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.

Creative Writing Workshops: Houston, Texas

Come and join us for some informal creative writing workshops this June. These sessions will be Saturday mornings, June 2, 9, 16 and 23, from 9 am to 12 noon. Details below. Come to one workshop or enjoy all four. Each session will include writing activities, assignments and in-class critiques. Sessions promise to be informative, creative and boatloads of fun!

Session One: Are You a Writer and If So, What Kind?

Has the time come to embrace your inner writer?

Is it time to determine if there exists within you a novelist, a playwright, a poet, a biographer or a journalist? How do you get started? What is the process? Can you get published?


Session Two: Embracing Your Story


How do you begin the process? What’s the secret to writing? What are you going to write?

Do you need to do research? Where can you get information? What’s a copyright?

How many pages? What’s the structure? Should my family read it?


Session Three: Honing the Craft for Writing Excellence


What is your passion? Fiction? Non-fiction? Poetry? What are some types of each? What is point of view?

How are characters developed? How are settings created? What is denouement? What is a draft? How many revisions are necessary? What are critique partners? What about rejection?


Session Four: Can I Get My Work Published?


What are the avenues of publication? Do I need an agent? What is a query letter?

What is indie publishing? What is traditional publishing? What is an ebook and POD technology?

What kind of marketing will be involved? What is a serialization?


Time: Saturdays 9:00 a.m.-12 noon

Dates: Saturdays, June 2, 9, 16 and 23, 2012

Location: University of Houston-Clear Lake

Bayou Building: Room B1104

Cost: $20.00 per session, materials included

Note: These are non-credit, informal workshops. This program is not endorsed or affiliated with UHCL or the LITR program.     


Dorothy Hagan is the author of The Edge of the Grace Period, 2000, and its companion novel, The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, 2012. Hagan earned a BA in the Humanities from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. She has taught Pre-K to 12th grade and is currently teaching GED and ESL classes to adults. To reserve your spot please send an email to: dothagan@aol.com

Some News You Can Use

Today it was my absolute pleasure to lead a session on indie publishing at my fabulous university. Called Small Talk, Big Ideas, University of Houston-Clear Lake held a networking breakfast and invited me to host a table. Below is the handout given to my participants. Hope it is helpful.

In the Company of Walt, Beatrix and Benjamin:

Indie Publishing Then and Now

An informative session prepared by indie author

Dorothy Hagan




Today we will explore the publishing world in transition from the traditional/legacy process to the exponentially exploding world of indie publishing. We will discover the indie authors, blogs, publishers, book sellers and experts in the field. Come and find out if indie publishing is the route for you to share your gifts with humanity.

Author Bio

My name is Dorothy Smith Hagan. I am a former merchant mariner, and currently a teacher and author. I received a BA in the Humanities from the University of Houston at Clear Lake. I indie published The Edge of the Grace Period in 2000, and have recently published a companion novel, The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, 2012. Currently, I teach GED and ESL classes to adults. I am passionate about helping others achieve their goals, whether they are literary, academic or otherwise. Originally from the intoxicating hills of Pennsylvania, I now live in the warm cuddliness of suburban Houston.


Once upon a time, in 1996, Dorothy Hagan finished her first novel. Immediately, she shared what she whole-heartedly believed was the brightest literary genius since Gone with the Flipping Wind. Soon but not soon enough, she learned in wonderment about little things like the critical importance of editing, face-saving critique partners and that constant nemesis called professional rejection. After hundreds of rejections and five short years of industry angst, she ponied up $600 and self-published her first novel using POD technology. She is now enjoying what they call in the business an HEA. Yes, she’s living happily ever after. Rich no, happy…quite.

  1. Important definitions regarding publishing:

Traditional, Big Six (HarperCollins, Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Macmillan), Legacy has over time become

Vanity, Self-Publish, Indie

Two kinds of indie publishing:

POD: From Wikipedia “Print on demand (POD), sometimes called, in error, publish on demand, is a printing technology and business process in which new copies of a book (or other document) are not printed until an order has been received (which means books can be printed one at a time). “Print on Demand” developed only after digital printing began,[1] because it was not economical to print single copies using traditional printing technology such as letterpress and offset printing.”

