Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Elmer Kelton, writing deadlines, and hot weather

Today I went to a meeting at TCU Press about the Elmer Kelton titles we reprint and those we are about to sign a renewal of rights for. Elmer, for those who don't know, was a beloved novelist who wrote Texas history, from before the Alamo to the present, in a way no one else could, with a true Texas voice that no one could ever imitate. Born in the sand hills of Crane County, he grew up on stories of cowboys (his father was a ranch foreman), and he wove these into his books, along with a rich and well-researched knowledge of history. Probably his classic is The Time It Never Rained, a novel about the seven-year drought of the 1950s. One critic called it "one of the dozen or so best novels written by an American in the 20th Century." Elmer died last August, and we wondered, suspected, hoped there would be a bump of interest in his work. Sales prove that to be true. And today a friend sent me a link to that shows that a new copy of the small literary biography of Elmer I did in the 1990s may now be had for $263. Wow! Elmer, a perfect gentleman, always expressed his profound appreciation to TCU Press for keeping his works in print, and I wanted to shout at him that his books had kept TCU Press alive. He wrote, if I'm correct, about 60 books. A true marvel. If  you haven't read him, make it a point to do so. And as a person, we all miss him mightily. Gentle, kind, soft spoken, self-demurring with that politeness of a cowboy that always seemed a little more uncomfortable around women. But not his Austrian-born wife of many years, whom he adored. Watch for a festschrift, a small book honoring him, from TCU Press in the spring: Elmer Kelton: Memories and Essays.
Jungle Red Writers, a blog written by several members of Sisters in Crime, has a challenge out to members and authors to write one page a day before turning on the internet. It's not quite something I can follow--I go for the internet first thing in the morning--but it has inspired me this week to write a thousand words a day on my current novel. In fact, I think today I wrote about 1500. And I'm following that old advice--just keep writing. Worry about what sense it makes when you go back through for the first edit.
The 100+ temperatures continue in Texas--hot, muggy, and fairly discouraging. My basil is shriveled no matter how much I water it. But relief is finally on the way--who would believe that predicted highs in the mid-90s sound wonderful. But they do. By Sunday night or Monday. Meantime I have a spoiled dog because he spends all his time indoors. So do I as much as possible.

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