Archive for the 'Novels' Category



I wait and breathe cool mountain air

Listening to porch planks creak beneath oak rockers

Deep vermillion crawls away,

Inviting diamonds into

An indigo sky.

Your image flows through

Channels of my memory,

My fingers tangled in your hair,

Your warmth pressed against me.

A smile lights up your face,

Accenting crinkles long familiar.

I press my fingers to my lips,

Point my hand skyward,

And wait for

God’s consent to join you.

Hal C. Clark

November 2006

About Waiting

As my parents grew older and approached their seventieth anniversary, I thought about which one might go first and which would best deal with the loss. My mom was devoted to my dad and he depended on her for many things, most of all for companionship. I don’t know if he depended on her for her sake or his own.

My dad died when he was ninety and my mom went on for two more years, although she admitted to us kids that she was ready to go. She just had to wait around for the right time. She loved her children, grandchildren, and great grands and looked forward to seeing them. But she didn’t have much excitement for anything else.

It’s hard to think of that time between your very overactive life and that time when you leave this world, but most of us will have to face it. The happiest of our senior citizens seem to be those who are physically able to find some useful pastime such as some way to serve others. For some, that involves family, for others, a church, for some, maybe writing.

Take some time, a few minutes a day, to honor older relatives and make them feel worthwhile. It makes everyone feel better.

Feb 10, 2010



Sagging pants, bagging pants,

Pants around the knees,

I don’t like the sight of them,

So hike ’em up there please,

And please…oh please…

Don’t sneeze.


I used to know what poetry was, like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” right? Everything had a certain rhythm and it all rhymed and sounded almost like song. Now we have free verse, pattern verse, terse verse, and a lot of other forms I don’t easily recognize as poetry. Sometimes I think I’m writing poetry, but how do you know?

It seems to me there should be some sort of guidelines to let you say, yes, this is poetry. Of course if there are no official guidelines, you can write almost anything and if it has some type of rhythm or musical quality to it, it is considered poetry.

The above verse, which flooded into my brain as I was awakening, has a certain Shel Silverstein sound to it which I like. I enjoyed all his poetry and was sad to see him go. I guess one of my favorite books by him was “The Giving Tree” which, I guess wasn’t really poetry at all. But look through “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” and you get a lot of enrichment from it even though much of it is rather nonsensical.

Anyway, If anyone knows how to tell if writing is poetry, I would appreciate your input.

P.S. Now this is really weird: I have just discovered a workshop on beginning poetry at our library tonight. I will be there. It’s almost like providence.

A Writer’s Career

More on Rejection

A couple more thoughts on Rejection—I was looking at rejection letters from the point of view of the writer and all the frustration that brings. But in truth, there is another side to that picture. Agents and publishers are covered up by queries of all types. Most queries, they say, are far from being professional, filled with grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and all around sloppiness. A lot of writers can be very persistent. While this is not a flaw in itself, it is unwelcome when we are, shall we say, not quite ready for prime time.

One agent even tells of a query spammer who sends query letters by e-mail once a week and vows to continue this practice until he is published. Each week he is rejected, deleted, and marked as spam, but nothing works. (Writer’s Digest, Feb 2010 p17) I should think by this time he is working under a brownie point deficit.

I had almost forgotten a rejection letter I received from an agent which said “We accept submissions only from published writers.” Nice work if you can get it, rather like a three or four day work week. Let someone else do the hard work.

On and On – A Writer’s Career

Do you suppose, when Sue Grafton first started her alphabet series, that she planned ahead? Using the alphabet as part of the title commits you to (if successful) 26 novels. She has just published “U is for Undertow” which gives her five more to go. On her current schedule (one every two years) she will be eighty when she publishes “Z is for Zero”, no doubt pushing her walker along to book signings and interviews. I’m guessing she isn’t worried about what she will write after that. She is making some progress in the series, however. Her main character finally traded her beat-up VW Bug for something newer.

J. K. Rowling’s series covered seven Harry Potter years and she stayed close to that actual time, once she found a publisher. (Ever wonder what happened to the editors who turned down her series?) She completed the seven volumes in about 10 years. She doesn’t have to worry about income now, but will she write anything else? She’s still young.

J. D. Salinger died in the past three days at the age of 91. His classic novels “Catcher in the Rye” and “Franny and Zooey” are still selling well, but he stopped publishing after several short stories and four books, moved to the country, and dropped out of society at a young age. Couldn’t handle the press, I guess.

Harper Lee struggled for about twelve years with her first novel. She also helped Truman Capote gather notes for his book “In Cold Blood” which took some of her time. For the next 14 years there was rumor of a second novel, but it never appeared. For most of her life, she has stayed out of the public eye and has not written anything else. I assume she said everything she had to say in the one book.

