Tuesday, August 02, 2016

August vacation

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm taking the month of August off. Hope you enjoy the rest of the summer. See you again (God willing) after Labor Day.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Writing: Hook The Reader

One of the "unwritten rules" of writing is that the first page must interest the reader, and make them turn to page two, three, and so forth. Respected agent Noah Lukeman has written an excellent book, The First Five Pages, that emphasizes the importance of those initial pages. However, I'm going to go Mr. Lukeman one better. Although it doesn't happen in every book, I think the opening line that's a "zinger" is a great way to get the reader "hooked."

In my opinion, James Scott Bell hit a home run with this opening line from his novel, Try Darkness: "'Get out of my house,' the nun said, and hit me in the mouth."

And there are others, like the first line of the late Ross Thomas' novel, The Seersucker Whipsaw. "My four-city search for Clinton Shartelle ended in Denver where I found him playing shortstop for the Kwikway Truckers in a sandlot park at 29th and Champa." Who wouldn't want to keep reading to find out who this Shartelle man is, why someone would go to four cities to find him, and why he was playing sandlot ball?

What's your favorite first line of a novel? Here's one I'll be working on soon: “'The condition is called synesthesia,' Dr. Alders said, 'And it’s not as uncommon as you might think.'" Add yours in the comments section. It can be one of your own or one from a novel you like.

Notes: The winner of the copy of Deb Raney's latest novel has been notified by email. If you didn't win, keep trying. And don't forget my latest, Medical Judgment. The next one, Cardiac Event, will be released in January. Watch for it.

I'm going to take August off from blogging, but I'll see you again after Labor Day.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Country Boy In The Big City

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 my hometown 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? I'd like to know.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Writing: Writing Routine of Author Deborah Raney

DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years, thirty books, and numerous awards later, she's still creating stories that touch hearts and lives. She and husband, Ken, traded small-town life in Kansas for life in the city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and seven grandchildren who all live much too far away. 

I thought you'd enjoy seeing what her typical writing day looks like. So here's Deborah:

While it’s true there’s no such thing as a typical writing day, a normal day for me begins early—often before 6 a.m.—with the business side of things: answering e-mail and reader mail, updating my website, writing blog posts like this one, and reading or combing the Internet for research. After that, my husband and I spend 45 minutes on the treadmill, elliptical, and recumbent bike (made tolerable by watching TV series while we work out). After that we read a chapter in the Bible and spend some time praying together for our kids, family, church, our work projects for the day, and our nation. 

Ken and I both work from home and I usually eat breakfast at my desk handling any stray e-mails, then I quickly clean up the kitchen (I simply can’t write if there are dirty dishes in the sink or an unmade bed!) When my actual writing time begins around 10, I have a routine that helps set the stage. I love my colorful office and that’s where I usually write. I start by lighting scented candles, choosing music to fit the mood of the scene I’ll be writing, then brewing a perfect cup of coffee. I have a cute coffee station set up in my office with a Keurig coffeemaker, and a collection of almost 100 coffee mugs to choose from, many gifts from our kids, family members, and readers. My writing day starts with editing the scenes I wrote the day before. I usually shoot to add 1,000 new words a day early in the life of a novel. But as my deadline approaches, eventually I’ll be writing closer to 2,000 or even 3,000 words toward the last few chapters. It’s something like a snowball rolling down a mountain picking up steam as it grows bigger and bigger.

If the weather cooperates—usually only in the spring and fall in Kansas—I love to take my laptop out to the back deck to write. There, the birds, squirrels, ducks, geese, bunnies, and an occasional egret (or even a coywolf or deer on occasion!) provide entertainment.

Since we eat a rather late breakfast, Ken and I skip lunch and eat an early supper around 3:30. We usually both head out to the yard to weed and water in the evening, then back to our desks until around 8:30 when we unwind with a movie or a couple of TV series episodes. I consider this and reading for half an hour or so before bed, to be fuel for the writer’s tank. Another thing we do that fuels the tank: every Thursday morning at 7 a.m., Ken and I have a date! We grab a donut and coffee and head out garage sale-ing! It’s our favorite time of the week and we’ve found many treasures for our home and offices, and I’ve come up with many ideas for books in the process! Sometimes Ken helps me brainstorm while we drive from neighborhood to neighborhood. It’s a wonderful, fun time to connect with each other and just have fun. We’re usually back at our desks by 10 or shortly after, but that break in the week really helps us power through to the weekend.

My husband will tell you (so I may as well confess) that I can get a little cranky when I’m on deadline. He’s a prince, and during the last couple of weeks when I’m doing everything possible to stay in the “zone” with my story world, he will take care of supper, answer the phone and door, and generally serve as my “bodyguard” to keep me on task until the book has been turned in. Once I finish a novel, I try very hard to take at least a couple of weeks off before diving into the next book. I love the writing life and can’t think of anything I’d rather do, but the process of completing a novel is very intense and more than a little stressful, so the time off between books is important to my sanity.

Thanks, Deb. So there you have it. A writer's typical day. Now tell us how your day goes--whether you're writing or whatever you do. And one commenter will win a copy of Deborah's latest novel, Close To Home (US addresses only--sorry). Don't forget to include your email address so we can contact the lucky winner.

Oh, and if you want to get acquainted with Deb's writing, try her short read, Going Once, on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents right now.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Story Behind The Story

Ever wake up at 3 AM and realize there was something you were supposed to do but hadn't? That's what happened to me last night, which is why this is a bit late getting posted.

But during that "oh, good grief" moment, I realized that some of my blog readers might like to know what was behind my latest novel, Medical Judgment. So here it is. I hope it speaks to some of you.

Come back on Friday, when author Deborah Raney shares what her typical writing day looks like. Thanks for reading.

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