Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Secret Agents . . . Continued

(continued . . . )

Madeleine agrees to represent me, and we work together for three years. Early on, somewhere around the cusp of 1999, Madeleine helps me craft a book proposal entitled, Candles in the Dark. The title was my idea, and it's actually the one-and-only book title I've conceived that eventually wasn't changed later by the publisher. We get the proposal together, and I make the mistake of also sending along three other fully-developed book proposals.

Madeleine calls me later and asks, "What are these other ideas? I can't go to publishers and tell them I've got a writer who can produce four books in a year."

"Why not?" I ask.

"Who writes four books a year?"

"I do," I tell her. "In fact, I did it in 1998. I had FIVE books published that year."

"You must have done nothing but write," she says.

I tell her that, in addition to the five published books, I also wrote an equal number that were not published. And in the year I wrote the five, I also packed up a family and moved house and home across the state. I had a new pastoral gig, and that took an enormous amount of time. I wrote 50+ sermons that year, too, and I was a husband and father and I conducted something like twenty funerals, ten weddings, and would have done circumcisions, too, had someone offered me the opportunity to snip.

"You're telling me you can write five books a year doing all of that?" she asks.

"Lady," I answer. "I can write twenty-five a year if you get me the contracts."

Madeleine doesn't bite on my prolific output, but she does manage to sell Candles in the Dark. I work on the book for a year, and it is published two years later, in 2002. A three-and-a-half year odyssey that drives me nuts. It's a book that requires me to make three a.m. phone calls to Europe to get permissions from publishers who ask questions like, "Iz Zees ze Amerikan callinz to get zeez permission for zeez publisher in Amerika?" It's a book that requires enormous amounts of postage and research and marketing funds, and by the time the book goes to print, I'm in the hole, the entirety of my tiny royalties advance shot-to-heck.

Then one fall day in 2002, just a few months after my book has been published, I receive a phone call from Madeleine. She has a sad tone to her voice as she begins to explain, "I have some bad news . . . . "

(to be continued . . .)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Secret Agents . . . Continued

(Continued . . . )

Now that I had been officially "dumped" by my first agent, memories of high school dating flooded over me. How about the time Becky dumped me while we were sitting outside her house in my El Camino? (Yeah, it happened!) Or when that cute blonde told me that she didn't date guys who didn't use deodorant? Heck, it was expensive, and Right Guard was still introducing their new line of products.

Realizing that I had been dumped by my agent, I considered jumping off the roof of the parsonage, but it wasn't very high and I realized I would likely just break a hip and be laid up for a few months. So I decided to forget it. Oh, I did cry myself to sleep a few nights, but eventually I shook myself out of the doldrums and got back to writing . . . and that with a vengeance.

In fact, getting dumped by that first agent was actually a blessing. I wrote like mad. I wrote with eyes closed, teeth gritted, and kept a frantic pace at my Tandy 1000. I wrote articles, curriculum, and eventually set off on a course of writing several book proposals . . . so many, in fact, that in 1997, I had five books accepted for publication (in one year!).

Then, as 1997 was drawing to a close, I decided to try my hand at finding an agent again. I did my research, wrote my letters, and one afternoon in early 1998, I received a phone call from New York. This time, the voice was a woman's, and she had a British accent. Let's say her name was Madelleine. (Actually, that is her name, but for the sake of this blog, let's just pretend her name is Madelleine.)

"Todd," she coos. "I've just received your new book proposal idea and I think it's a bloody-good one!"

This time I don't speak off the cuff. "I would say 'I Love You'," I tell her, "but since we just met let me just say that I've always had a fondness for the British. I hear Big Ben is really something to see. And I like those soldiers who stand at attention and don't smile. Are you like that?"

"I've come all the way across the pond," she tells me, "just to represent you and introduce the rest of the planet to your fine work."

"I'm married," I tell her, "but, baby, if I wasn't . . . . "

(to be continued)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Secret Agents . . . Continued

(continued . . . )

Now that I knew that my new-found literary agent was going to make me a star, I had to get busy on the rewrites. It was a daunting task. Hundreds of pages. Thousands of words. Millions of letters and spaces and tiny pieces of punctuation. But I got to work. I rose early every day and/or stayed up to write well into the wee hours of the morning. I burned the midnight oil, the two a.m. oil, the four a.m. oil. And, of course, I was still doing all of my pastoral work: writing sermons, counseling, visiting, small groups, Bible studies, youth.