Jean M. Auel started writing a short story around 1980 and then discovered what she was really writing was the popular six volume “Earth’s Children” series. She cranked them out on a regular schedule until volume four took five years to produce. Readers then waited twelve years for volume five. That was eight years ago and volume six is still nowhere in sight. She became interested in doing research on cave dwelling and cave art in Europe somewhere in the process, so there’s no hurry. (It’s tax deductable.) Except that she is getting on in years. The devoted wait patiently (sort of) to learn the fate of Ayla and Jondalar.

Nicholas Sparks produced one or two novels per year for a while but seems to have slowed now. He has never seen a rejection letter. He found an agent on the first try and she called him two days later and told him she had an offer of a one million dollar advance for his novel. “The Notebook” was later made into a major motion picture.

Jodi Picoult seems to produce a new novel about every six to eight months and I consider her the current champ of mass-produced popular novels. She likes surprise endings, so that’s no surprise to her readers. I read two of them and was cured.

So the question is, do you have a favorite author story?


I was cleaning out files a couple of weeks ago when I found a stack of rejections. I’m not sure why I was saving them. Maybe it was a testament to having tried to market my project, or maybe it was to show all those people when the novel sold a million copies, just how good it was. Probably it was because I hate to throw anything away. If you take a look at my office, that’s the most likely reason.

Whatever the reason, I found I didn’t need them any more (if I ever did) and threw them away. It’s time to start a new collection. Time to send out all those query letters on my latest project. Time for more rejections? Of course, it’s part of the publishing game.

The rejections made up quite a collection. Some were formal form letters, saying “we have reviewed your submission and feel it isn’t quite right for our list. Best of luck on finding a home for your novel.” One was a crude scrawl across my query letter saying “Not for me.” Most were nicely written and contained comments meant to be encouraging, but still a rejection. The answer was “NO.”

One was a form letter with a cryptic, hand written note across the top. The note was probably written by a secretary/reader and said “This manuscript is not novel length.” I can’t think of a note that would be less informative than this one. All right, here we have one example of what is not novel length. It was rather like playing the childhood game “Hot and Cold” with only “cold” for a clue. How many submissions would we have to make to determine what is an acceptable length?

Not that it mattered. The novel was short (although I have seen a few books of about 42,000 to 48,000 words that had “A Novel” printed on the cover) and had a number of problems. I still have a copy of it on my computer hard drive (v10.1). Who knows? I may one day decide to go back to it, though I doubt it. It was a good learning experience.

Rejection affects most writers, including J. K. Rowling (something like 26 rejections), Stephanie Meyer, and Audrey Niffenegger. Audrey had enough rejections with her first novel that she decided to go with a small, independent publisher which had trouble keeping up with the millions of copies they eventually published.

So, hang in there and keep collecting those rejections and if you get some really unusual ones, please save them. You never know when you might have to line a bird or hamster cage.

The question for this post is: What is your favorite rejection letter?

On Writing

Everyone wants to write a book… right? Many stop at the wanting, dreaming stage and never get around to the actual writing. For some, it’s a matter of writing “someday, when I have time, and they assemble a writing station, buy a dozen pencils and a stack of pads and a nice desk lamp and wave at it every time they pass by.” For a few, it is “right now” and once they get started, they can’t stop. For me, it is “every chance I get,” which isn’t often enough.

I had written a few short stories, nothing published, but when I started writing my first novel, I knew what I wanted to say, but I got stuck on page 33. I discovered rewriting is easier than writing a first draft. So… the first 33 pages were very polished. Almost perfect. Until I looked at it ten years later. I did sort of finish that one after great struggle, but it was too short (43,000 words) and too predictable and good practice. I sent out query letters and sample pages and the whole bit and collected enough rejection letters (or notes) to fill a file and not one nibble. Was I disappointed? Yes. Discouraged? No, because I discovered I liked the process of writing, and publishing is not as important as writing to me. By the way, because I am a teacher and have that experience and interest in that age group, I now write middle grade children’s novels.

Of course I’d like to see my name on the cover of a book. Maybe. Someday. But what I really get into is the characters. When I write, I think of a situation (a “what if” question) and assemble characters to be in the situation. What if a young boy had to go live with a maiden aunt whom he doesn’t know. Or what if it was a young girl who had to live with her reclusive bachelor uncle? I chose this one because I could already see the characters in my mind. I already knew them. Once I write the first couple of chapters and a “target” for the ending, I know I can finish it.

How can you come up with intersting characters? That is the question for today’s post: How do you develop interesting characters?

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