The hardest part of writing?

I’m not sure if writing the first draft is the hardest part of writing fiction or if it is the revisions. When I finished the first draft of The Cowboy’s Baby I let it sit for eight weeks or so and wrote short stories instead. That was fun. And leaving the novel alone let me see it more objectively than if I hadn’t taken a break at all. 

Originally The Cowboy’s Baby had a prologue. That was the first thing to go during revisions. Although I loved the prologue, the difference in subject matter and tone between it and the rest of the novel was too jarring. I took out what I needed and integrated it into the rest of the novel. I don’t like reading prologues anyhow so I don’t know why I started this novel this way, but I think it was just my way of getting the back-story down.

When I started The Cowboy’s BabyI was thinking of Harlequin as a publisher and trying to follow their guidelines—a man and a woman “meet cute” and are instantly attracted to each other and fall in love while dealing with a subplot. And it had to be written from each point of view, chapter by chapter (she says/he says, she says etc.). Well, even before I started I jettisoned the point of view changes each chapter. I don’t like to read books like that.  And by the time I had introduced the “meet cute” between my two main characters, two other characters had stepped forward and said “Hey, we were here first!” so I changed my mind and wrote the romance in a more mature and realistic way.

Losing the prologue was an honest to God revision. Not going the alternate pov happened right at the beginning of the draft and changing the course of the romance happened while I was writing chapters 1-3, so you can legitimately call those revisions, they just happened in the first draft writing. But I try to save all revisions until the end so I don’t get caught up in a spiral of making the first chapter perfect and never going forward.

OFF TOPIC  What I read this week—Fires of Azerothby CJ Cherryh and Masterson by Richard S. Wheeler. 

I want to comment about Richard S. Wheeler.  One of the huge benefits of Kindle books and is the opportunity it gives you to discover new or new to you writers. And if you will read through some of the discussion boards on Kindle you will discover lots of possibilities. That’s how I found Wheeler. I chose Masterson at random (and by cost). I will be going back to buy more of Mr. Wheeler’s books and I would never have found him otherwise.

The Cowboy’s Baby continued

Even at eight o’clock in the morning, golfers were waiting in line to begin play. He saw three teams chatting each other up from their golf carts, waiting amicably. But it was early yet, he groused internally. And the golfers were all women today, he remembered, it being the women’s golf league’s turn to hog the course. Soon the restaurant and bar would be full of the men they’d temporarily displaced and his day would continue to go downhill.

The back nine holes of the golf course (less charming) were a recent addition and ended with the eighteenth tee across the street from the rear of the complex that housed the golf pro’s shop and the restaurant as well as management offices. He couldn’t see any of it from his office. Although he had reassured Marcia her job was not in jeopardy, he had lied. When the board realized the extent of the mistake they had made, he wouldn’t be at all surprised if they took out their frustration on the people they could fire, innocent or not. And his recent insistence on staffing the Creighton Resort community pro shop and restaurant with at-risk boys from the local school had not endeared him to them, although they’d accepted it.

Ellison felt almost as unhappy as he imagined Marcia did. It had taken him the better part of two years to win the conservative board’s trust; they had only just now allowed that the boys might be a useful addition to Creighton Resort. Unconsciously he ran his hand through his hair, leaving it tousled.

He stared blindly at the scene until his eyes fixed suddenly on a big white cat trotting purposefully out of nowhere and into the flowerbed in the middle of the approach to the first tee.

Its pink collar stood out in shocking relief to its white coat, and as Ellison watched, the cat stopped its approach to the spikes of light blue plumbago and twisted its head around to try to catch the collar in its teeth. What was a damned cat doing on the golf course? Not wanting the flowers torn to shreds or to clean up cat poop, Ellison left his desk and walked to the window where he rapped hard.

Oh, he saw the cat stop with the collar and look at him through the glass all right, but that was all the deterrent he was from inside the office and yards away. Mr. White Cat immediately resumed his tug of war with the pink collar and soon it was a braid of chewed-up elastic on the green while its owner ate the flowers and kicked up dirt with what looked to Ellison like pure glee.

The Cowboy’s Baby, to be continued…  Copyright 2010 by Gretchen Rix. Book cover photo by Roxanne Rix.  