I was one tired puppy. But in less than three weeks, I had rewritten the novel according to (what I believed) were Warren's specifications. I boxed the sucker up and shipped it out to Warren in old New York.

Then one afternoon, weeks later, Warren leaves a voice mail on my home phone. "I'm shipping the manuscript out to some publishers," he tells me. "But it doesn't look promising."

This is my first experience in literary agent "double-speak". I love your book, man BUT it ain't any good! This is great stuff BUT nobody is going to want it. I've never met a writer like you BUT why can't you write any better than this?!

But heck, I'm learning. And I learn fast. More weeks go by. Months even. I leave Warren to his devices, to his schemes and dreams and fancy dinners with top editors in big publishing firms like Knopf and Crown. And one day I decide to call his office and just "check in" to see how things are progressing. Has he received any rejections? Has there been any progress, any conversation about my novel?

I hold the line for minutes until Warren decides he will speak to me and when he does, he says it simply, "The book is dead, man. It's a dud. Do you have anything else? Any other ideas? Can you write anything else that I can shop around the Big Apple?"

I tell him about a few other books I am working on (all of them non-fiction) and then he tells me that he doesn't represent non-fiction. "Gotta go find yourself another agency for that stuff, man. Call me back when you write another novel."

And so ends my relationship with my first agent. It was nine months in length, and we never did have a chance to fall in love. I never sent him the chocolates either.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Secret Agents . . . Continued

(continued . . . )

As soon as I hear that the agent loves my novel, I blurt out, "I love you, too!" Quickly I realize that this declaration might be interpreted the wrong way. What if that's not the way a writer usually speaks to his agent? What if my new agent is gay and thinks I'm coming on to him?

"Well," I say, "I know we've just met, and I don't really know you well, but I have a good feeling about us. I really like you a lot already. May I send you some chocolates?" But, of course, this sounds even cornier.

"Hold on there now," the agent says. "Let's talk about the novel." He introduces himself. I'll call him "Warren." (Actually that is his name, but for the sake of this blog, let's just say his name is Warren.) He tells me that he is gaga over my novel, that it holds a lot of promise, that he wants to shop it all around Manhattan and use it do gain favors from unsuspecting editors and dine in fine restaurants on caviar and Burgundy wines. And then he closes his introduction by asking, "How quickly can you do a rewrite?"

"You don't like the novel?" I ask.

"Love it," he tells me, "but it will require some additional work to get it into submission shape. I need you to rewrite it from first page to last. Can you get me a revision in two weeks?"

I don't have the heart to point out that this is a 100,000 word novel. It took me four years to write it. But he offers me some instruction and I say, "Yeah, sure, I'll have that on your desk in two weeks." My love for the agent has already faded and I can see us now being just good friends.

"Keep up the good work," Warren tells me. "I'm going to make you a star."


Friday, March 27, 2009

Secret Agents . . . Continued

(continued . . . )

Early the next week, I find my way to the Evansville public library and make the mistake of asking the librarian a question. "Hey, Ladieeee!" I yell in my best Jerry Lewis impersonation. "Where are your reference books?"

The librarian, an even older version of my ninety-year-old grandmother, directs me to a pile of humongous books. I find The Literary Marketplace and begin reading about literary agents. After a few minutes, I discover an entry for a New York agency that touts itself as "one of the oldest, most prestigious agencies in the publishing industry."

That's what I need, I says to myself. Prestige. Anyone living in Indiana needs a little higher living now and again, and, growing up in a town where swimming in the local creek and bobbing for raccoon poop was deemed a sport, I know this agency is for me! I write down the address, drive home, creep down into the damp basement and write a cover letter. I tell the prestigious New York agency about my novel, about how it will change the world as we know it, about how I am the newest sensation to come out of small-town-Indiana and, by godamighty, they'd better represent my book.

Then I wait. Weeks go by. I'm still writing down in the basement, stomping crickets, feeding children, hearing my wife's lovely voice call to me from upstairs, "Hey, what's going on down there?" I stay warm by huddling against the tiny pilot-light flame on the furnace. I pray to the god of diapers and handiwipes.

And then hope comes. I am sitting in the basement making myself a cricket sandwich when the phone rings. I answer.

"Is this Todd?" the voice asks.

"Yeah," I say, "What's it to yah?" (I think it's a parishioner calling me about Sunday School curriculum.)

"Todd, I'm calling from New York, from the Big Apple, from the corner of Broadway and 52nd Street, from that prestigious literary agency you wrote to. And hey, old buddy, I love your novel!"


