Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Where Would You Go?

Summer's upon us, and many of you are thinking of vacations. I've found that, the older I get, the less I look forward to travel. And since we have no idea where the next terrorist strike might be, some of us feel a bit uncertain about the place we choose.

As a physician, I was privileged to speak in many countries around the globe, as well as in North America. I've thought about returning to England, Germany, the Middle East--but would it be safe to go there?

With my second profession, that of an author, my speaking and teaching has thus far been confined to the US, but even that is narrowing.

A typical question used to be, "Where in the world would you go for a vacation?" Now most people ask the question, "Where would you feel safe going for relaxation?" What do you think? I'll be interested in reading your comments.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Writing: Profession or Hobby?

One of my favorite "writing" books is Lawrence Block's Telling Lies For Fun And Profit. It was one of the first such books I read from cover to cover, and I still go back to it from time to time. Block has written a number of such books, most of them based on his columns in Writers Digest, and they influenced my growth as a writer. In one of them, he talks about the "Sunday writer," and I long ago decided that's where I fit in. I didn't think I'd ever make a living at this writing game, and I was quite comfortable where I was. But that's changed over the years.

Block wrote and published a number of books, and I've read and re-read most of them. He also wrote (sometimes using various pseudonyms) some magazine articles and books that varied from the noir variety to what I would call "erotica." But the main thing is that he wrote a lot. And because of that, he was able to support himself through his writing.

I've noticed, especially since many writers are turning to self-publication (the "indie" publishing route), that writers are finding what Block (and some of his colleagues) said was true--the more books that are out there, the higher your income is likely to be. I say "likely" because readers are learning that not everything that's self-published is worth paying even a low amount for the e-book version. But for those who spend the time and money to have professional editing and memorable book covers done for their work, there's indeed a significant market out there.

What of the "Sunday writer?" I'm not certain that class exists anymore. Writers seem to be like cyclists going down a hill, needing to do more and more (while making less and less), until eventually they crash or slow down.

Am I still a "Sunday writer?" I guess I left that class when I was first published. Of course, since I'm retired I don't depend on a day job to meet expenses, but I'm hearing from fellow writers (and experiencing this myself) that it's becoming harder to generate a dependable income via writing.

Do you see changes in the publishing industry? Good or bad? Any suggestions? I look forward to reading them.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Country Boy In The Big City

This post appeared quite a while ago, but I thought it was worth bringing out of mothballs. The top picture is of the Waggoner mansion outside my home town.

The other day, I saw a commercial that had a city limit sign showing a population that was almost exactly the same as that of that town when I left there: 2578. And that started me thinking.

When I finished high school (BTW, we only had one of them, plus  one other for the lower grades) and left to enroll in college for my pre-med classes, I jumped to a city that was ten times as large. That wasn't too big an increase in size for a small-town boy, and I adapted. Then I went to Dallas for medical school, and the jump in the population of the city in which I lived represented a logarithmic increase from what I'd become accustomed to. But, again, I adapted.

Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to visit (either as a visiting professor or via a leisure trip) places like New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and lots of other US cities. I've travelled and delivered medical talks in Canada, Mexico, and Central America. I've even been in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Germany, Great Britain, Denmark, The Netherlands, and several others. Quite a step up for a small town boy.

I guess it's possible to adapt to one's environment, no matter how large or small the city in which you live may be. But sometimes I wish I were back in that small town in North Texas where I knew everyone, could find my way around blindfolded, and we never locked our door. Then again, those days may be gone forever, even if I tried to go back. As Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again." And, if you do, you'll find it's changed...and so have you.

Do you sometimes find yourself wishing you could go back home? If you did, would things be the same? I'd like to know.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day 2017


My mother has been gone for many years now. But I can think back and see how she instilled in me some of the characteristics I hope I passed on to my own children.

Whatever woman to whom you owe a debt of gratitude, whether they gave you life or helped shape your life and made it what it is now, thank them today.

And to all the mothers out there--Happy Mothers Day.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Writing: How Do Authors Get Paid?

If you're like me, you receive a number of emails each day offering discounted or free e-books. I confess that I often take advantage of these, and sometimes (not as often as I'd wish) I find a new author so I end up buying more of their books. Of course, that's the whole idea behind these "loss leaders." It's the same reason grocery stores have sales and put a discounted item on an end-cap or other prominent place. They want customers to think, "For that price, I'll try it." And often (they hope) the customer comes back for more, even at full price.

Authors do this for the same reason. But I'm afraid our culture has reached the point of agreeing with Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku: "For free, take. For buy, waste time." On one of the author's loops of which I'm a member, an author recently said she was told, "I really like your books. When the new one's free, I'm going to get it."

The average author spends six months to a year writing each book. If they have a contract with a traditional publisher, they receive an advance against royalties, but not a cent more until the book(s) in question "earn out." Since many books never earn out their advances, the author doesn't get any more money. The publisher runs specials and puts them on sale at a discounted price, but it rarely lines the author's pocket.

If an author is one of the new breed of self-publishers, they've paid out to have cover art developed and the manuscript edited (if they want the book to be something that will bring readers back for more). Their royalty structure is better, but there's a certain amount of up-front cost to them.

What do you think? What's a fair return for the writer's efforts? Or should books be available for free, much like air for our tires at a 7-11 store? Oh, wait. Those compressors require payment now. What's next?

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