What I’ve been watching—Battlestar Galactica Season One.   **********Hey, buy my book and then follow me on Twitter at

Last call for Scare The Dickens Out of Us

The deadline for entries for the 2010 Scare The Dickens Out of Us ghost story contest is October 1. You’ve got less than two weeks to go if you’re serious about the $1000.00 first prize, or even the $500.00 second prize and $250.00 third prize. Plus there’s the Junior contest with the $250.00 first prize. Full rules are available at

We’ve received entries from Australia, Canada, and the U.K.  A lot of writers from Florida are entering. California is represented. We’ve had entries from several other states, but very few so far from Texas, and Texas pretty much cornered the market for winners last year. Of course, if this year is anything like last year then we will be getting a whole lot of last minute entries on September 30 and October 1. Maybe that’s where the Texans are.

THE LIBRARIAN ON THE ROOF!  By M.G. King and Illustrated By Stephen Gilpin.

The photo illustrating this blog post is of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas. The Scare the Dickens Out of Us ghost story contest entry fees go to the Friends of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library and are used to support this library’s programs. The children’s picture book Librarian On The Roof by M.G. King is also about the Dr. Eugene Clark Library. Based on a true incident about when the town librarian took to living on the roof of our 100-year-old library in order to raise $20,000 for the library’s children’s section, this colorful little book is a gem of history writing. And if you’ve ever been in the Clark Library you will recognize it in the book’s cheerful illustrations–from the stained glass windows, to the stage with the stuffed chairs on it, and even the scene of downtown through the open door. Published by Albert Whitman & Company , it is also available through

Blog photo by Roxanne Rix.

What I’ve read this week.  Well of Shiuan by C.J. Cherryh. St. Dale by Sharyn McCrumb. I can highly recommend St. Dale.  Who would ever have thought I’d love a book about NASCAR driving?

Harlan Ellison’s typewriter and The Cowboy’s Baby continued

If you are a big fan of Harlan Ellison or someone who collects famous writers’ memorabilia, then check out the link under the longhorn photo. HE’s put one of his original typewriters up for sale. Wish I had the money and the space, but I don’t. I have met Harlan twice. He was my favorite writer for a very long time.

Different topic—just finished reading Shooting Loons by Margaret Maron.

Other interesting site to visit–  .


Marcia leaned forward, careful to keep the top of her blouse from gaping open, he noted, and placed the papers on his desk. Then she sorted them into separate piles and pulled the top sheet forward on each.

“This is it,” she said.

“To cut a long story short, there’s nothing we can do. Mrs. Lennon owns the land all right.” She huffed with exasperation, blowing at her new bangs again. “How did we ever get ourselves in such a mess? Christ! Didn’t anyone hire surveyors? Didn’t we use lawyers? Did they do this on purpose?”

Startled, Ellison looked at her passionate face.

“When was the vote taken? Do you remember?” he asked, trying to contain his anxiety.

“It’s in that pile somewhere,” she replied. “It was a legal vote. The board got the requisite approval. Everything looks right. But that damned back nine is right in Mrs. Lennon’s property plat, wall or no wall,” she said, voice rising. “The land is hers, Ellison, and I don’t have the slightest idea why she let it happen. Or what to do about it.”

She paced rapidly back and forth in his office, whacking at the chair backs as she passed. When he thought she was done he opened his mouth. Marcia interrupted.

“I guess this will mean our jobs, right?” She slammed at another chair. “Even if we had nothing to do with it?” Another chair. “Damn and damn and damn!” she cried. “I like it here. I’ve bought a house!”

“Calm down,” he said, appalled at the burst of emotion, surprised at her attack on his office furniture; this was so unlike his efficient, pretty and likable assistant. “We’re not going to lose our jobs,” he said. “And yours shouldn’t even come into it, if we did. Even if I did,” he amended.

The wall-long picture window of Ellison’s office faced the front nine holes of the original, and charming, he’d always thought, golf course. He saw green, green and green, varying shades of, just as it should have been. Soon afterwards Marcia stalked out. He narrowed his concentration and studied the scene at the first tee, trying to get his mind off their problems for just a second and off Marcia’s emotional outburst. I can’t believe we built the back nine on that woman’s ranch, he fumed, failing to distract himself. He took a deep breath and forced himself to focus on the golfers in his sight. An hour later he was still watching them.

