Sunday, July 27, 2014


My honey took me dancing last night at the Western Club, which is out on the highway in Navasota. It was our first time there, and Jody Nix was playing the best western swing I've heard since I was nineteen and saw Bob Wills and his band play at the local VFW ("Yee-haw, sing it, Leon"). Jody Nix's band covered a lot of those old Bob Wills songs, along with others made classic by Ray Price.

At the Western Club, the average person on the dance floor is 65 years old, doing the Texas two-step, moving in a circle around the dance floor as one big happy mass. There were easily two hundred people, paying $15 apiece, to drink longnecks and belly rub with their wives, or a widow woman, or divorcĂ©e, or a neighbor's wife. It was amazing to see so many folks out having  a rousing good time without even one of them getting knee-walking drunk.

These men and women came to dance, and dance they did--even during the band's breaks when the music was piped through the club's sound system. They two-stepped, waltzed, and jitterbugged the night away. My man and I, having been out of practice and easily winded, only made it to the dance floor five or six times, but we had almost as much fun people-watching.

Just in case you decide to stop at one of these dance halls that speckle Texas' landscape, you might want to know what the dress code is, so you don't stand out like a dude. The men wear cowboy hats, straw since it's summer,  and snap-button cowboy shirts they probably bought at the Tractor Supply Store (which has lots more than tractors for sale). They wear Levis or Wranglers held up by decorative belts and silver buckles as large as any champion cowboy ever won on the rodeo circuit. Their women folk are clad in jeans or skirts with white blouses or something with a Southwestern flair. Most wear no makeup, just the sun-kissed complexion from daily work in a garden, but their hair is newly coifed. Nearly everyone wears boots.

Ronnie told me to get a good look at everyone's face so I could recognize anyone who showed up at the First Baptist Church this morning. Heathens that we are, we didn't make it to First Baptist or any other church this morning; we overslept. We don't have cattle and chickens that we need to rise early to care for, so we stayed in bed. Our animals are family dogs, and they were more than happy to sleep in with us.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Class of '64

My 50th Huntsville high school class reunion was this weekend, and holy smoke, about fourth-fifths of the class showed up--Art Koeniger as far away as Alaska and Nancy Hall-Hollis as close as a couple of blocks away. My cousin, Barbara Jean, aka Bubbles, who spent most summers with me and dated many of the guys in my class, accompanied me as did my sweetheart, Ron.

Sweet mercy, it was so good to see everyone. Many of us went all the way through public school together, from  first grade through high school. Others like Pat Wood and Margaret Nuchia moved to Huntsville their junior year in high school and graduated with the class of 1964. When Bill Roy (he goes by Bill now, living in Arizona and no longer needing that two-name Texas moniker) introduced me to his wife, I told her that Bill and I danced the minuet in Colonial costumes when we were in Mrs. Jackson's first grade class. She replied, "Maybe that explains why it took me 40 years to get him on the dance floor."

Many of my female classmates had southern double names: Mary Ethel, Mary Elizabeth, Mary Nell, Nancy Gay, Carol Ann, Amy Lou, Linda Lou... you get the idea. Except for Mary Elizabeth, they have dropped the second name. As for the guys, almost all of them have dropped the "y" or "ie" on their boyhood names of Danny, Jimmy, Donnie, Ronnie... again, you get the idea. I think there's probably a rule of agreement that men can do that after they are 50 years old or have moved out of state.

We reminisced about the major impact Coach J.J. Head and journalism teacher Karey Bresenhan, among others, had on our lives. Coach Head is deceased; Karey Bresenhan went on to become the founder of the International Quilt Association. She was a surprise guest to our class meeting as was Grace's mother, Velda Hall, who at 105 is the oldest living parent of the class members. I was able to personally thank Karey B. for the solid foundation and encouragement she provided me as a young journalist. Grace's mother, who uses a walker to get around  and has a mind sharper than mine, had us laughing in the aisles with the quick-witted repartee she exchanged at the podium with her niece Nancy.

We recalled climbing the Huntsville water tower, sneaking cigarettes, driving to the bootlegger on Gospel Hill, Friday night football, slumber parties, learning the Garner stomp (similar to the today's Texas 2-step), meeting at the Tastee Freeze after school, Mrs. Oliver's typing class, going to the college to "paste up" the high school student newspaper (the Hornet Hive) and checking our shoes to be sure we didn't have part of the newspaper clued there .... such memories!

