Blogs, Reviews, and Edits–Oh, My! Is Writing Always Writing?

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 Lydia Cover

  Writing a Book

February-October 2014    

Looking for Lydia; Looking for God 

The actual writing of the book–which never started out in my mind as a book at all, just some writing I seemed to be doing–happened in a white heat over a period of about seven months. I wrote all day; I wrote half the night. I didn’t sleep much, and I existed on Vigo Red Beans and Rice and Diet Coke. As I neared the six-month mark, I began to realize that the work on my computer, each piece a separate document, just another journal entry, was getting longer, taking on heft and weight, all those separate pieces fitting together into something like a whole. But I never used the word “book,” even to myself. Eventually, I had to call it something, so I settled on “manuscript.”

Writing Book Proposals, Cover Letters, Queries, and Click-Bait

October 2014-January 2015   Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 7.59.06 PM

I decided there wasn’t much excuse not to at least send my work out for a trial run. The first agency I chose wanted a formal book proposal for which they provided a template. I occupied myself for quite a while writing that proposal which weighed in at 10,000 words. I soon discovered they wanted everything “included in the body of an email.” No attachments. I had no idea how to do that (I have since learned). I never sent the manuscript to that agency. I did, however, send it to ten other agencies and a couple of publishers, committing myself to one submission a week.


Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 7.28.08 PMMeanwhile I had made contact with a student from thirty years ago who had just started a political satire “page” on Facebook.  While I waited and fretted and wrote letters and proposals, he let me write “click-bait” pieces for his new site.  I wasn’t very good at it, but I learned a lot about writing 500-1000 words to deadline, and that was the beginning of what has turned into my weekly blog posts.



I wrote about an Episcopal Bishop who ran down a young man on a bicycle; I wrote about Pat Robertson and Sarah Palin.

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I wrote about Joel Osteen.  It was fun. I just never got the “click-bait” part down.

An Author’s Questionnaire and Pages for a Website

February 2015     Koehler Books

Through a series of unlikely events, Koehler Books and I found each other. And the contract was signed. At that stage, I had done the actual writing; I had written the gargantuan book proposal; I had written cover letters, query letters, summaries, and a marketing plan. I had shamelessly promoted myself. I had, it seemed to me, used every cliche I’d ever known.

My first job after signing with Koehler Books was to fill out an author questionnaire which included a synopsis of the book; an “elevator speech,” that is, what I could say in a short elevator ride to convince my fellow traveller to rush out and buy the book; an author bio; and a book description for the back cover.

I wrote text for all the Pages on this website–the story behind the book; the story of the writing of the book; discussion questions. My story.Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 8.08.26 AM




Writing a Blog

March-May 2015     Lawyers  and the first blog 3/26/15

On  March 26 2015  I posted a blog about all the different kinds of writing I was doing, having completed a book and signed a contract.  I wrote that blog because right after I signed the contract with Koehler Books we entered the two and a half months that I now call only “The Lawyers,”  during which I didn’t dare write about what was actually going on. But I really wanted to write something on my brand new blog.


May-July 2015        Seven days to make it legal

Once we had come to a compromise that satisfied nobody, I sat down to rewrite the book.  I gave myself one week.  For legal rather than literary reasons, I had agreed to delete two, possibly three, of the women in the book. Each of them was threaded throughout the story; it wasn’t as simple as just cutting isolated sections. And so, on May 23, I began.  I wrote a blog every day of the seven,  beginning with one I called “This Is the First Day of the Rest of the Week,” and ending with “Sometimes the Ashes; Sometimes the Phoenix”:

Selden House Fire Interior 1Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 8.09.38 AM



This seemed like a real test: writing deliberately–without inspiration– effecting necessary changes, hacking vital characters and sections from the book while maintaining the integrity of what I had written.  This seemed like the real test of whether I was, in fact, a writer.

I brought it in ahead of my deadline.  Today I can barely remember the book before the surgery.  There was one woman, whose daughter–after over two months of lawyers saying whatever lawyers say to each other (and I had a wonderful attorney!)–decided to get her own lawyer.  I just knew we were looking at months more of waiting, so I simply took her mother out of the book.  That one broke my heart.  Otherwise, the book is good, and I passed my own test: can I write to schedule, independent of the Muse.

Let the Blogging Begin

A Party at the Slover Library

Travel Blogs, Guest Blogs, Book Reviews

On September 12 2015,  the new Slover Library in Norfolk hosted a fabulous book launch/book talk for me.  Over a hundred people attended. I talked about the book, sold books, signed books, and ate good food.  I think everyone had a good time.  I wrote two blogs about that event, with loads of photographs.Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 8.11.21 AM

After that, I hit the road.  I wrote a blog for every trip.  The traveling was exhausting, and to this day I have no idea how many books were sold.

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Several of the authors with whom I have connected on the Internet have written guest blogs for me, and I have written introductions to each of those blogs.  My cousin, Jane, in Texas and Alison Daniels in Norfolk, have co-authored blogs with me; I have written guest blogs for other authors’ sites.

I have blogged about grief, about a former student who makes art, about Julian Bond’s death, about dreams, about the shootings in Charleston and Roanoke, about Valentine’s Day.

And then there are the book reviews.  I decided it would be fun to write two or three book reviews; I was learning to manipulate images by then and just generally getting better at using the WordPress site, so I made the offer in a couple of the writers’ groups I had joined.  I counted this morning: I have reviewed sixteen books and still have three in the queue. A random sample:

sirocco_300 for stretched print10608626_10203339520662344_6092753765019591684_oRM cover from google

Pumpkin on Wall




Is all this really writing?  Have I run out of steam for a second book?  Am I a one-trick pony?  Am I destined to be a blogger, an editor, and a reviewer of other people’s books?

 I don’t have an answer for that.

Meanwhile, I will continue to write because, having started, I don’t seem able to stop.


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4 Responses to "Blogs, Reviews, and Edits–Oh, My! Is Writing Always Writing?"
  1. Colleen says:

    Dearest cousin, when I read what you write, I hear your voice saying it as well. Especially words like “gargantuan”, which for some reason ring particularly Dean-like in my ear. Perhaps it’s an echo from those long-ago days when you read “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” to us on the bed in our cabin in the woods down the trail from your cabin in the woods. Perhaps it’s the pull of the blood between us that seems to grow thicker and richer as we grow older. Whatever the reason, I love feeling like I’m in the room with you when I read what you write. And of course, I love you dearly.

  2. Jane Riley says:

    Like reading about the writing process.

  3. Audra Jean Decker says:

    Reading this installment makes me thirsty to read everything you’ve ever written! And I do feel privileged to hear your own voice in my head as I read.

  4. Anonymous says:

    That was quite a journey Dean and I can only stand back in admiration of you. I don’t think I could ever have your patience. I hope your success continues to grow.

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