Saturday, August 30, 2008

Welcome Advice

When you let people critique your writing, it's impossible to tell what you're going to hear. One person will call it lyrical, while the next will ask if you expect to be paid by the word. 

Today I got the most interesting critique ever. I'm still smiling. This will be my shortest blog to date, since the entire purpose is to pass on advice. It was given to me by someone who reviewed the two most recent chapters I posted to my online group.

The concern of the person giving the critique was that I should not take comments of people too seriously, and forget whose novel it was. The final remark is the one I plan to enlarge and hang near my computer, where I can see it while I write and edit.

"No rule should be followed off a cliff." Can I hear a loud "Amen?"

Friday, August 29, 2008

What Did You Learn in School Today?

I wonder if Mrs. Dixon is still alive. She was my fifth grade teacher. My first impression has lasted all these years: the woman could bore paint off a wall. I doubt if she ever inspired anyone to learn a thing. 

Actually, I'll immediately take that back. She inspired five of us to learn American sign language. We'd split up the history assignments. Her tests were multiple choice. She just wanted names and dates, not reasons and causes. It was dull, dry and boring memorization. When the teacher doesn't seem to care, the students don't either. It never felt like learning, even before the cheating started.

Desks in her classroom were arranged in a circle. The five of us would sign the answers back and forth during history tests. It was unbelievably easy. We all aced the tests, since we only had to learn a fifth of the work. Since we were all A students, we were never suspected—never caught. And we did learn something. It just wasn't history.

It's been over fifty years since I managed to cheat in fifth grade. I'm not sure why it still bothers me so much, but every time after that when I wanted to cut corners in class, all I had to do was think of fifth grade, and it would stop me cold. 

So if you're out there somewhere, Mrs. Dixon, I am sorry I did it. I could have learned all the answers by myself. In fact, I usually did know them, but there came a point when I didn't know how to extricate myself without losing the friends. (Some friends, huh?) Luckily my family was transfered before I got into real trouble. 

Looking back, it's probably poetic justice that I remember the name of the boring teacher, but can't remember a single one of those exciting friends.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Secret

After thirty-two years of marriage, the question of whether or not there's a secret to staying together begs to be asked. There are probably many secrets, one for each couple who makes it into double digits and still manages to treasure the time they spend together.

I'd like to say that the secret is simply "to embrace your differences," but that's not going to happen. It's too much to ask that one will lovingly accept an empty sock drawer while the other is busy writing a novel... especially when the one looking for socks has no interest in reading. It's equally impossible for the one writing to ignore the shock of searching for the leftover half of a roast made lovingly the night before only to find that the entire thing was gulped down for a lunch that could easily have fed three people. So that can't be the secret.

It would be humorous, perhaps, to continue with a litany of those things that don't constitute the secret ingredient. Instead, I'm looking back on our many years of shared laughter, so I'd prefer to concentrate on what does work. 

We listen—even when we disagree. We laugh, even when it's aimed at ourselves. He's learned to share the remote. I've learned to put head phones on, rather than complain about the HAM radio static. He adds water to his coffee rather than expect me to drink the weak stuff. I don't expect him to notice my hair cut, even if he drove me to get it. We're more spontaneous. We like getting lost together, and travel is a big part of our lives. He supports me, even when he doesn't 'get it,' like the writing. 

So none of this is really a secret. It can all be contained in a few words. Learn to enjoy each other. Happy Anniversary to us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pocket Stew

By special request, I'm handing down one of my favorite kid-friendly recipes that's also easy on the budget. It has the additional benefit of being so simple to prepare that you won't need to pull out notes each time you make it. Some children will prefer it if you omit the onions. No problem. Add mushrooms or olives if you want. This is one of those meals that's easy to adjust for a family's individual tastes.

So here's to Lisa and Dan...

Pocket Stew
Ingredients: (approximate)
1 Package Pita Pockets
1 Lbs. Ground Beef
1 Large Onion, chopped
1/2 Cup Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
1 Large Can Potatoes, Cubed
Bacon Grease, oil or butter
1 Clove Garlic, minced well
Parmesan Cheese

Chop onion and sauté in bacon grease (or whatever)
Add cubed potatoes, stirring until golden. Add parmesan.
Remove from pan.

Sauté ground beef and drain.
Add onion and potato mixture and stir well.
When hot, add minced garlic, stir.

Reduce heat to low.

