Thursday, March 15, 2018

Seventeen-Year-Old Writes FIrst Novel #Colleen L. Reece #First Novels

Trip into the Past


Last Sunday afternoon I took a box of 191 yellowed, typed manuscript pages from a closet shelf and and read straight through. The last time I'd read them was about ten years ago. A friend and I spent an afternoon reading each other's early attempts at writing a complete book. We laughed. Groaned. Shook our heads . . . and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I did the same last Sunday.


Sixty-six years ago, I graduated from high school at age16. Dad and Mom gave me my heart's desire: a  Royal Quiet Deluxe portable typewriter. The following summer I knew the time had come to embark on my writing career. THE STAIRCASE MYSTERY, a teen novel that would out-Nancy Nancy Drew and out-Hardy the Hardy Boys was born.


 After each day's work when the family went to bed, I left my little western Washington logging town. I traveled to Riverview in the Adirondacks by kerosene lamplight, since we didn't have electricity. (I'd never been east of the Rocky Mountains.)  


Bob and Bill Jackson welcomed me into their world and adventures. Every creak of our old house (once a one-room school where Mom taught all eight grades) startled me. When the story got too scary, I blew out the light and shivered my way to sleep. The next day I read my chapter to Dad, Mom, and my younger brother. Naturally, they liked it. 😊


Complete at last, typed on cheap paper with the title in red (ouch), I packaged the book that would launch me as an author and sent it to Nancy and the Hardy Boys' publisher. They returned it. Not to worry. I had a list of other places to submit . . . they also returned it. I continued to submit until  I struck gold. Well, fool's gold. A publisher praised THE STAIRCASE MYSTERY and predicted glorious results . . . for only about $2000!


As school secretary in Darrington, I had too much else going for me to let rejection get me down. Someday I would write other novels, perhaps even teen mysteries. In the meantime, life was good. (Decades later the popular six-volume Juli Scott Super Sleuth series came out and was praised by readers of many ages.)

Following is how THE STAIRCASE MYSTERY looks, except it is double-spaced.

Jackson Twins Mystery Series
A story for Young People

This book is dedicated to my brother, Randall G. Reece,
who likes mystery stories


I   A Scream in the Night                  
II The Deserted Camp                  
III The Mystery of Jim Blacker   
V The Cave of Horrors               
VI A Mysterious Threat              
VII the Masquerade Clue            
VIII A Way of Escape                 
IX The Plot Deepens                    
X An Uninvited Guest                
XII More Mystery!                      
XIII Uncle Jim Takes a Hand   
XIV A Baffling Clue                 
XV Danger Rides at Anchor     
XVI Trouble for the Twins        
XVII Hazardous Happenings!  
XVIII Peril Lurks Ahead           
XIX Pursuit                               
XX Which Set of Stairs?        
XXI the Mystery is Solved        
A Scream in the Night

"Boy, I can hardly wait," exclaimed Bob Jackson to his twin Bill. "Now's the time for us to prove to dad that we can track down a clue for him and maybe after this adventure he will see that we really are cut out to be detectives."

“I hope he does," answered Bill, "but if that guy ahead isn't more careful of his driving we won't have a chance to," he added as a huge truck on the wrong side of the road just missed the boys ‘coupe.

The truck had stopped and to their surprise when they pulled up alongside of it, the twins saw that the driver was a swarthy Italian in a bright colored sport shirt with a very angry expression on his face.
 "What do you mean, trying to run into my truck," he yelled. "I'll sue, I'll see the police!"

“Just a minute, said Bill, “why were you driving on the left side of the road? And why isn't there a license on your truck? You can talk to my dad, Dan Jackson."

"Dan Jackson!" With an exclamation of fear, the man jumped in his truck and drove off. Quickly the boys raced to their car and started after him. As the truck was a huge van loaded with fruit, the boys had no trouble following him, until with a quick motion he speeded up and went into a side road through the trees at the right.

