Speak Those Goals

It was the end of a brutal year. I found myself facing a divorce, single-parenthood, a draining job and pretty much the loss of everything I thought life had set out before me. But for the wise advice from a life-altering therapist, there’s no way to predict how things might have turned out.

But alas, that life-altering therapist was there. I sat before her awash in tears, despondent, hopeless. She gently suggested I set out some new goals for myself. I must have looked at her as though she had sprouted confetti from her forehead. The conversation went something like this:

Her: Let’s think about some new goals for you.
Me: Goals? You’ve got to be kidding.
Her: No, I mean it. Not resolutions. Those are never effective. I am talking about goals. Short and long term. Some you will hit, some you won’t hit this year, some you may never hit. But that’s okay. Because they are goals. They are desires that you have and are giving a voice to. So what are some short term goals?
Me: God. Breathing? Not driving my car off an overpass? Not setting my ex and his girlfriend on fire?
Her: Beyond the obvious. What are some things in say, the next six months, that you would like to accomplish?
Me: Well, I need to move out. I need to deal with legal crap. I need to find another place to live. My son and I have to move back in with my mother. In Pasadena. Jesus, save me.
Her: Okay. So what about after that? Longer term. What about a year from now? What about five years from now?

So at this point I had no earthly idea. Or so I thought. Again, with her gentle prodding, I began to move forward in my vision.

Me: Well, someday I would like to own another house. A place of my own. A place of peace and safety…Ah, hell. A house with a neighborhood swimming pool! (Okay, NOW the energetic visions were popping!)
Her: What about relationships?
Me: What do you mean?
Her: Relationships. What about another marriage someday? More children?

I was stunned. In my abyss of grief and loss, the notion of having another life, actually living the life of mother with kids with husband with happiness…could those things possibly even be imaginable?

Her: I want you to go home and write down everything you want to accomplish. Big and little. Great and small. Call it your Goals List. Do you want to travel? Add destinations. Different relationships? Add names. Believe me when I say You have the Power to Speak Things into Being.
Me: Okay.
Her: Times’ up. Leave a check with the receptionist. I’ll see you in a week.

So…that’s now been well over two decades ago. And you know what? I DID accomplish nearly everything I set out on those early goals lists. I DID move out. I DID get another house. I DID remarry. I DID have more children. I HAVE had the Life I dreamed of and thought was lost forever.

For the life of me I cannot remember that therapist’s name. I remember her face and the resolute determination she had to help me. And I thank God for her and for therapists and encouragers like her.

So fellow travelers…Speak your goals. Claim your future. Accept years with little change. (The Lose 30 Pounds goal has yet to be realized. But, hey, I’ll put it on this year’s list again!)

Here’s wishing you the best possible life for 2016 and beyond.

The First Thousand Words…Are on the Page

The first thousand words have given birth to…no…

The first thousand words have been launched into…eh…

The first thousand words have…maybe…taken flight…total bleh…

The first thousand words…are on the page. There we go. That will suffice.

There are few experiences in life as daunting and exciting as beginning a new novel. I know this to be true because this is the beginning of Novel Number Four. (Five if you want to count an uncompleted half novel, which I don’t.) This little announcement will be succinct because I am driven and anxious to get back to the story. The characters are all alive, new ones being born every minute, and they are having conversations in my head so fast it is challenging to get the notes down, before they jump headlong and escape from the creative bowel of alphabet soup.

Many things will be different this go-round. First, I am twenty years older than I was since I began novel writing at thirty-five. A lot of Life happens in twenty years. Likewise, I have already made the hundreds of greenhorn mistakes that a writer simply has to make. There’s no short-cutting the the writing ropes, and I know this now. Finally, being older and wiser (and frankly, a much better writer) I will be pursing this venture with vastly different end goals in mind. Fame and Fortune are still distant sirens, but ones calling from near the bottom of the Lists of Things To Do.

And with that declaration, this indie writer will announce this to the world: it will be my focused and complete intention to submit this fourth novel for traditional publication upon completion of the polished manuscript. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I am writing because I love to write. And I will share it because I want to share.

So here we go. The first thousand words…are on the page.

A Plug of One’s Own

While slurping my morning coffee, to my utter astonishment, I opened an email from Amazon asking me to give 1-5 stars for a list of books which somehow included both of my own. They’re kidding, right? Taking the bait, I proceeded to blow the daylights out of my own legendary horn.

And may I just say, that in addition to writing darn fine novels, I can toss off two quite excellent reviews as well? There is every reason to believe Amazon will never allow them to see the light of day, as authors aren’t really allowed to review their own work, but hey, if offered a plug of one’s own, (thanking you, Virginia Wolff) who would resist?

First of all, to a degree that is professionally intoxicating, my books have been mentioned in the same breath with writers such as Eudora Welty, Willa Cather, Fannie Flagg, Billie Letts, Mary Karr, Mollie Ivins and Erma Bombeck. To a degree this list is proof-positive that my work won’t fit into any known genre, well, it is also likely why I’ll never retire from my literary earnings. But that’s okay. Don’t vex me with genre. Pshsf…categories…who needs them?

So here are my reviews, my own plugs, if you will.

Regarding The Edge of the Grace Period,  2000, this is a raucous and poignant story about people living on the edge of everything: the edge of family function, the edge of forever friendships (and some not), the brink of industrial, southern sensibilities, the fringes of faith, the tipping edge of bravery to grab Life by the throat and swing…it was this first book that elicited the above author comparisons.