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Secret Agents . . . Continued

It's true, I have a very large novel that I'd like to get published, but I have no idea how to do this. But everything I read about fiction writing tells me I will need an agent to succeed. But how does a guy living in Evansville, Indiana, who writes in a dimly-lit basement, who types with one hand while feeding children with the other, find an agent? Especially since 90% of these agents live in New York city, the hub of the publishing industry?

I'm asking myself these questions when, one day, I notice in the newspaper that a writer named Tom Kunkel is having a book signing at the Barnes & Noble bookstore. This bookstore is a block from the parsonage (how lucky can a guy get?) and so I decide to go down there on Saturday morning to buy this guy's book and, hopefully, talk to him about writing.

As it turned out, Kunkel had written a biography of famed New Yorker magazine publisher, Harold Ross. And from the looks of the line at the bookstore, I could tell that no one in Evansville had even heard of Harold Ross, or the Algonquin Round Table, or James Thurber, or Dorothy Parker, or any of Ross's buddies. There sat the writer in Barnes & Noble--lonely, tearful, reclining at table with his little pile of books and not a soul to talk to (a scene that I would eventually live out myself).

I walk over and strike up a conversation, buy Tom's book, and when I get up the courage to tell him that I have written a novel, the guy actually seems interested in helping. As it turns out, Tom was formally an editor himself, and he is one of the few writers I've ever talked with who genuinely wanted to help a writer. (I have never forgotten this lesson either and cannot stand uppity authors who will not help other writers!)

"It is nearly impossible to find an agent," he tells me truthfully, "but it is much more difficult to get a book published on your own."

"Thanks for the encouragement," I tell him.

He then directs me to the local library. "Look through The Literary Marketplace," he tells me, "and write to an agent who is looking to represent a novel like yours."

(To be continued)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Secret Agent . . . Continued

It is circa 1993. I am living in Evansville in a parsonage. I have no home office. However, Becky does allow me to set up my computer (a Tandy 1000 that is by this time seven years old, has two floppy drives, and a monochrome monitor) in the basement . . . a dark, dank, foul place crawling with crickets. The place is also crawling with children.

My daughter is all of four years old, my son is a baby in arms. Still, that is how I write. I write down in the basement holding one kid, typing with the other free hand. I write through screaming, crying, puking, madness, mayhem. I develop immense powers of concentration, which I still possess to this day. As I write, I shut out all distractions: sirens, ringing phones, people knocking on doors, a wife screaming at me to "please feed that kid before he suffocates!" Heck, I didn't even know I was holding a kid. Thank God, I wasn't breast feeding at the time.

But you have to understand, I actually write a novel this way. A 100,000 word novel. Big sucker. Massive tome. I wrote it in the basement, rising early in the morning, writing late into the night, while holding children in my lap (okay, I kiss them, too, because I love them). I change diapers without trying to get gunk on the keyboard.

And then one day my wife tells me, "You'd better do something with that book. I'm tired of seeing you write down there in your little dungeon, wondering if the kids have been fed, wondering what time you are coming to bed."

I remind her that I have been to bed with her at least twice in the past four years, as evidenced by the children.

"For the love of God," she says, "get yourself an agent and see if you can get that book published!"

I don't know if this is her way of saying she needs/wants me, or if this is just the crotchety-old wife-now-mother syndrome speaking, but I agree. I'll get an agent! (Continued next blog)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Secret Agents

I'm going to begin a new blogger series today that I'm entitling "Secret Agents". Here's why.
Writers always pine for a good literary agent . . . you know, someone who can hobnob with the big name editors in New York, who can lunch with celebrity, and who can, hopefully, sell a book and cut a big deal that will land the writer a fat, juicy contract.
This has never happened to me . . . but you get the picture. I have, however, had four literary agents over the past ten years (is that a record?) and I'm going to tell you some funny stories about my agent experience.
Some of it ain't too purty, and most of it is depressing, but the longer I am removed from the pain of receiving the final phone calls, the funnier my agent experiences become.
I hope everyone will enjoy my secret agent blogs. Especially all those writers out there who think they have to have an agent to get a book published. I'm not successful, but I am living proof to the fact that a writer can still write without the benefit of an agent who eats caviar and speaks in a French accent.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Reading Pastors

Over the weekend, I somehow managed to read two short stories--both of which featured pastors as principle characters. One was a mystery story, the other a mainstream fiction piece written by the illustrious, but now purportedly dead, John Updike. I always find it interesting to read stories featuring pastors because, most often, the stories are loaded with stereotypes about pastors and rarely contribute anything substantial to the reader's impressions of the way clergy actually live, think, eat, work, play, or struggle.