We all agreed that we grew up in intense times (Cuban Missle Crisis, Kennedy Assassination, beginning of the Vietnam War), and that may be the reason we still care about each other. There are no cliques anymore
--we love each other for the survivors we are. We lived through interesting times and now we live interesting lives, and it's good to hear about our university research, our writing projects, our medical care work, our volunteer service in schools, hospitals, clinics, and our children and their children.

So much went into the weekend activities. Larry and Merrie Monzingo provided commemorative drink coozies and commemorative labeled bottled water for us. Margaret Prentice and Nancy Hall were the amazing coordinators who managed to track us down and make all the arrangements for a grrrrrrreat reunion. I wish I could recall all the individuals who contributed their time, leadership, and finances for this once-in-a-lifetime event, but I'm getting up in the years and it was taxing enough to put names to faces.

 Hornet Hugs to all my classmates.

*FYI: Huntsville High School's mascot is the Fighting Hornet.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

In the flow

The writing life is multi-layered. The fun part is the creative process. It's what keeps us coming back to the computer screen.

I've been struggling with my main character in my second novel, which is about a race for Texas governor. The race itself has lots of twists and turns—typical Texas politics with backroom pacts and dirty tricks in the mix. She’s covering the race and you’d think she’d be as flashy as the plotline, but she’s been stiff as cardboard.

My friend Karleen reminds me that this is typical in the process. The character is new to me and I don’t know her yet, so I put her in different situations and figure out how she might react. Eventually, as I will get to know her and what makes her tick, I won’t have to force anything. She’ll take over and write her own story. I’ll just be taking dictation. Until then, my job is to keep exploring her character, looking for the interior story, for what motivates her.

Last night, for example, after weeks of drafting five chapters and moving her from scene to scene, she showed me how ambitious she is. It helped me see why she wants to make this journey. She’s going to risk her reputation in this story, and I couldn’t see how someone so strongly identified by her career would put it on the line. But now I see: her ambition drives her to the brink. Wow. I did not know this when I started writing this novel.

Today adrenalin is popping through my veins and I’m writing “in the flow” as Karleen likes to call it. In the flow, for you who don’t know, involves those times when the story comes out hard and fast. A writer’s job, when this happens, is to jump into the rapids and write as fast as she can, capturing the story. (To hell with punctuation and spelling, I’ll handle that in the editing.)

Will I be able to ride the flow to the end of the book? Possible, but unlikely. And frankly, I don’t care. Right now I’m just thrilled with the ride.

PostScript: I mention my friend Karleen Koen occasionally in this blog. She is a best-selling historical novelist who will be revealing ways to wrangle a finished novel from the rough draft at a weeklong retreat in Alpine, TX. She’s an amazing Sorceress who graciously shares her magic potions.

Interested? Go to and click on Conferences and Retreats for detailed information about the 2014 Summer Retreat. This will be my third time to attend the retreat. Hope to see you there.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Finding an agent

Writers League of Texas awarded my novel UNDERCOVER a finalist place in its 2014 Manuscript Competition and I've been sending queries to New York literary agencies trying to find an agent to represent me. It's a long, arduous process.

Each agent has specific guidelines--one wants a short synopsis and five pages, another wants a chapter-by-chapter synopsis and the first ten pages, another wants the first chapter but in rich text, and another wants... well, you get the idea. And each agent is unwavering about following her particular guidelines, or else. The "or else" means that she won't read the partial manuscript, and since that is the whole reason for contacting her, I follow each one meticulously.

It's not easy finding someone to represent an unpublished novelist, even if I'm a contestant finalist. Literary agencies receive hundreds of email and snail mail submissions on a daily basis. Okay, I get that. They're busy folks who have lots and lots of wannabe authors vying for their attention. But hey, isn't that the core of their business? Could they exist if wannabe authors weren't trying to get agency representation?

 My man created a manuscript tracker for me, so I could keep up with my queries and to whom I sent them. I've got nine queries out there right now, looking for a connection.

It's funny but I feel like I'm on because even when an agent expresses interest, she may not be the right agent for me. I'm working on the draft of my second novel and have started the idea file for a third one. This lady is no one-trick pony, so it's important that I find an agent who is interested in my writing goals and publishing dreams, not just in selling one novel.

The dance has begun. I'm both excited and impatient to see who will be my partner.