Regarding The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, 2012, I spent seven years researching the offshore world (among other things) for this book. At the end of The Edge of the Grace Period, a story mostly about Darlene and her best friend, Karla…Karla goes off to work offshore. From that very moment I wanted to know how that happened and how that went. (I am personally a former merchant mariner; I went to sea in 1978 as one of about six total females sailing in the world.) Every last one of us gas up our cars easy as you please, without a second thought, never wondering how that sweet fuel gets from a hole in the ocean to our corner store. This is just one person’s story about who goes and fetches that fuel for us. It’s a unique story, from a unique perspective and that is seriously understating things.

Karla is a tall, skinny, gutsy, verbally-unfiltered 20-year-old who goes to work as a roustabout in 1980. (For the life of me, I always picture Sandra Bullock or Sara Gilbert.) She is hit with an onslaught of “you don’t belong here-isms” in what was and still remains an almost exclusively man’s world. She is a victim to every prank of the trade but after 26 years ends up as the boss. After hundreds of helicopter rides to rigs large and small, she is on her final trip home to begin a second career, one that is entirely out of her character. But on this last trip her helicopter goes down, and she is missing in the Gulf of Mexico. Her family and friends are gathered for a gigantic Welcome Home party; instead they await her fate.

Karla (Karla Jean to Dooley Wade, her whacked-out Vietnam chopper pilot and constant thorn) hasn’t cut her hair since childhood. Why not? She sports a braid so long is can double as a weapon. Find out how Karla gets pregnant, even though she is allergic to children, and it’s all her husband’s fault. So many twists and turns…and finally, find out what this new career is, because you won’t see it coming in a month of Sundays. Then there’s the whole “Is she dead or alive?” thing going also.

Don’t take my word for it. Go to Amazon (or Barnes & Noble) and read the reviews for yourself. I am happy to report there are more than just mine, which probably won’t show up anyway. Read them, enjoy them, share them.

And thanks for reading this…I not-so-humbly submit…a Plug of One’s Own.

Sue Grafton: H is for Hubris

The indie-published crowd is in a deservedly righteous dither after Sue Grafton and John Green tossed the lot of us into the “isolated” and “lazy” slush heap of artists. This author will not even validate their positions with a rebuttal. My only response would be the following: Gertrude Stein, Walt Whitman, Virginia Wolff, Beatrix Potter, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Henry David Thoreau, Anais Nin, Deepak Chopra, Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Zane Grey, William E. B. DuBois, Strunk and White, E.L James …self-published…every one. I could keep going but my indie-published, short-cutting fingers are tired. If this is the “lazy” and “isolated” conglomeration of authors of whom I am a part, well, I humbly accept my position within their indolent midst.

The publishing paradigm has shifted. To those on the “traditional” side, my sincerest good wishes and congratulations. But to those of us with the pluck and mettle, the tenacity and persistence, and the temerity to launch our best efforts into the hallowed realm of publication…kudos to you all, my thick-skinned brethren. Keep your chins up and your pens a’ penning.

Dorothy Hagan is the indie-published author of The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, (2012) seven years in research, writing and publication. (Not a lot of books written about women working in the gritty, offshore world of men. Honest. Go try and find one.) Oh, yeah. And Lazy Hagan also published The Edge of the Grace Period in 2000, POD with IUniverse, before most “traditional” people had even heard of such a thing. Ms. Hagan’s books will never go out of print and will be entirely available when Oprah calls up for the Book Club.

Always Infinity: Does That Mean It Will Suck Forever?

As my teaching year swirls to a close, a long-forgotten voice reminds me that I have in fact recently published my second novel, The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, a fun, adventuresome companion book joining The Edge of the Grace Period. With this recollection comes the additional reminder…that I am perhaps the world’s suckiest marketeer. I just can’t seem to do more than one thing at a time. To prove it, I’ve just gone an entire school year where I shared with not one colleague my status as Double-Published Authoress. Sadly, I am woefully behind as a carnival barker for my own literary prowess.

But alas, just like the sanitary napkin Always Infinity, this persistent circumstance cannot in actuality continue to suck forever. Shortly, I shall embark on Marketing Campaign Number 674 (or so it feels) and attempt to share my stories with a much broader audience. I may even dust off my keyboard and write some more.

So to the interwebs, Oprah Winfrey, Cameron Crowe, Sandra Bullock, Abby Hagan, et al…you are all hereby on notice that you shall be the focus of the systemic pesterization of a writer in the mood to hock her literary wares in your directions. Here’s hocking at you, kids…

To my faithful readers, perhaps it’s a good time to suggest a great book to your friends for summer reading. Two by Dorothy Hagan come to mind…

And don’t forget this awesome book trailer…created by Abby Hagan:

Since Oprah Hasn’t Called…

In the immortal words from Monty Python “And now for something completely different.” Tomorrow I will accept the keys to my new classroom as I begin the biggest professional challenge I’ve yet undertaken. I will be the Reading Intervention Teacher for a local high school. Being someone gifted with words (she says with all modesty) it will be my privilege to attempt to share these gifts with struggling readers. I believe I am up to the task. I care deeply about my students in advance. And I can’t wait to get started.

Publishing The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean was an effort that was seven years in the making. It has gotten great reviews and if you enjoyed it, please feel free to announce it to the world!

And Oprah. And my good buddy Cameron Crowe. And Sandra Bullock. Whom I believe would make an outstanding Karla Jean.

And so I shall sally forth toward a new place with new people and ingest another great big bite of Life.

Let’s begin this new journey!