Both of the stories in this case, however, were well done. In one, the pastor was caring for his ageing mother and was struggling with all of the usual questions about long-term decisions and the emotional trauma of transitioning from a full life to an assisted one.

Reading stories like this always remind me that most people do relate to pastors through stereotypes. For example:
* The pastor (male) as spiritual giant who lives, breathes, eats, and thinks nothing but God.
* The pastor (male with gray hair) who spends every moment of life visiting the sick, the dying, and doing weddings and funerals (the hitch 'em & ditch 'em stereotype).
* Or maybe the pastor (again male) who somehow fathers children through immaculate conception, works in the soup kitchen, and leads a Norman Rockwell family by example.

I'm glad Updike, in particular, breaks through all of these myths. His pastors always have warts, weaknesses, struggles. They are human.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Updike and Basketball

As I write this, I'm watching the Duke/Texas basketball game in the NCAA tournament. I'm literally typing this on a laptop, reclining on the couch, watching the television. But I also have a book at my side . . . a title I pulled from my library: John Updike: The Early Stories.

Updike died earlier this month and I miss the idea that he won't be around to write any more marvelous stories. Updike loved basketball, and his Rabbit novels feature Rabbit Angstrom, a guy who loved basketball. I think Updike loved the game, too.

I can scarcely watch anything on television anymore with reading a book at the same time, or writing at the same time, and I'm going to enjoy reading a couple of Updike's stories while I watch the ball fly through the hoop.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Interviews & Other Frolics

I've been trying to stave off the inevitable for some time, but the requests have finally caught up with me: requests for interviews, requests for speaking-engagements, requests for book signings and appearances. Over the past few weeks I've funneled all of these requests to Friday, March 20, when I promised to answer the mound of requests that have gathered on my plate. And now that day has arrived.

So far this morning I have talked to two editors, ordered a few books for book signings that I will do later this spring/summer, written a personal vitae that can be used in introductions, and have kindly requested that all of my face-to-face interviews or phone interviews be conducted via email instead. I will spend time this afternoon doing some of these interviews on computer, thank God!

One of the interviews, by a syndicated columnist based in Chicago, is couched around questions about marriage and pre-marital counseling. (I guess that's what I get for writing books for brides.) I hate to tell the truth in this situation, but I may have to.

Truth is, I know very little about marriage. I only know that my wife is a jewel because she endures my late nights and my silly little poems at her expense. I do wash the dishes on Friday, so I know a little about sharing responsibilities. Sometimes I clean the toilets and mop the floors (really!) And, okay, sure, I can talk about making love and staying in love and being in love and all that jazz just in case there are readers out there who have to have their jollies . . . but by and large, I'm learning as I go. I'll have my 25th wedding anniversary this summer and I can talk about what that means (a cruise, probably . . . and you know what happens on cruises!)

But I just want to write. I don't like interviews, and I don't like speaking engagements, and I don't like photo ops and I don't like book signings.

And as my wife often asks: "If you don't like that stuff, then why do you write books?"

Answer: "So I can wear a suit and tie and look professional and come home to your sweet lovin' arms!"

These interviews aren't going to go well. I can feel it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Children's Book

On a final note regarding my kid's book, One Strange World, I offer this poem taken from its pages. It is entitled:

Margaret McLickies

Margaret McLickies
Had three hundred hickeys,
And she was quite a dame.
But then she stopped kissing,
And now they're all missing,
And she's never looked quite the same.

Chelsey once noted: "Dad, I'm amazed I turned out okay with you reading me poems like this when I was four."

Me: "Who said you turned out okay?"

Great line, one of my snappiest come-backs ever.

Yet Another Strange One

Here's yet one more crazy poem that I wrote for my kids many years back. It's entitled "Building Blocks".

Danny Fox
Stacked his blocks
Atop a silver platter
Until they reached the moon.
But then he had a problem.
Some day real soon
They'd all fall down
And make an awful clatter,
And splatter,
And scatter
All over the world.
And that was the matter
With Danny Fox
Who stacked his blocks
On a silver platter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Strange One

While my daughter was home last week, I pulled out my kid's book, One Strange World, and let her revisit some of the poems I wrote for her when she was just a wee little thing. Here's another one she enjoyed entitled, "The Violin".

The strangest musical instrument
Must be the violin!
It looks as if part of your face
When pressed against the chin.
And when you begin playing it
The strangest sounds begin.
It sounds just like a strangled cat,
Or like you've scraped your shin.
So just in case you want to play
And I'm your next-0f-kin,
Don't be offended if I bring
Along some aspirin!