Split pita pockets in half and toast, opening them up when they come out of the toaster.

When the pockets are ready to be filled, remove filling from heat and stir in cheddar cheese.

Stuff the pockets and serve.

Goes great with applesauce, cottage cheese with fruit, or a green salad.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

USS Montana

Some things you just have to share. I heard about this many years ago. Eventually, someone turned it into video for a commercial. Then, of course, it landed on YouTube. 

Monday, August 25, 2008

Spice of Life

When I think back on my life, it's a series of songs. One comes on the radio. If it's I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles, I immediately think of chicken salad sandwiches, big crisp apples and icy cold chocolate milk on the quad at my high school. Lush green grass underneath us, we'd sit and talk, listening to music piped out from big speakers. 

The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Everly Brothers, Doors. It was quite a mix back in the sixties. It's funny. They play those same songs all over the nation now, but they call them oldies. I guess that's what I am. One of the oldies. After school I'd go home and get out the accordion and practice until my sister wanted to tear my hair out. Hers was too pretty to tear out. 

Music was important. Dad would come home and play his guitar, and the best times of all  were listening to him play. I sure wish we'd had a tape recorder, so I could hear him play again. Even a scratchy tape would sound like heaven to me today. Les Paul, Chet Atkins. He sure knew how to copy their styles. Too bad I didn't decide to pick up a guitar while he could have helped me learn.

One of those dumb questions I'm always asking people is if they'd rather be deaf or blind. Obviously, nobody wants either, but if you had to take one or the other, what would it be? Could you choose if necessary? Sunsets are great, but you'd never forget them. I'd miss looking out over my yard, seeing the deer and rabbits. But not to hear music? Not to know the voices of my grandchildren, or the song of wind in the trees? 

I know. I'd lose a powerful gift with my eyesight gone. Couldn't drive. Probably couldn't crochet anymore. Couldn't paint. Have a hard time reading. Typing might be a problem for a while. But to live without music? Nope.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Fig Tree

The day Jeremy came home from the hospital, John's parents and sister traveled quite a distance to see the new baby. Tighe was nearly four. He was proud of his little brother, and had been anxious to have us return home. There had been no signs of jealousy.

It's important to note that John is the only dad Tighe ever knew. His biological father never stuck around to meet him. John and I married just before Tighe's second birthday. He loved John's parents, and called them Grandma and Grandpa. 

When they arrived at our home, they brought along a fig tree. It was about three feet tall, and with great ceremony they planted it in our backyard. It was to celebrate this new life. I was very touched that they would think to do this for us. Then we went into the house, and Grandma and Grandpa took the baby. Grandma held the little boy on her lap and looked at her husband with tears in her eyes.

With Tighe standing right in front of her, hand on her knee as she held the baby, she said to Grandpa, "Isn't he beautiful! Our first grandchild!"

Tighe's face fell. My face froze. John left the room. Grandpa nodded and took the child from her. To them, this was blood of their blood—thus, their first grandchild. 

I'm not sure what I did. I was too mad to handle the situation properly, and soon realized that Tighe had slipped out of the room. Searching for him, I found his room empty. I finally found him in the yard. He had taken his little plastic hatchet and chopped down the fig tree, about three inches from the roots. 

John's sister found us outside by the tree. I was holding him, and we were both crying. The hatchet was lying by the splintered pieces of the tree. She sat down and took Tighe from me. "Babies are pretty useless for a few years anyway. I'll bet you have some cool toys. Can we go play?" she asked him.

Taking him by the hand, she led the way to his room, and they stayed there until the grandparents were ready to leave. It was never mentioned again, but I've always thought she was one of the biggest people I've ever met.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


While visiting someone's blog the other day, I noticed a little map. It had red dots on it, and one corresponded to my town. Wow, I thought, they know somebody who lives near me! After looking really carefully, I discovered they also knew somebody who lived in the same town as my son, and even his in-laws. 

What? OK. I finally figured out that it's a tracking map. Anyone who visits their blog is added to the map that day. Cool. So now I'm trying to determine if I want a map on my blog page as well. Where would I put it? 

I spent a couple of days analyzing potential options. I visited the map web site and realized that I had six choices of pin style. Eight colors. Wow. I spent a great deal of time designing my map. I decided where it would fit the best. What colors would match my background. I had it pretty much arranged. Then I had an ugly thought.