"Hurry, Bob," shouted Bill, "there he goes!"

* * *
Although THE STAIRCASE MYSTERY is not publishable, it has some good points. It was correctly set up (except for the red type).Spelling and grammar, good. Plot, believable. Characters stay in character. Fast-paced. High action. Good family values. Interesting chapter titles. 

Weaknesses include a gazillion exclamation points!!! Cliches and stereotypes based on the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys titles. Author intrusion, editorializing,  over-explanation. Example:
    "Hands up!"
     They obeyed. There wasn't much else they could do with guns jabbing them  in the back.

Lessons learned

My first novel taught me a valuable lesson at an early age--I could actually plan, execute, and complete a full-length, 60,000+ word manuscript, the first important step on the ladder to success. The timeworn pages provided encouragement and served as a reminder that "I did it once; I can do it again." THE STAIRCASE MYSTERY now goes back on my closet shelf, a continuing reminder that dreams coupled with hard work and determination really can come true. 


Collection/singles available at

Sunday, February 25, 2018

BILLY GRAHAM: Role Model for Writers #Role Models #Billy Graham #Writing

Billy Graham, achieved a position unlike any other evangelist. Respected and in touch with heads of foreign countries, he provided prayer and personal advice to a dozen U.S. presidents, starting with Harry S. Truman. An amazed world watched as the boy raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina, become "America's Pastor." 

During his lifetime, Billy preached to an estimated 215 million people in 185 countries and reached millions of others via radio, television and the internet

An early calling

It was Easter weekend in 1937, Palatka, Florida. With knees knocking and four borrowed sermons to fall back on, eighteen-year-old Billy Graham delivered one after another in front of the 40 or so parishioners. He concluded his first career sermon eight minutes later!

He refused to be discouraged 

After the service, one of the men at the church told Billy, "Boy you better go back to school and get a lot more education." Billy did. After  wrestling with God, he eventually gave way to his calling to preach. His confidence grew with practice, even though his audience sometimes was nothing more than alligators, birds and Cypress stumps, as he chronicles in his autobiography Just As I Am.

Billy told it the way he believed it

Being politically correct never kept Billy from speaking the words he felt God laid on his heart. Yet he appeared on Gallup’s list of the most admired men and women 60 times since 1955 — every year the research company asked the question. Martin Luther King Jr. counted Graham as a close friend and ally, once remarking, “Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been.”

He never used "too busy" or "I'm not up to it" as an excuse

In spite of a schedule few of us could or would want to keep, Billy stole time to write more than two dozen books, books that required a great deal of research Although diagnosed with Parkinson's-like symptoms in the 1990s,  his 1997 memoir, "Just as I Am," was a New York Times best-seller.

 Billy stayed focused

Married to Ruth Bell from 1943 to 2007 and father of five children, his life's work required him to be away from home much of the time. 

He missed a great deal of time with his family, especially Ruth, of whom he said, "When it comes to spiritual things. my wife has had the greatest influence on my ministry."

Relaxing on his front porch

He kept his personal values

"My home is in Heaven," he habitually said. "I'm just traveling through this world."  Billy's home in the mountains of North Carolina reflects this. A refuge from those who would elevate him to an unwanted position.

"Only one person deserves to be glorified," he constantly reminded his listeners. "And that is the Lord Jesus Christ." A fitting Scripture for Billy Graham's tombstone would be: 

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith . . ." (2 Timothy 4:7).

Yet the single word "Preacher" that Billy's son Franklin says will be engraved, is far more in keeping with Billy Graham's life of service to God and he world. 
In closing 

We can never be Billy Grahams, nor should we strive to be--but we can learn much from this man from humble beginnings who truly did finish the course and keep his faith. 

Follow our dreams. Never give in to discouragement. Write from the heart. Make time to write. Keep values. 

Thank you, Billy Graham. 

A life of service to God and the world