Monday, March 16, 2009

From One Strange World

Since I've been having fun with my crazy poems, here's another one from my kid's book: One Strange World. It's entitled, "Soap".
Harry slipped on a bar of soap
And broke his arm, his leg, his neck,
His clavicle, fibula, ribs and back,
His tailbone and even his toe.
But you know . . .
It's a good thing he didn't drown,
Or bite his tongue,
Or get washed down.
Things could have been worse!
He could have lost his teeth
Or lost his purse
Or caught pneumonia from the cold.
So you know . . .
It's really a blessing
What happened to Harry . . .
Anything else could have really been scary!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Christmas in March

I have been writing a new script for a Christmas CD that I hope to produce this summer. Talk about a mind-bender.

Here in March, as I am eagerly anticipating the advent of Spring, I'm writing about Yuletide memories, carols and bells, and dogs peeing in snow. It is strange, trying to live in two seasons at once.

I have also discovered that as I write these Christmas memoirs, I have already been doing some Christmas shopping in my mind. I now know what I am going to buy for my wife and children, and by golly, I might be able to get my Christmas shopping completed before Easter. How's that for a double-whammy?

The only thing I have to figure out is: where do I hide the junk for eight months?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Reading My Friends

Over the past week, I've read several manuscripts that friends have given me. I'm not really an editor, but I was impressed, and I have some ideas that I hope to offer.

I'm very impressed by one young lady at Calvary who has written a 160,000 word novel. There's no way I could have completed anything of that magnitude when I was her age. So, if you are reading this blog, my young apprentice (that's a reference from Star Wars, by the way!) please see me soon so I can talk to you and your parents about your amazing talent.

Now, this Friday, I'll once again be returning to Old Sparky tonight for an afternoon and evening of creating my own oddities. I've got another CD script to write, and a couple of articles for magazines, and I'm still working on my "dog" book. I just hope it won't be a dog when I finish it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Yesterday I had a problem with our phone. When I called to get assistance, the operator asked for my password. My password? Holy cow, lady, I don't even know my middle name! My password?! I gave her every password I could possibly recall, but to no avail. So she asked me to give her my mother's maiden name(which I could not remember) thinking this "hint" might jar something loose. But no go.

After this conversation, it occurred to me that we now live in a world of passwords. I've got passwords for computer, phone, television cable, my pension, my bank account, the ATM machine, my cell phone . . . heck, my wife even asks for my password before she will let me in the bedroom at night.

So, I'm simplifying. Here's my plan . . . .

All of my money-related accounts (like pension, bank, ATM etc.) are going to be opened by the password (get this): Toddsmoney. Isn't that clever? I won't forget that one.

And all of my other accounts (TV, telephone) will be opened by: Toddsotherjunk.

I'm getting the hang of this. And last night I gave Becky my new password to her heart: Toddwantssomelovinsoopenthedangdoor.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The CD Blues

The last few evenings I have been writing audio text for a new batch of CDs I hope to have produced this summer. Writing audio text is much different than written text. I'm constantly stopping to think about how words "sound" rather than how they look on the page, and there are some sentences that read perfectly well on the page that, were they to be read aloud, would be difficult for me to articulate.

I think about the old tongue twisters like:

The sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick.
She sells seashells by the seashore.

I'm eager to get back to some real writing . . . but I'm going to finish my audio CD scripts first.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ray Bradbury

One of my favorite writers is Ray Bradbury. I am completing the most recent collection of his short stories: We'll Always Have Paris. Over the years, I think I've read at least 150 Bradbury stories. He is a writer of great imagination and depth. His stories range from fantasy to domestic, from science fiction to historical.

Bradbury was also the designer of Epcot Center in Disney World. And in particular, he designed the big steel ball that greets you when you enter the Epcot area.

I would love to design a big steel ball, too. But then, I would love to design anything . . . even a little steel ball, or a little rubber ball, or a teenie-tiny microscopic ball that is used by viruses to play a full-contact sport.

No use, I can never be like Bradbury and write about stuff like this with any conviction.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Growing Reading List

In the past month, I've had several people ask me if I would read their book manuscripts and offer my thoughts and editorial insights. Glad to do it. My list has grown exponentially now, and I've got quite a pile of goodies. But I do look forward to helping any way I can.

