book for writers.  To those who never learned or have forgotten a usage, this is the book for you.  I keep it close because I've forgotten some things and this puts me on the right path.  Try your half price bookstores, or look it up online.

I hadn't realized that I had waited so long to write another blog.  I'm told I should write one weekly.  Good Heavens!  When Alex's quote popped into my mind, I knew I had to write about it because it made such a difference to me.  I thought I'd share it to ease your minds also.  When another idea pops up, I'll write about that.  Unless you have a question for me.

Send it to my PO Box 2333, Tomball TX  77377-2333

Till next time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Source of Inspiration

Today is March  20, 2012, the first day of Spring.  A thunderstorm is passing through SW Texas today, a welcome sight.  We need all the rain we can get to tide us over in case our summer is as dry as last summer.  Texas was not a pretty sight when the first rains began to fall.  According to those who should know, it isn't looking good for us again this year.  However, this may be the last of the bad summers due to ever unpredictable climate changes.  Either way, we'll hold our breaths and pray for every drop of rain.

On the upside, our wildflowers are absolutely beautiful this Spring.  A sight to behold.  Photographers, get your cameras and start snapping before they all wilt away in the heat. One of our family's most priced photos is of my mother kneeling in a sea of bluebonnets and grinning like a cheshire cat.  How she loved this time of year when all the flowers burst forth.

I want to report that my book is selling slowly.  Since this is my first experience with eBooks, I really can't compare my sales with others.  I am pleased with the results so far.  Because I am not a celebrity, I can't expect a jillion books to be sold overnight.  I was secretly pleased when my husband put my book on his Kindle.  Whether he will read it or not remains to be seen.  He's heard all the ins and outs through the years and thinks he knows all about it.  My daughter, too, has downloaded it on her iPad.  She wants to read the final, final, final, final product.

One of my neighbors stopped me in the street to say that he had read it.  He talked about the descriptive detail and the different plots intertwining.  He never said whether he liked it or not.  He did say it was a bargain at $2.99.  I shouldn't quibble.  After all, I made a sale.  He also said that his wife has urged him to write but admitted he could never write anything as complicated as my book. 

Through my years of years of writing, I have often heard people say that they would like to write a book.  Actually, they would like say that they have written (Havin' Writ) a book.  When I first walked into this dizzying world of words, I heard a famous story.  I have never learned who the writer is that is the main protagonist, but I'd certainly like to because we don't appreciate people who sneer at us for being mere writers.  This is not word for word, but a paraphrase.  So forgive me if I don't tell exactly what occurred.  (If you've heard this, just go on to the following paragraph.)

One evening, a famous writer attended a cocktail party.  As people do, they walk around being introduced or introduce themselves to others.  After meeting one of the guests, a prominent brain surgeon, the writer when asked what he did said that he wrote novels.  In a very imperious manner, the doctor responded, "Yes, I plan to take a year's sabbatical one of these days and write a book."  Having heard this on many occasions, the writer responded, "It's interesting that you say that.  I have thought that one of these days, I would take a year's sabbatical and become a brain surgeon."  The doctor sputtered.  "You cannot become a brain surgeon in a year.  It takes years of study."  The writer casually answered, "Precisely."

Now some people spring from the womb and publish a book.  Unfortunately, I was not one of those writers.  I don't write what they write nor care to because I know my limitations.  Poetry.  I write it badly.  Childrens' books.  Nope.  Criticism.  Definitely not.  Short stories.  I just can't shut my mouth that soon.  A dismal failure at all.  My high school creative writing teacher didn't think much of my work.  I'm not one of the those people who when given an assignment must produce something in an hour.  The only piece I received a grade of "B" on was an iambic pentameter poem called, "The Ballad of Roger La Dan."  This despicable bloke met his demise by being weighted down and tossed in the river.  She probably marked the paper with a weak smile.  I now believe she wanted something more inspiring, more flowery, more emotional, more passionate.  In high school, I was still a tomboy.  Good luck!

The catalyst of my fascination with writing stories was my father.  He was born of solid German stock, raised in Fredericksburg until the age of six and taken to San Antonio where he grew up in a boiling pot of humanity.  His escape had been books.  Every night when we were young, we would get in bed with him and he would read us an age appropriate book.  He would take us to the city library in Washington, D.C. to pick out two or three each.  Mine were Dr. Seuss, AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET and BARTHOLOMEW CUBBINS AND THE FIVE HUNDRED HATS were my two favorites.  I checked those out many times.  We could never afford to buy them.  For a long, long time, these treasures were never seen in bookstores, but they appear to be making a comeback.  Those and his other creations have a lot of wisdom in them.