Back in the sixties there was a saying: "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" Suddenly I thought, what if I put up a map, and nobody visits my blog. I'll have a fancy map, and no pins sticking in it. Do I really want statistics? 

I concluded that there was a reason for the old saying ignorance is bliss. You'll notice there's no map in the sidebar, but I'm smiling.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


One time my mom didn't kill me (and probably wished she could have) was the first time I remember my creativity getting the best of me. I was probably four or five years old, and decided to cut the grass. 

I went outside, sitting somewhere near our big old willow tree in the front yard, and was amazed at the beauty of the area I was trimming. The grass was lush and soft beneath my small fingers. I carefully held each clump straight up while I trimmed little bunches carefully with Mom's expensive Gingher pinking shears. 

I was very confused when she ran out screaming at me. Why wouldn't she look at the beautiful design in the tops of the little blades of grass? They were all patterned on top, and it looked wonderful—much better than Daddy could do with the mower.

Mom grabbed the scissors from my hand, than picked me up. I held her face in my hands, trying to make her look at what I had done. I pointed at the patch of grass I had finished. As we looked down together, I was shocked to see that from the height she was holding me, it didn't look any different from the rest. Maybe shorter, but that's all. I couldn't get her to kneel down and really look. 

I was crying. She was crying. I'm sure her expensive pinking shears were never the same. I know my day was shot. I had been so proud of myself. My days as a gardener were over before they'd hardly begun. 

I think Mom and I have both learned quite a bit about perspective in the last half century. Although I never left my pinking shears out where the boys could get to them, I tried really hard to get down and see things from their perspective. I also realize that as I grew up, Mom got a lot better with that as well. 

Monday, August 18, 2008

Thank You For Asking

I got an email request for more photos of my new granddaughter, Kate. The request came from Sherm and Ema, good friends who will see that my mom will get to see the photos when they go to the Senior Center to play Bingo today. Kate and her sister Ashley might as well understand right now that their Great Grandma Z doesn't have (and really doesn't want) a computer.

So here are a few pictures of the sisters, my beautiful granddaughter Ashley and her new baby Kate, just home from the hospital. Thanks for the request, Sherm. I hope you all win at Bingo today!

Family Term for Severe Injury

My sister called a couple days ago. I love hearing from her, but from her first words, I knew I wasn't going to like what she had to say.

"Well, I pulled a Kathleen," she announced, and my stomach turned.

I knew she'd managed to hurt herself. The family always likes to point out that I'm the one with a three-page medical history. Single spaced. Eight point type face. I fall down frequently. I usually manage to inflict some kind of damage either on my way down or landing.

She had spent a good portion of the night in the emergency room. Thirteen staples in your head is impressive, Ellen. I can almost feel the pain. You could actually get good at this with a little effort. It's a promising start. You've been pretty accident free most of your life, so you'll have to practice. I've got a big head start. You'll need to go a long way to beat the eight broken ribs I got when I was blown down the cement stairs in a typhoon, but it was severe for an evening at home. I'm impressed.

It has often occurred to me that no one understands that pain is only part of the aftermath. I always end up feeling like there must have been something I could have done to prevent the accident, the injury, the drama. Well, Ellen, don't you believe it. I've spent a lifetime coming to the realization that these things just happen. No matter how careful you are, there will be times when you, well—pull a Kathleen.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Query Letters

Like the majority of voracious readers, I never thought much about what an author went through beyond the mystery of writing the book. For the most part, you really don't want to know. For that matter, neither do I.

Let's just touch on an item called the Query Letter. Nicholas Sparks spent
about three weeks writing his first one. It took him about twenty-six revisions. The purpose is to get someone interested enough in your novel to read part of it. Then, hopefully, they'll want to read all of it with the intention of representing you and getting it published. Right. This is one of those back to the drawing board moments. I'm a writer, not a salesman. Why should this be my job?

So far this is what I've learned. You can't say:

Dear Ms. (Agent's Name),

My research shows that you have represented several of my favorite authors. They're really great, so you must be as well. I'm really proud of the novel I just finished, so I'm looking for someone with your credentials to represent me.

I'm a nice old lady who sure could use the money. My book is a good versus evil fantasy with great humor and some quirky characters. The battles are wicked, but I've managed to write it without using any profanity.

My sister loved the book. Would you like me to send it to you now?