The Cowboy’s Baby by Gretchen Lee Rix, copyright 2010. To be continued… Blog photo by Roxanne Rix

Time travel

I’m going to jump forward about a year to when I should be blogging about how I wrote Arroyo instead of  The Cowboy’s Baby. This would be that blog.

Early fall last year I woke up after a dream about Stephen King who was probably in my head because I’d just finished reading UR, which I enjoyed, and because my sister Roxanne had entered his Stephen’s Empire photography contest. Anyhow, as I was getting dressed and the dream was fading, I thought about why Stephen King is so good—-partly it’s the way he uses a lot of contemporary everyday detail in his stories. His characters, for example, don’t reach for the toilet paper, they grab the Charmin and then they gripe about how much the price has gone up in the last couple of years. They don’t drink soda pop, they guzzle Cherry Dr. Pepper and then spike it with the Mexican vanilla they brought back from the Carnival Cruise they took to Cozumel during Hurricane Ike.

I had an image of fig newtons during that thought. I won’t say any more than that. I don’t know right now when fig newtons were invented, but they went right into my 1880’s novel that night as I wrote on it.  And better yet, I had a maliciously good idea crop up right after this one involving the new character I’d just introduced that I felt would change the whole tone of this section. Both were courtesy of the Stephen King dream, and to the fact that I got it down on paper ASAP. Thank you, muse.

Arroyo stood at 33,762 words at that time, which was closed to half-done if I was aiming for the 80k limit.  And for those of you who are interested in how something came into being, this was how my character Ramona Livingston finally fell in love. And this isn’t a romance novel, guys, it’s a pulp adventure horror fantasy science-fiction romp through the American West in the 1880’s, primarily Texas. How do you like that combination of genres?

Back to the present. Assuming I remembered why my characters suddenly had fig newtons in their hands a year from when I wrote it, the above would have been my blog. Photo by Roxanne Rix. This is the Travelocity gnome we bought from The Amazing Race site and took with us to the Davis Mountains on vacation a short while back. This is the veranda of the Limpia Hotel in Fort Davis, an absolutely great place to stay. More of Hubert to come when I get back to Arroyo.

What I read this week—The Librarian On The Roof by M.G. King, Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin  ISBN 9780807545126  and Cybill Disobedience by Cybill Shepherd and Aimee Lee Ball

The mid-book slump

Many writers come to a point in writing their  novel where they are suddenly lost, or their interest wanes, or they think what they’ve been doing is crap. I think Stephen King gave  the best advice (though I have heard it from others as well) in his book On Writing when he said to keep writing until you finish the story. No matter what. Don’t stop to revise or correct errors, and don’t give up on it either. Once you are finished you will have a fleshed-out story you can use as a template, if indeed you didn’t end up with a pretty damned good first draft. You can fix it all later. But if you’ve stopped and pushed it aside for something new and more exciting, of if you’ve wadded it up and thrown it away, then you’ve got nothing but a pattern of never finishing what you start.

I had a huge slump early in The Cowboy’s Baby and am surprised that the three chapters I ended up with survived the years. And yes, I set it aside for something new and more exciting which I still haven’t finished. I wish I had completed The Cowboy’s Baby when I first started it. If I had, I probably would have ended up with five or more completed novels to my credit by now and would be a better writer for it.

I am now at that point in my new novel Arroyo (help, I need a better title), but I am going to soldier on and get the first draft up to 60,000 or 80,000 words before fixing anything. Because I know what will happen if I don’t. When I was young and just beginning I used to stop and throw away page one every time I made a typo (this was way back in the days of typewriters and liquid paper). I eventually ended up with a perfect first couple of paragraphs, and that was all.

So, even if you have to write your own version of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” for several paragraphs before you get yourself back on track, just keep on truckin’. You can fix it later. And even if some of what you write during this time turns out to be total crap, maybe the rest of it has possibilities.

Blog photo by Roxanne Rix. The Cowboy’s Baby mini-excerpt—She had a bullwhip wrapped casually around her arm and was dangling it to the ground like a particularly nasty snake.

What I’ve read this week—-Killer Instinct by Robert W. Walker and Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh and UR by Stephen King.

Met someone new this week via Nightmare Factor and Twitter. If you love Halloween and the macabre, check out   She photographs graveyards, gargoyles and spooky people.

The Cowboy’s Baby continued

“Just what did you do to that poor woman?” Marcia asked, moving towards him with papers in her arms, no longer badmouthing him. “She was trembling. And how did she get in here anyhow?”

