Sunday, October 9, 2011


 I've been suffering from the What-Do-I-Write-About blues. The blogs were waiting for my immortal words, but that closet needed cleaning. The laundry was piling up. I had errands to run, so I took myself off to the Dollar Store and the library. Post Office, next stop. I pulled the endless catalogs out of my crammed up box, deciding which ones would not make it home. Next came my latest copy of the Writer's Digest magazine. Who was staring back at me from the cover but my favorite author of all time. James Lee Burke. "The bestseller on battling through rejection" were the words under his name. I couldn't wait to get home and read it. I knew a thing or two about rejection. Or so I thought.

This man is a rare two-time Edgar Award winner, recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, and three of his books have been made into films. He published his first story at age nineteen. His latest novel, Feast Day of Fools, is his thirtieth book and has been nominated for the National Book Award. By the age of thirty-four he had three mainstream novels published.

 His fourth book, The Lost Get-Back Boogie, was rejected 111 times in nine years. He was rejected for the Guggenheim fourteen times before finally being accepted. LSU Press finally picked up Boogie and it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

This article is not so much about rejection as it is about perseverance. I thought I had cornered the market on rejections. I have one each from Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, Great Mystery & Suspense, Asimov's Science Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and two from Byline. A total of seven. I am not even in the ball park.

 Here's Burke's advice: Never keep a manuscript longer than 36 hours. Listen to what a publisher or editor has to say about changes. DON'T EVER QUIT. Believe in yourself.

My novel, Wild Justice, is at The Permanent Press being looked at by an editor, but I have at least ten stories sitting in a drawer. The next time you see me ask if I've sent anything out lately. I'll do the same for you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Case for Longhand

"What's that you say?"

"You're kidding. Right?"

Eye rolls. Head shakes.

These are reactions I get when I say I write my first drafts in longhand. What can I say? I'm addicted to pen and ink. I love watching words appear on the lines. Thanks to years in penmanship class doing ovals and push-pulls my handwriting is somewhat legible. Ah yes. Penmanship. They obviously don't teach that one anymore. I mean, we even got a grade in it.

One can often find me skulking along the aisles of Office Depot. I hang out there a lot. Journals of all kind cause my heart to beat faster. Bound ones. Spiral ones. Sewn ones. I have quite a collection. Those black and white marbled composition books, college-ruled, of course, are special favorites for me. An assortment of legal pads - letter and long. I also go down to Books a Million to see what they have on sale in the journal section.

What do I use to put my immortal words on paper? The pen of choice is the Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball, Extra Fine, in assorted colors - black, blue, green, purple, and red. All of these I purchase by the box.

The advantages of longhand are many. A tablet and a pen weigh hardly anything. I can take it anywhere. No worrying about plug-ins for the laptop. No worrying about dying batteries. I can write anywhere - even in the bathtub. Try that with a computer and you could wind up dead. If I get tired of writing I can start doodling. All over the tablet if I so desire. Can't do that on the screen. Last, but by no means least, I can't quit in the middle of a gut-wrenching scene for a quickie game of Solitaire. Email will just have to wait.

The only disadvantage for me: I have a tendency to daydream while writing. But what's wrong with that? The world needs more dreamers.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Did I write this in longhand? Do I want Wild Justice to make the New York Times best seller list? What do you think?