Ebook: From Wikipedia “An electronic book (variously, e-book, ebook, digital book) is a book-length publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices.[1] Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital.”

Indie Authors of Old:

Beatrix Potter, Walt Whitman, James Joyce, John Grisham, Gertrude Stein, Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, Mark Twain, Ezra Pound, Virginia Wolff

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

Indie Authors of Late:

Amanda Hocking: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-02-28/tech/29960359_1_kindle-store-book-sales-publishing)

J.A. Konrath: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

Victorine Lieski: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/02/guest-post-by-victorine-lieske.html

David Dalglish: http://ddalglish.com/wp/

Aprill Hamilton: http://aprillhamilton.blogspot.com/

James Altucher: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/05/why-and-how-i-self-published-a-book/

  1. 5.    Indie Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Pros and Cons

Comprehensive discussions of this found at:

http://www.publetariat.com/think/rise-indie-authors-and-how-helps-publishing and



Pros: control over content, control over time table, control over rights, no rejection


Financial investment, on your own, legitimacy curve



Advances, marketing and promotion, industry acceptance, newspaper reviews


May never get published, required to perform to contract, still required to do massive editing yourself, little marketing help, still no certainty of presence in bookstores

  1. 6.    During the process of writing:

Use Word files, format and punctuate correctly, no weird, fancy stuff

Be consistent as you word process. For example tabs and hard returns should be used the same way throughout the manuscript.

Critique partners are an absolute necessity. Find some.

Possible strategy if manuscript is a real mess: Re-type entire book during the pre-publication/revision process. This will fix a multitude of errors.

What can you publish? Just about anything. See FAQ at IUniverse.com as one example. Fiction and non-fiction should have 10,000 words minimum. Poetry books should contain at least 20 poems. Compilations of novellas, short stories, poetry are possible.

  1. 7.    Indie publishing range of costs:

Publish to Kindle Direct Publishing for free, also publish ebooks to Smashwords for free, Begin around $600.00 for POD with IUniverse, other potential expenses include copy-editing and seller’s return policies

  1. Indie publishing companies: Author Solutions, Inc. IUniverse, Lulu, Xlibris, Kindle Direct Publishing, there are many more and more emerging every day. I have published two books with IUniverse and am very, very pleased on all levels.
  2. Book Sellers:

Brick and mortar like Barnes & Noble, all online retailers like Amazon, dozens of hits on Google.

  1. 10.  The Absolute Worst “A” Word Ever:  A M A T E U R

The biggest, most constant criticism of indie publishers is inferior composition of their literary work. Poor grammar, punctuation and sentence structure are the most obvious. Those in the industry, traditional and indie alike, will take one look at your book and push it aside if these amateur mistakes scream out. Writing is a craft. It is an art. It is, in fact, a professional undertaking. Give it your absolute 100% best effort.

The Absolute Be-All and End-All to take away from this session… for the sake of indie legacy and yours, NEVER allow yourself to be dismissed as an industry amateur. Publish like a professional or not at all!


  1. 11.  Videos, blogs, articles and websites:

My personal favorite author’s blog is Boxing the Octopus.  The authors are first-rate, profoundly experienced, and their archives contain just about every subject you could imagine. Visit them at www.boxocto.com.

Other helpful sites:


http://selfpublishingadvisor.com/  http://beyondthemargins.com/2011/12/brave-new-world-the-stages-of-indie-publishing/,


http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2011/12/11/indie-reader-amy-edelman/, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/why-you-cant-find-indies-in-bookstores_n_1418839.html, http://indiereader.com/,

Ask yourself, do you have a story that needs telling? Or do you know someone who does? Indie publishing may be the vehicle to share your gifts with humanity.

Thanks for joining me today. Hope it was helpful! Please join me for a book signing and Powerpoint presentation right here at UHCL on Tuesday, May 8, 2012, from 6:30-8:30. Fun, informative, free event! Tell your friends!