My father came from people from The Old Country.  His grandparents were farmers.  Listening to stories was his entertainment when he was very young.  On our vacations, he continued that tradition.  He didn't tell original stories but he read adventure books to us.  He had a divine baritone voice.  Being an attorney, he spoke slowly and precisely, making each word sound like music.  We sat mesmerized.  When alone, I played by myself and made up stories.  When I couldn't fall asleep, I would make up stories.  Today, that is how I work through scenes in my books.  I run the scene as if it were a movie, feeling each emotion, visualizing each character's face, setting the scene.  I wish I could type faster so I could duplicate what I see.  I work on several books at a time.  Books to come.

I hope all your parents and grandparents read to your children.  It is so important.

If you want to be a writer, learn the basics and develop your own tricks.  I have never met a writer who does it the same way as another.  Each must develop his/her skills.  Write, write, write.  Read, read, read.  For some, it is easy.  For most writers, it is hard work.  Persistence and practice are needed.  My books may not be on the bestseller lists, but I hope whoever reads them will enjoy the stories and love the characters.

Also, I hope you will curse me because my story has kept you up all night.  It is my gift to you.

I want to send a message to Tony who goes to school in Maryland.  He is majoring in English and Psychology.  I met his father on the plane from Houston to Chicago and we got to talking.  Tony is an aspiring screenwriter.  I recommended two books for Tony.  The first is by Syd Field, HOW TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY.  It is the definite book for beginning and aspiring screenwriters.  The second is, and one every writer should have in his/her collection, A WRITER'S JOURNEY, MYTHIC STRUCTURE FOR STORYTELLERS & SCREENWRITERS by Christopher Vogler.  I didn't get the father's name, but you know who you are.  I hope you will read this. Tony has a fire in his belly.  I wish him every success.  If it is meant to be, it will be.

Until next blog, friends.  Thank you buying my book.  If you enjoyed it, tell a friend, or two or three.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why This Name?

One of my sisters-in-law asked me, why did I use this title as my blog post?  She's a former librarian and thought I should change it.  "It needs an explanation," she said.  This first post will explain why.

In the early 90's, Douglas Adams was a guest speaker at the Book & Author Dinner given by our area booksellers and sponsors.  Adams's book is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which is based on a BBC radio serial.  His first remarks puzzled me.  And I roughly paraphrase, "Writers are always glad to say they have written so and so.  It's not the writing but the finishing that matters."  This struck me as odd.  Although I feel a certain pride in completing my first novel and getting it published, I'm experiencing sadness that I have to leave these beloved characters to begin anew.  Other authors have expressed the same emptiness for their fictional people as well.

Certainly, these characters are not real people, but they become so as they come alive on the page.  Many writers have said that during the creative process, the characters simply take over and write their parts themselves.  A non-writer may laugh at such balderdash, but I too have had my characters take over and write their stories.  After all, these characters know their stories better than I do.
It is particularly true since I incorporate "real" people in my stories.

In The Pearl Affair, my two investigators, John Jardine and Val (Valentine) Cederlof were actual Special Investigators for the Prosecutor's Office.  Their stories about how they wound up at the Prosecutor's Office are real.  The chief of HPD at this time didn't like either of these officers because they didn't "play the game."  When each of them messed up, Chief William Gabrielson took great pleasure in humiliating them.  Val Cederlof was the first to join the prosecutor's office, and he was instrumental in getting Jardine transferred to work with him.  As you can imagine, the chief was steamed.  He wanted to make an example of these two men who were both excellent detectives but not "yes men."  In the end, as you'll see, the chief gets his comeuppance.

As a student, I always wished the instructor would tell me more about the writer as well as about their writing.  When I taught high school, I researched the life of the writer and the time period in which he or she wrote.  If I found scandal, that was even better.  It made the writer a person.  Also, my students loved it.  It lightened the mood and sparked discussion.

When I started writing novels, using actual people in my stories seemed a natural transition.  The more I knew about them, the more plausible they would be.  "Havin' Writ" most of my manuscripts this way makes them more interesting to me.  I hope they make the story just as interesting for you.

As for a website, that will come later.  This writing business also has a business side that must be attended to.  In time, I will have all my ducks in a row.

What I do ask my readers is that, if I have made a mistake in historical fact or other story error, please let me know.  I will admit my blunder and apology here.  I am human and I do make mistakes.  If you enjoyed the story, I'd also like to know.

Write me at P. O. Box 2333, Tomball TX  77377-2333.  Use "Forever Stamps."  They're cheaper.