Though it is Sunday afternoon and I have just returned from attending a mandatory clergy meeting, I am nevertheless relieved to have one of my own books offered up into the hands of the four horsemen of the apocalypse...the four editors at Group who have been riding my sorry buns for two months, spurring me on to get the manuscript completed before these tough times are no longer so tough.

At last, free of one manuscript, I can move on to writing something fresh (which will then become my new burden). But I hope for it, nonetheless.

In the meantime, I'll get to reading these books and manuscripts of my friends. It will be fun!

Friday, March 6, 2009


It is Friday night (about 9:30 as I write this) and I have just completed a harrowing day of reading my book manuscript twice. That's 440 pages of line-by-line editing and rewrites. I started early, about 7 a.m. after I returned from a brief workout at the gym. With the exception of a few phone calls, a walk outside to get the mail and breath some fresh air, and a quick trip to the grocery, my nose was pressed to paper for nearly twelve hours. My hands are covered in ink.

Throughout the day I got emails and voice mails from two of the editors on this book. They called and wrote to spur me onward . . . kind of like a jockey whipping the backside of a race horse down the homestretch. Maybe they were trying to be funny. But I made my deadline, early in fact, by almost a month. I hate crossing the finish line by a nose. I go full bore and cross by a full length or I don't run. And yes, my butt is sore from all the sitting and straining. My eyes are bloodshot. I'm dog tired. Maybe those guys did whip me after all.

Finally, as I prepare to lay me down to sleep, I checked my emails one last time. I had a rejection from The New Yorker magazine (but what else is new?) and a rejection from a science fiction magazine (their loss!). But after a full day of reading and writing, I really don't give a dip.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Reading

On the final day of this month, I am travelling to Ball State University to have dinner with my daughter. She will buy our dinner on a dormitory food card that I paid for at twenty-times the going rate for day old lasagna. So, by golly, I'm loading up! So long Lenten diet!

Afterwards, I am walking across the parking lot to Emens Auditorium to hear David Sedaris read excerpts from his books. Following the reading, I hope he will sign some of my first editions of his works, which I am bringing in tow.

Odd, perhaps, but the book reading is not a hot ticket to most people. I expect to find a bunch of gray-haired, balding, middle-aged losers and literary-wanna-bes like myself sitting alone in the darkness, mouthing petitions to an unseen book-god.

The last book reading I attended was one of my own. It was at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Carmel. About fifteen people showed up (because I invited them) and the rest of the customers strode by during the reading, glancing at me as if I were giving someone a colonoscopy without anaesthesia. Nobody stopped. Nobody cared. My mother didn't attend, said she had something better to do. And one little kid even gave me the finger.

So ended my great book reading tour. I hope David Sedaris fares better.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

First Draft

Last night (late) I completed my first draft of my latest book. It is 220 pages (about 40,000 words) of prime-time writing. And I'm sick of it already.

Next week I'll be sending this draft to the editors and will likely begin rewriting later in March.

I always feel relieved when I finish a first draft. It feels a bit like saying goodbye to a friend who has been living at the house for five months. After a while, you just want to say goodbye and get back to watching Hogan's Heroes.

Well . . . or The Andy Griffith Show. I'm ready for some Don Knotts.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Book About Books

Over the weekend I finished reading Larry McMurtry's book, Books. (Sorry, no cover photo.) It is a book about books. So, it's my kind of book!

Books is a memoir about Larry McMurtry's lifelong infatuation with books, his 300,000 book library, and the massive bookstore he operates on the west coast, in between writing best-selling novels and Academy-award-winning screenplays. My personal library is small potatoes next to Larry's library (which at one point consumed his home), but I've suffered from the same book sickness that Larry has. Only thing is, I sell my books or give them away when they threaten to overtake my house.

That, and my wife gives me an ultimatum . . . get rid of these books or I'm leaving you.

Guess I'll keep the woman.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

National Geographics

Saturday evening was an oddity at our house. Becky and I spent several hours sorting through my library, culling out old books to make room for new books, etc. But one of the principal culprits in the lack of shelf space was the infamous National Geographic. There were hundreds of these things dating back to the mid 1980s, when my father-in-law began giving us an annual subscription to the magazine as part of our Christmas gift.

One thing about moving piles of National Geographics. They are heavy!

By the time we finished sorting, compiling, and otherwise arranging the years in magazine racks, my back was aching. I didn't count this as exercise since I work out with much heavier weights, but I did have to take two Tylenol before bed so I would be feeling happy on Sunday morning.

Now I do have some free shelf space for new books, but I'm not sure that moving all of these magazines was the answer. Why can't my wife allow me to simply built more shelves?