Friday, December 21, 2012

Writing: When A Project Nears Completion

I thought you might be interested in what's going on in my writing life. Stress Test is not due for release until April 1 or so (yes, the significance of the date isn't lost on me), but I now have one of the Advance Reader's Copies, and there's just something about seeing your name on the cover and reading the endorsements that gives an author a boost.

I'm thrilled that after reading advance copies, some heavy hitters in the fiction world saw fit to give these endorsements:

"Packed with thrills, Stress Test is a lightning-paced read that you'll read in one breath."
     Tess Gerritsen, New York Times best-selling author of Last To Die.

"Original and profound. I found the Christian message engaging and fascinating, and the story a thrill-a-minute."
     Michael Palmer, New York Times best-selling author of Oath of Office

"Sirens, scalpels, and the business end of a revolver--Stress Test offers Code 3 action and a prescription for hope."
     Candace Calvert, best-selling author of Code Triage and Trauma Plan

"Stress Test comes with a warning: Prepare to stop life until you finish the last page."
     DiAnn Mills, author of The Chase and The Survivor

"Recurring legal, medical and romantic thrills. Diagnosis: pure entertainment."
     James Scott Bell, award-winning suspense author.

 If you'd like a taste of Stress Test, click here to hear me read a selection from the first chapter.

I wish the book were available in time for Christmas, but if you wish to pre-order a copy (they're currently discounted significantly), drop me a line at Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com with your address and any personalization you want, and I'll mail you a signed bookplate and a bookmark.

Merry Christmas, all. With that commercial message, I'm going to close down the blog until after New Year's. See you January 4.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Without Them

 I had this scheduled to post today--in light of the tragic events of the past few days, it still seemed appropriate to share it.

Many of you know that I started writing after the death of my first wife. I used segments from the journaling I did to craft a book with chapters dealing with the situations I faced in the months afterward. I pulled no punches, detailing my failures as well as the victories I eventually won. That book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, is still in print and continues to help thousands of grieving people each year.

Because I know how difficult the holidays can be after the death of a loved one, I decided to post this article which I wrote for a small local paper several years ago. I hope it helps those of you who are facing this situation. If you know of others who need it, please forward it to them.


              THE FIRST CHRISTMAS WITHOUT THEM

    After the death of a loved one, every holiday that follows carries its own load of renewed grief, but there’s little doubt that Christmas—especially that first Christmas without him or her—is the loneliest time of the year.

    After the death of my wife, Cynthia, I was determined to keep things as “normal” as possible for that first Christmas. Since this was an impossible goal, the stress and depression I felt were simply multiplied by my efforts. My initial attempt to prepare the Christmas meal for my family was a disaster, yet I found myself terribly saddened by the sight of my daughter and daughters-in-law in the kitchen doing what Cynthia used to do. Putting the angel on the top of the tree, a job that had always been hers, brought more tears. It just wasn’t right—and it wasn’t ever going to be again.

    Looking back now, I know that the sooner the grieving family can establish a “new normal,” the better things will be. Change the menu of the traditional meal. Get together at a different home. Introduce variety. Don’t strive for the impossible task of recreating Christmases past, but instead take comfort in the eternal meaning of the season.

    The first Christmas will involve tears, but that’s an important part of recovery. Don’t avoid mentioning the loved one you’ve lost. Instead, talk about them freely. Share the good memories. And if you find yourself laughing, consider those smiles a cherished legacy of the person whom you miss so very much.

    For most of us, grieving turns our focus inward. We grieve for ourselves, for what might have been, for what we once had that has been taken from us. The Christmas season offers an opportunity to direct our efforts outward. During this season for giving, do something for others. Make a memorial gift in memory of your loved one to your local Food Bank, the Salvation Army, or your favorite charity. Involve yourself in a project through your church. Take a name from an Angel Tree at one of the malls and shop for a child whose smile you may not see but which will warm your heart nevertheless.

    When you’re grieving, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by Christmas, especially the modern version. The echoes of angel voices are drowned out by music from iPods. The story of Jesus’ birth gives way to reruns of “Frosty, The Snowman.” Gift cards from Best Buy and WalMart replace the offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If you find the season getting you down, the burden of your loss too great to bear, read once more the Christmas story in Luke, chapter 2. Even when you celebrate it alone, this is the true meaning of Christmas.

