Sue Grafton, meet my first novel

The schedule was better than planned…and there were three months to enjoy it.  A sabbatical leave as Conference Minister in Austin, Texas, took me to Frisco, Colorado.  The game plan was clear, uncomplicated and very doable.

Mornings and early afternoon were “writing/finishing the novel” time.  Late afternoon and early evening was fly-fishing time.

Sometimes I worked on a chapter or two in the late evening.  Day after day.  Not boring.
Not drudgery.  Loved it.

I returned the end of the third sabbatical month on a Monday, the novel completed.  The
minister didn’t commit suicide, a parishioner—who had a need to accuse the minister—had been choked to death with the rope from the minister’s robe—and the minister with the help of a Columbo-type attorney dealt with the accusations and somehow discovered the truth.  He didn’t do it.  Although it had been a thought.

On Monday evening I saw in the Austin newspaper that the following evening Sue Grafton, the “alphabet murder/mystery novelist” was to speak and sign her new book at a large Austin bookstore.

My mind didn’t pace at glacial speed.  I thought.   I wrote.  I printed the letter and
put it in an envelope.  And I showed up.

A large crowd…about 200 attending…Mark and 199 women.  Boy, is her support gender-biased.

She spoke to say she her first 20 novels were not accepted by any agent or publisher.  But,
she said, “If you are enthused about writing, never be disheartened.  Not being accepted happens to all of us.  Keep your spirit and your energy and your resolve.  Learn to spell tenacity in your writing and in your life.”

I didn’t know she was talking about my literary future…until later when 75 agents and publishers sent me their “good luck” notes, some of which were on Xeroxed post cards.

I   listened and took mental notes.  However, I was no less strategizing, How can I get my
letter to her?

She then completed her speech, “Thank you all for being here and listening.  Now, I’m going to sit down at this table and will be pleased to sign my new book for you.”

I hadn’t purchased the book, but didn’t hesitate to walk directly to the table, smile and hand her my letter, “Ms. Grafton, I wanted to share this.”

She smiled back, took the letter and put it at the edge of the table.

I left.

And wondered.  Would she read it?  Would it fall off the table?  Does this happen often…just another fan mail? 

The next morning I answered my cellular, “Dr. Miller?  This is Sue Grafton.  I’m calling you from the Austin Airport.  I read your letter and your synopsis.  Fascinating.
Will you send me the first fifty pages of your novel, No One Is Innocent?  I’ll get back to you.”

Talk about surprise that led to elation that led to the Xerox machine that led to the post office that led to hoping and hoping she and her staff would then ask for the balance of the novel.

Three months later I received a letter from Sue Grafton.  Short.  Direct.  Clear.  “Dr. Miller.  Thanks for your package.  Good luck in your writing.  Regards, Sue Grafton.”

Not for a moment.  Not even a glance or breath did I wince.
Contrarily, I was grateful.  That letter said more than I deserved.  For
sure: You have a long way to go in your writing.  Don’t give up.  Keep the word “tenacity” front and center.

That was nine years ago.

Next week, after pages and pages crumbled by the editors..or cut into pieces by their machetes [none of them used a scissor] the novel, “Murder On Tillamook Bay” will be available.  It’s been a lonnnnnnnnnng journey, but well worth it.

Mary Robertson and Sue Grafton…my early mentors.  I will send a copy of the novel to each with a note: Thanks for your caring spirit.  I didn’t give up.



About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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