Marcia was becoming way too casual with him, Ellison suddenly realized. Abruptly tired of her judgments and eager to hear what she had found out he curtly interrupted. “Does it matter?” he asked.

Her pretty face flushed with the rebuke. Ashamed of himself, he backtracked. He waved his hands at her. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s already been a bad morning. Let’s start again. No reason for us to get testy so soon.”

He waited.

And she waited.

“Good morning, Marcia,” he said finally, with forced pleasantry, giving the twenty-two-year-old female wunderkind his patented employer/employee smile, pausing for her expected reply and feeling really, really fake.

“Good morning, boss.”

Still grumpy, he thought.

Ellison raised his voice to address the staff in the pro shop since almost all of them were simply standing around watching the two of them. “Let’s get back to work guys,” he said. “And don’t let anyone else in who doesn’t belong. Do you understand?”

The teenaged boy Peter stood up from collecting golf balls on the floor. Gangly to the extreme, he raised one hand high, showing them a key, then made a twisting gesture to illustrate locking the door. That was the equivalent of a whole speech for Peter, Ellison noted as he saulted him with a bright smile. He then marched Marcia and himself out of the public store and into his private office.

“Seriously though,” Marcia asked. “What did you do to Mrs. Bishop? She had the strangest expression on her face.”

Ellison fluttered his hands in the air and her blue eyes went wide with mirth.

“Oh, no, you didn’t?” she exclaimed. “The giggle? You sicced the giggle on her?”

It wasn’t that funny. He’d been told countless times he giggled like a girl and it wasn’t the self-image he preferred. He had never found it that funny.

“Now you’ve got that same expression,” Marcia observed.

“Enough. See if you can fix the damage. I don’t know what she wanted.” He looked back towards the pro shop. “Golf balls, I guess, since that’s where she ended. Silly staff let her in.”

“Don’t blame them too much,” Marcia advised, hiding her smile. “It’s pretty hard to keep Mrs. Bishop from doing whatever she wants.”

Ellison filed that information away for further thought then dismissed Mrs. Bishop from his mind. They had bigger problems than customer relations. “What did you find out?” he asked.

Excerpt from The Cowboy’s Baby… to be continued. Copyright 2010.


Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, Texas has a genuine old-fashioned friendly atmosphere and really good barbecue. It’s one of the four reasons Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital of Texas. People come from all over the world to eat here. They even take photographs of the outside of the building. Love it! And for those of you too far away to eat in, they ship. Go to

Again, photos on this blog are by Roxanne Rix/Subliminal message: buy my book, buy my book, etc.

The writer’s muse

I’ve run into the writer’s muse often during several ordinary activities most people have in common, and probably you have too. You can meet the muse while you’re engaging in mindless exercise, like walking the dog.

On the left, here is our dog Boo Radley. As you can guess, she is walking me and not the other way around. While we walk I try to make sure she doesn’t knock me down or push me over or pull me into someone’s yard where I will fall, but most of my mind is wandering. Sometimes it finds the perfect ending for the WIP (that’s work in progress for the uninitiated), sometimes it comes up with witty sentences, but it almost always comes up with something I wish I could have remembered when I got back home. You should see me, almost home and muttering “they took the train, they took the train, the train”. Part of the reason you get the muse on these outside exercise jaunts is because you have nothing to write with.

Another common activity that brings on the muse is taking long, hot baths. This is the origin of the “eureka” shriek, and it’s not a cliche for nothing. It really happens. Again, you don’t have anything to write with and probably won’t remember your idea by the time you’ve dried off.

Lastly, you will meet your muse when you sleep. Not in dreams, but in the last thoughts you have before you fall asleep and in the first thoughts you have as you wake up. Sleep can solve many of your writing problems. Really. Get some good sleep. And this time, you might just have a notepad and pen sitting beside your bed to write it all down.

There are several equally famous ways to engage your muse, but since they are generally unhealthy and/or illegal I will leave them out. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever used them that way anyhow.

I ended up figuring out what the cowboy’s baby was by driving around Caldwell County and looking at the scenery, but I wasn’t planning my book as I explored. When I got back to writing and had to continue after “the cowboy’s baby is going to get me!” sequence, the solution just jumped right in there. SPOILER ALERT (I didn’t realize they could jump straight up over fences).

What I’ve just read this week–Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.