I guess I'll buy a book on the subject...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

First Family Portrait

I only checked for new photos a few (dozen) times today. After all, there were lots of babies born yesterday. They didn't let me down. Benjamin and Ruth wouldn't let 1,856 miles stand between grandparents and their newest delivery.

They all look happy, of course, but doesn't Ashley look like she made all the arrangements herself? She's been talking about "Baby Kate" for months.

Of all the babies born this week, I wonder how many grandparents can honestly look at the first portrait and know the child will go home to a family where the love is so deep and rich. Time will always be taken there to nurture, educate, and enjoy.

I looked up the word 'family' in the dictionary. There was no definition that I felt encompassed the entire essence of Ben and Ruth's home. It goes beyond values and religion, although that's included. So is love. It's the patience, tenderness, support and joy with which they treat each other. The circle opened to include Ashley. It has opened again for Kate.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Welcome, Kate Ellen

Good morning, Kate. It looks like you had a rough night. Before too long you'll get used to the noise and confusion out here in the world. No doubt you've been really cozy with Ruth these last nine months, but you couldn't hide forever. Too many people were anxious to meet you—especially your daddy Ben, and sister Ashley. 

For posterity, we'll put down the numbers. 
August 15, 2008 at 7:53 a.m.
8 pounds, 1 ounce

Grandpa and I sure do wish we were there...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Waiting By The Phone

My telephone doesn't ring very often. On most days, that's the truth. Today it rang constantly. Each time I heard it, I got excited. This must be Ben, calling to tell me that Ruth was being taken to the hospital to deliver our new granddaughter.

It was the dentist, calling to remind John that he had an appointment tomorrow morning. "We'll be there." Click.

Then it was Mom, letting me know she bought a new pair of pants half off at the mall. We had a nice conversation. I call her almost every night. She almost never calls me, and this was nice. Still, it seemed strange, especially today when I was listening for the phone.

Our oldest son called from San Francisco. He was on a two-week training session there, and was nice enough to call. Even though he sounded tired, we had a nice talk. He laughed when I admitted to thinking he might have been the call from Connecticut. "Tomorrow, Mom," he told me. Like he would know...

One of the men from the Navy base called John. They talked long enough for my heart rate to slow down. I'm not sure what it was about, but John didn't start packing a suitcase, so I guess we're not going anywhere yet. That's good. I'm still editing my novel, and September is booked solid. October still looks like a good time to deal with the contractor stuff they need.

Ring... "Hello! Obama's local headquarters? You want my opinion? Are you sure?"

After I gave him my opinion, which I did politely I might add, he hung up rather abruptly.

Eventually I'll get that phone call. I know Ruth isn't making me wait on purpose. She's probably more anxious than I am. I've been assured that the news is imminent. Today or tomorrow. Come on, Kate, we're all waiting for you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not Quite a Shower

I woke up at 4:15 a.m., fifteen minutes before my alarm would have started beeping. That's not unusual. Setting the alarm is unusual, but whenever I do feel the need to turn it on, I rarely find myself still asleep when it finally does go off. My inner clock seems to beat it to the punch every time.

The Perseid meteor shower was scheduled to be at its height just before dawn this morning. I've seen it once before, and it was spectacular. I sat at night with my brother Ken on a small hilltop in Oregon, watching shooting stars rain through the skies over our head. Unfortunately, we were surrounded by an unfortunate conglomeration of rowdy people with many interests besides watching the skies.

There was the family with the new telescope. The dad hogged the scope, screaming at his children when they wanted a peek. He was louder and more obnoxious than they were. That took considerable effort on his part. The wife wrung her hands and whined. She was cold. She was tired. She was hungry. Between complaints she would yell at the children to 'shut up.' 

On the other side of us was a group of college kids. Their primary interest was a cooler of beer, and who could do the most to empty it. They were louder than the children. At least they sounded happy, until the beer ran out. Then they started arguing. "No, you go buy some more. I bought the last case!" Where are the rangers when you need them?

About that time Kenny decided he'd had enough, and yelled at everyone to pipe down. They started yelling back that it was a free world, so he folded his chair and melted into the night. He took the flashlight with him. Our tent was a long dark distance from the hill, so I followed. I only fell once.

It was certainly different this morning. I sat alone in the dark on our top deck. With my neck comfortably propped up on the back of a deck chair, I scanned the pre-dawn skies, and waited for the shower. I saw a couple dozen shooting stars in an hour—more of a sprinkle than a shower, but it was wonderful. The silence and peace of the morning were profound.

