Monday, September 26, 2005


Tracy Dunham
Where in the name of heaven does it go? The older I get, the more organized I become, the less time comes my way. I swear - it's as if there's a conspiracy to shorten every day, and I'm the one losing minutes. I can't believe it's been a week - A WEEK - since I last posted. Excuses are rife - I've been writing, trying to shovel out the house (which means getting all the rugs up and out to be cleaned, sigh) before winter settles in, working on the garden to get it ready for fall bulbs, clearing out the vegetable patch, etc., etc., etc. I've come to the conclusion that it's a waste of energy to worry about what's not getting done - it'll get done eventually. My daily list can slip into tomorrow's, and the world won't end.

What matters is the writing. And that's going well, thank you very much. Time can be on the side of someone else, as long as the writing is working.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Looking Back

Tracy Dunham

I remember when I wrote my first book, feeling that rush and satisfaction when the last page was typed and neatly tucked into the end of all three hundred pages of my heart and soul poured out in black Courier. (Typed, I hope you noted!) I had fun writing the story, and to my amazement, a New York publisher bought it. Validation. Nice that it was nominated for an award and made it to the finals. Pretty cool, in fact. My first literary baby was off and running, and doing fairly well.

A couple of years ago, I pulled the book out and re-read it. Writing styles have changed, which is natural in twenty years, but more than that, I've grown as a writer. (Please tell me I have....) Despite some awkward bits, I still caught glimpses of the passion for the story that drove me to write it in the first place. A second reading convinced me to be more charitable and to count my blessings. The story wasn't trite and I'd avoided a host of cliches. Maybe I could ease up a bit on myself. I tried. But still, I wish I hadn't re-read that once beloved book.

I seldom go back and read a book once it's published, because I'd want to rip it apart and start all over. My title should be the Queen of Rewrites. Some books have been rewritten so often, I give them a final resting place in the pile of Books Never to See the Light of Day. There's a fine line between too much book-tinkering and killing the story's initial passion, and polishing a manuscript so it shines. And looking back at shoulda-coulda-oughta options is just plain bad for the writing soul. I've learned my lesson. No more looking back.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Runnin' with the Big Dogs

Tracy Dunham

I love that line, the one about "don't get off the porch if you can't run with the big dogs." This weekend's race at RIR, the deciding one in the lineup for the Cup chase, sure proved who could run with the BDs. Loved every minute of the action. Didn't love the squished seats (my excuses to the man who sat to my left, but he was taking up more than his share of our measly allotted 18 inches). My heart skipped badly when Truex rode the wall with all four tires during the Busch race. He and the 38 car did some paint-tradin', and Truex was hot under his fireproof suit, hopping out of his car and running across the track to shake his fist at Mike Wallace from the middle of the asphalt. Truex is the star, the points leader, and he didn't appreciate getting scared silly by an also-ran.

The racing stars get all the air time, all the interviews, all the fans. What about the guys who run at the back of the pack week after week? Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon have been getting a good taste of this, and I'll bet it's not sweet. They hit the wall in Turn Two on Saturday night like any back-of-the packer with a car that was too loose or too tight. Yet they retain their gentlemanly demeanors (at least they try...). They'll work harder for the next race. The BOTP gang are the same. Philosophical. Happy to be in the game in the first place. Grateful for any sponsors who show up with cash to buy gas and tires.

My bet is the BOTP gang - with no hope of winning - is out there because they love to race, pure and simple. Putting the pedal to the metal is enough for now. It's that way with writers, too, I'm realizing. We can't all be on the NYT list, or watch with glee as the bids ante up for our next book. Most of us are out here writing for the sheer love of the stories - the joy that runs through us when a chapter turns out just right, or we finally get to the end of the book and it's not half bad, if we say so ourselves. We write because we have to. We write because the stories won't leave us alone, they natter away at us like transmissions with bad tempers, until we release them onto the page. It would be nice to run with the Big Dogs, but it's okay if we're sharing our romp once we get off the porch with however many people read our writing and like it. It's more than okay, it's glorious. There's no downside.

I just want to thank each and every one of you who've read a book, a story, a poem, anything that pleased you, and you took the time to tell the author that you liked it. That's winning the Cup in my book.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Race

Tracy Dunham

This coming weekend I'll be camping out at RIR in the parking lot, big Dodge truck filled with good food, a grill, chairs, and an ice chest of soft drinks. To say I'm looking forward to a whole weekend of Busch and Nextel racing is a severe understatement. Wearing my Mark Martin hat and listening to him talk to his crew chief on my headphones, I'll be biting my nails as my favorite driver burns up the 3/4 mile track, even if his place in the race for the cup is secure. It's a unique thing to NASCAR, I have a feeling - this ownership fans feel towards their favorite drivers. It's as if they're family.

I feel the same way about characters in books. When a character comes alive at the hands of a good writer, I could kiss the ground she walks on. (Or he, of course, since men can write well too. I'm an equal-opportunity reader.) That's what I want to do with my stories - create people who belong to the reader. Characters who walk off the page and into the reader's head and get stuck there are rare, just like a top ten driver on the NASCAR circuit. Nuances, quirks, all the foibles of the living, are just a bit of the recipe it takes to creating living, breathing characters. Like driver who saves a car that's too loose at 200 mph, racing three wide in a tight turn, the writer who can steady the book with a sure hand is a treasure. I hope I can get there. With the book, not the car. The car is way beyond my skills, LOL!

Friday, September 02, 2005


Tracy Dunham
I'm the queen of them. As in, "storie's" (possessive) rather than "stories" plural, which it should have been in the prior blog. I can read through a manuscript a hundred times, and I swear, mis-spellings and typos jump onto the page after I've turned it over. I've tried reading backwards from the bottom of the page, reading aloud, and staring at each word and spelling it. Nothing helps. I read what my mind wants to see, which is perfect grammar, spelling, and typing, LOL.

Now that I'm aware that I'm a terrible proofreader of my own work, I'm gleeful when I catch typos in other works. "Yes!" I cry, "someone else is as bad as I am at proofing!" It's nice to have company when you're not very good at something.

On another note, I recently finished reading Elizabeth Vaughan's WARPRIZE, and let me tell you, it's a wonderful story. If you love an Alpha hero and a heroine with guts, this is one to put in your keeper pile.