 

Whatever your situation, I hope this is a wonderful and meaningful Christmas for you. Blessings, all.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Writing: Author's Schedules--Michael Palmer

I'm back with more about the writing schedule of various writers. My friend and colleague, Dr. Michael Palmer, is a New York Times best-selling author many times over. In addition to writing seventeen published novels of medical suspense, Michael is an Associate Director of the Massachusetts Medical Society Physician Health Services, devoted to  helping physicians troubled by mental illness, physical illness, behavioral issues, and chemical dependency. Keep that in mind when you read his reply to my question about his work schedule.

 
How long I write depends on what stage of the creative process I happen to be in.



If I am sitting with nothing to do except trying to figure out what I want to write about, I get about 2 hours and then maybe another hour later in the day.



When I am scratching out an early outline and proposal, three or four hours is a triumph.



When I am outlining, say 5-10 chapters, 4-5 hours is a goal, and working with my son helps.



When I am finally writing (the easiest part), I can do 6-8 hours.



Personal record (rare) may be 10 hours with scattered 15-30 minute breaks.

Thanks, Michael. By the way, his latest book, Political Suicide, just released. I've had the privilege of reading a copy, and I think his work just keeps getting better.

And, if you'll allow me a bit of self-promotion, my guest post about how I got started in writing is up today at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference blog site. I hope you'll click the link and check it out.

If you have any questions about writing, leave a comment. If I don't know the answer, I suspect I know someone who does.  


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Music

I may be the last person on the planet to discover it, but the other day I found that our satellite TV package included a channel that plays Christmas songs from early AM to late PM. "Great," I thought, and it was. But I've certainly heard some Christmas songs that were unfamiliar to me. (By the way, if you have DirectTV, you can try channel 801 and see what you think).

When I think of Christmas songs, I think of carols--my favorite is Silent Night, not only because it's beautiful but also because I learned in college to sing it in German. ("Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht...") I love most of the standard carols. But recently I heard Frank Sinatra, with choral accompaniment, do a lovely song called Bells of Christmas, set to the tune known as Greensleeves. I heard a song called I Believe In Father Christmas that still has me scratching my head about whether it carries a deep message or sacreligious.

What are your favorite Christmas songs? And do you find yourself singing them, even though it may be sunny outside (as it is here in Texas)? Let me know. And Merry Christmas.

(photo via freedigitalphotos.net)

Friday, December 07, 2012

Writing: Macro or Substantive Edit

While I wait for the publication of my next novel, Stress Test, I'll be working on responses to the macro or substantive edit of the next one, Heart Failure. And, of course, in my spare time I need to get going on the third book of my contract, Critical Condition. Confused yet? Then you can sympathize.

The macro or substantive edit, often shortened to the "sub edit," is a big picture thing. The editor reads through the entire book and makes notes--which is why this is sometimes called getting "notes" on a book. They may not like the beginning or the ending or any of the scenes in between. They may suggest ways in which the book can be made better--increasing tension, showing emotion, adding details that enhance the reader's experience. Sometimes there are a lot of notes, sometimes not so many. But there will always be some!

For those of you who still picture a book as proceeding from a writer's mind fully fleshed out, polished, and ready for publication, maybe your perception will change when you discover the character of the sub edit. And to answer the question some of you have, if the author and editor disagree and are unable to compromise, it's still the author's name on the cover. They have the final decision. So far, I've tended to take the advice of the publishing professional in these situations. After all, as they say in Texas, "You don't buy a dog and bark yourself."

There's more on this particular edit and how I handled it on the blog of my agent, Rachelle Gardner. You can click here to read more details about my initial reaction and subsequent actions.

And if you wonder how an author should (and shouldn't) deal with an editor, check out this post by Susan J. Morris.

Any questions about edits, or other aspects of writing and publishing? Let me know, and I'll try to answer them.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Christmas Decorations

I heard Christmas carols played in the store when I was out on Thanksgiving. Some stores have had Christmas decorations displayed for sale since shortly after Halloween. As I write this, the prediction is for temperatures in the 70's by the time this post goes up, so it doesn't feel much like Christmas outside. On the other hand, inside the Mabry house, Kay is busy putting out our mugs and glasses with a Christmas theme, adding wreaths and Christmas stuff, and doing all the stuff she loves at this time of year. We've almost completed shopping for the grandkids. And, before you ask, we don't have our Christmas cards done and mailed yet.

How about you? When do you plan to put up your Christmas tree and decorations (or have you already done that)? Where are you in the process? I hope you take a moment to consider the true meaning of the season. Blessings, all.

(photo via FreeDigitalPhotos.net)