As dawn chased the stars from the sky, I turned, glancing through the pines before heading back inside the house. Mama deer and her two babies were passing through the yard. As I gave my customary 'good morning, deer,' greeting, a flash of color caught my eye. A red fox, startled by the sound of my voice, froze for a moment, then raced from sight.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


John thought having a garden would be nice. He didn't think working in a garden would be fun, but having one would be great. It would alleviate some of the effects of living in the suburbs. Even then we had visions of country life, but raising three boys in a small home in Southern California wasn't farming. Even potted plants were afraid of me.

My parents were military nomads. Our flowers were framed on the wall, and our vegetables were either in the crisper, on the table, or still at the grocery store. If John wanted a garden, he'd have to tend it himself, and I made that perfectly clear. No problem. 

There is only one food that I have no excuse except distaste for not eating. I won't even eat it to be polite. Don't put it anywhere near me unless you want to hear loud gagging sounds. If you know me, you're aware that I'm referring to watermelon. That was the first thing he suggested for the garden. I got one veto. That was it. Anything but that. John decided to go for zucchini. 

Being a Texas boy, John grew up on fried green tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini. He planted all three and more, but Southern California is a desert. I watered. He watered. The boys watered. The only things that came up were the fattest looking zucchini I had ever seen. They crowded out everything else he had planted. They jumped rows. 

"I didn't plant them over there," he would yell, hacking with the hoe he bought at the hardware store. 

They kept springing up. Soon the side yard was filled with plump, alien sqash. They had large seeds, unlike the zucchini I had purchased in the supermarket when he taught me to fry them. He really didn't know how it was done, but we figured it out. (Not as good as his mom's, but good enough.)

I made zucchini bread. I fried it. I baked it. We had zucchini with marinara sauce. We gave it away after church. My friends all got some. My sister and mother each got some. Then we went camping, deserting John's little garden.

A week later we returned, and the boys ran out in the yard. They returned after we had unloaded the car. They weren't dumb, after all. 

"Guess what, Mama. All Daddy's squashes turned into pumpkins while we were gone!" 

Sure enough, those fat little green zucchinis had continued to fatten up and ripen. They lost their green color, and turned a beautiful orange. At last we understood why they were all so fat.

John's never mentioned having a garden again.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Another Reason to Be a Fan

I was babysitting when I first heard Flowers On The Wall. It came on the radio after the children were all tucked in bed, and I laughed out loud. I was earning a big thirty-five cents an hour back then. The money's long gone, but the music is still with me. 

For over forty years, they've kept me singing. I haven't counted their albums, but I have twenty of them just on my iPod. Some are gospel, some country, many just plain fun. If you haven't heard Small Small World, or Put It On The Card, you have no idea.

Now you might not be a country music fan. There was a time when I wasn't either, except for the Statler Brothers and a select few others. To my husband, if it's not country, it's not music. I guess I wasn't such a music snob after all. My point here, and you probably hoped I would be making one, is that you should try to imagine needing to contact your favorite music superstar.

"Please, Mr. Singer Songwriter. I just wrote a novel... I took one of your songs, sir, and used one verse and the chorus in the book. Well, I didn't exactly use it the way you wrote it, but close enough that people are going to know it's yours. Well, I changed some of your lyrics to suit the purposes of the book. Is that okay with you? Sir?"

No matter how you word it, that's not an easy favor to ask. I was advised to just write the book and submit it for publication. 

"Let the lawyers handle all that crap. Your job is to write. You could just screw things up, and then you'll never get permission. Lawyers know how to handle these things."

That didn't sound like a game I wanted to play. 

How I did it doesn't really matter to you, but I made first contact ten days ago. Today the man emailed me, expressing concern about having anyone tamper with one of his songs. I couldn't blame him. He asked me some great questions, which I answered. I even sent him the part of the chapter that introduces the song, and the song with the changes I had made. 

I was prepared to rewrite the chapter, testing the limits of my talent to compose a new song myself. I knew I would grieve about it. No song I wrote would ever approach the simple perfection of his. 

I returned to the computer to make a start, just in case. His return email shocked me to tears. In a simple statement of few words, he thanked me for clearly answering his questions, and granted permission for me to use his song, as changed, in my book. He sent along the name of the publishing company holding the copyright to give to my publisher for final approval.

