HomeBiographyIn PrintUpcomingLinksRecipesNewsletterContact 

spring 2007

Howdy folks,

I are going to be a writer! I is! I is!

Isn't that absolutely appalling? That's like a carpenter announcing that he is taking up brain surgery. Good grief!

I got myself into this ridiculous situation in a selfless attempt to help Shirl. All my attempts to help Shirl are selfless and usually wind up getting me in trouble. This one was no different.

Anyway, this one started about three years ago. Shirl was at work on some other book. I can't remember whether it was a thriller or maybe a "lords-and-ladies" novel, and she was definitely not having fun writing it. She generally enjoys writing (or perhaps it's just the cussing she does while she's writing), but this time she was quiet. To me, at least, she just dragged along-although a reader would never guess it by the quality of the story she turned out. My wife is a consummate pro, and a professional does a superb job whether she is enjoying herself or not. So, I decided to perform one of my selfless attempts to help out.

In the past, Carol Reynard, Shirl's best friend and former associate and even I upon occasion, would give Shirl ideas and even plot summaries for possible books that she would use. I can remember that, in certain cases instances, Carol and I would plot behind the redhead's back to twist events of a story to keep her from messing up a book when our vision of it was obviously so superior to her own.

This time, an idea had been forming in my mind about a western built around a steamboat trip up the Missouri (pronounced Missourah, unless you're a Yankee like my wife) during the year 1876. The feuding protagonists, a lovely female gambler who wants to go "straight" and a handsome mysterious male gambler who seems bent on going to hell, wind up at Ft. Benton just shortly after the time of Custer's defeat at the Little Big Horn. Oh yeah, I really got into writing the outline. So much so, the "outline" became a twenty page, single-spaced, step-by-step plan for a novel that had a cast of colorful characters and a number of upriver adventures such as a meeting with Jeremiah Johnson (known on the frontier as "Liver-Eating Johnson") because of his rather unappetizing habit of cutting out and eating the livers of his Indian enemies, particularly the Crow. In the 1870s, Johnson really was a "wood-hawk" on the Missouri. Clint and he are not going to part friends. Oh yeah, then there is a little episode when a bunch of young Lakota Sioux make the mistake of irritating Clint with their overbearing attentions to Delilah. As a lesson in manners, he teaches them to smoke dynamite. Man! That'll cure a guy of the habit quicker than nicotine gum or patches and it makes a pretty funny scenario.

However, when I showed this brilliant plan to Shirl, she said, "I don't want to write this. You write it. I'm busy." She was busy? Busy! I show the ungrateful heifer the blueprint of a masterpiece and she's busy. Okay, says I to meself, you've written four scholarly books and a dozen professional articles. How hard can writing a romance novel really be? After I had written three chapters, I found out. Damned hard. I shelved the project. A few weeks ago, Shirl wanted to get back to writing historicals, so she sent some proposals to her editor at Dorchester. I said, "Hey, why not include the opening chapter of The River Nymph?" Shirl said, "Aw, Alicia won't want that." Well, guess what a big surprise Miss Know-It-All got when Alicia said, "I want The River Nymph." It seems the marketing department liked the idea of a husband-wife team doing a book. Alicia had loved the opening scene where Delilah cleans Clint out in a high-stakes game and then can't resist rubbing it in by offering to cut the cards with him: her one thousand against the clothes on his back. Her Uncle Horace warned her not to do it. He was right.

More on the Nymph later…if Shirl and I don't kill one another in the process of writing it.

Take care,


Open Newsletter Index



Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble
        iBooks             | Kobo                          



Friend me! | Home | Bio | In Print | Upcoming | Links | Recipes | Newsletter | Contact | Site
©2011 Shirl and Jim Henke | All Rights Reserved