Another reason to be a fan. As if I needed another reason. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mr. Fix It

Today when I sent something to the printer, I was amazed to get a little prompt telling me that there was no printer.

Of course, there's a printer. It's been there for a long time. I looked at the wireless arc. Not there. I went downstairs, and there's my husband. He decided he could make the system faster. He brought it all down. Router, hubs, printers, VoiceOveriP. That means we had no phones, either. No internet, no connections to the world. No 911. No "Hi, Mom." Email was gone, too. Not to worry. This is the first time he's done this since... um, yesterday.

Someone once told me she'd rather have a man handy than a handy man. At the time it didn't make as much sense to me. Her husband couldn't fix anything, but he was always there to call a plumber or drive the toaster to the repair shop. I get it now. He would never have thought to take apart something that worked to see if he could make it better or faster.

Last night John bought a book entitled 22 Projects for the Evil Genius. Does anyone want to borrow the man for a few months while he works his way through the book?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rule Breakers

It's Tuesday night. That's the night the Critique Group meets. Tonight's group had a fascinating discussion on the 'rules of writing.' 

"I didn't know there were rules," I said.
"Sure there are, if you want to get published."
"Did Dickens follow the rules?"
"No. There weren't any back then."
"Does everyone know the rules?"
"You have to learn them, usually the hard way."
"Everyone just follows the rules?"
"Just about."

Then somebody said, "Well, there are some exceptions. Some really bad writers still get published, even though they break all the rules."

This really got my attention. Who could these deficient writers possibly be?

"Could you give me a couple of examples?"
"Easy," one of the ladies said. "Nicholas Sparks. He's an awful writer, but a great story teller, so everything he writes gets published and read."
"I love his books," I said.
"Yeah. Me, too," she admitted.

Someone else spoke up then. "J. K. Rowling. Terrible writer. Doesn't follow any of the rules."
"Harry Potter?" I asked.
"Yes. Poorly written, but fun to read." 

Everyone agreed with the edict. Well, everyone except me. I was sitting there in stunned silence. I hadn't noticed any problems with the text. Was I deficient somehow? A generation of children learned to love books because of Rowling and the Harry Potter series. 

I don't think I like the rules. Maybe I should break a few myself. They say I have a good start with that...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Catching Up On Jeopardy

Writing a book doesn't leave much time for television. I counted 34 taped episodes of Jeopardy on our DVR, and decided that, since it was Sunday afternoon, I would try to catch up on a few of them.

I gave up after the episode with the "Chemistry" category. I took chemistry in high school. I got an A, in fact. How did I do on the category? I got one right. The answer was sulphuric acid. The question of course, was "What is H2S04?"

I missed everything else.

So why did I remember sulphuric acid?

Little Willie was a chemist.
Little Willie is no more.
What he thought was H20
Was H2S04.

Sorry Mr. Whoever you were. That's all I can remember from your class.

Forget Jeopardy. I think I'd rather go edit my book...

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I started a new book today. No, not writing—reading. It's the first Garrison Keillor book I've ever tried, and he humbles me. 

Weaving words with such artistry deposits a reader right in the middle of the author's scene. Writers are advised to hook the reader within five pages. Keillor did it with his first two sentences. And I quote from Pontoon, page one...

"Evelyn was an insomniac, so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that. Probably, she was sitting propped up in bed reading and heard the brush of wings and smelled the cold clean air, and the angel appeared like a dear in the bedroom and Evelyn said, 'Not yet; I have to finish this book.' "

Now that's a hook! I started reading it in the parking lot after church tonight, and laughed all the way home. I don't know how many times people have said, "That Keillor is a genius!" or "I laughed until my face hurt!" I guess I was busy reading something else. Trust me, if this turns out to be as good as the first fifty pages, I'm going to be a fan.

When I grow up, I want my books to make people laugh and cry, and if they want to run to the bookstore for the latest, well that would be great, too.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Different Song

I just finished the first draft of my novel, A Different Song.
83,699 words; ±308 paperback pages; ±436 manuscript pages.

Well, I still have to clean up the appendix. (Yes, it has one.)
I didn't include that in the statistics above.

But the story is complete.
The first draft is finished.
The first edit is done.

Now I will — um...

Soon, like maybe tomorrow I will start over at page one,
red pen in hand,
and do a little tightening,
some checking,
some editing,
some laughing
some crying
some praying...

What do I have to say for myself?
Well, Ellen likes it.