Friday, May 29, 2015

Writing: Short or Long?

My morning walk takes me by the second hole of a nearby golf course, and I generally pause to watch golfers hit their approach shots into the green. A few overshoot it (leading me to watch for lost balls in the yard across the street), but most come up short. In either case, their problem hitting their shots the proper distance emphasizes to me how talented professional golfers are, not just to hit the green with their approach shots, but to hit the right part of the green in most cases. It's not as easy as it looks.

What does this have to do with writing? More than you might think. Writers generally have a target number for the word count of their finished manuscript. How do they hit it? What happens if they're too long or too short? I don't know what others do, but I've finally come up with a solution that works for me.

If you think the book you read was written in one fell swoop, without editing, revisions, and rewrites--then dream on. It didn't take long before I realized it truly does "take a village" of editors to produce a well-written book. Thus, I know going in that I'll be doing several rewrites of mine. My tendency is to write just a bit short. I keep one eye on the word count and the other on the outline in my head. No, I'm not an outliner, but even a "pantser" like me knows what has gone before and how he/she wants the book to wind up. So, keeping both those things in mind, I tend to come out a few thousand words short of my target goal.

Then, with the second rewrite, I make certain I've described the surroundings, engaged the senses, more fully explained some of the things that were clear in my mind but not necessarily in the reader's (and this is where my first reader comes in...she keeps me honest). I may also remove some things that are unnecessary, but this is more than balanced by what I put in. At the end of that rewrite, I'm generally in the correct ballpark.

Other writers do it the other way around--they write long, putting in everything that's needed plus a bit more, then tighten their writing in the revision process. It works for them. I don't know how you'll do it, but you'll eventually find your own sweet spot in the process.

It still takes...I won't say "talent" or "skill"--rather, I think it takes "experience." In other words, to learn to write you must practice writing. Practice won't necessarily get you to Carnegie Hall (old joke), but it often gets you noticed by agents and editors.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Today, May 25, 2015 is the day we celebrate Memorial Day--a day set aside to honor those who have given their lives in the service of our country.

Despite our differences--political, religious, racial, lifestyle, geographic, whatever-- I hope that for one day we can pause together to remember and thank those who've served to protect our freedom and that of others. That's what Memorial Day is all about. That's what it should be.

I'm proud to have served my country in the United States Air Force. I salute my fellow comrades, and honor those who gave the "last full measure of devotion" in that service. God bless America.

(This post will substitute for my usual Tuesday blog post. Come back Friday for more about the writing life).

Friday, May 22, 2015

Writing: Author Interviews

Although Amazon apparently began shipping Fatal Trauma several days ago, this past Tuesday was the official "release date." For those who think all an author has to do is write a novel, then respond to all the various edits the manuscript goes through, let me emphasize what I was told very early in my days of learning the craft: No one cares as much about readers buying your book as you do. That was true then, it's true now. Writing the book is just the beginning.

Publishers have marketing people, but it's still up to the author to do a significant amount of getting the word out about their book. What things work for me? Well, book signings haven't been terribly successful in my hands. True, some authors think they're great, but they don't work for me. On the other hand, meeting with book clubs is high on my list. True, the members have already bought (or borrowed) the book, but it's a great chance for them to connect with a "real author." I always feel honored when I'm asked to meet with one.

I believe that word of mouth is still the best form of advertising. What seems to work best are guest blogs and interviews on other sites. These are a good way to introduce me and my writing to an extended audience. I've also found that a book giveaway draws more "hits" than a post without one. Guess it's just human nature to take a chance on something free. So below you'll find several sites, and at most of which you can leave a comment and be entered for a chance to win a copy of Fatal Trauma.

In my last post, there were links to some of the interviews I had done to that point. Since then I've visited Robin Hatcher, Ane Mulligan,  The Borrowed Book, and Novel Crossing. I hope you'll check them out, leave a comment, and get your name in the hat for a copy of Fatal Trauma.

What is your idea for the best method of introducing people to a writer's book? I'd like to hear.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It Was The Best Of Times...

...it was the worst of times. Most of us are familiar with those opening lines from A Tale Of Two Cities. As an author, I can identify with the sentiment, if not with the setting. Today is release day for my eighth novel of medical suspense, Fatal Trauma. I was probably a lot more enthusiastic about the release of my first novel. As with so many other things, eventually the experience loses a bit of luster. Oh, I'm pleased--don't get me wrong. But now my energy is spent less on celebrating and more on trying to get the word out about the book.

That means doing guest interviews and blog posts. These are things I generally enjoy, and I don't want to knock them. But I also like to check those sites and respond to comments, which is all well and good. However, when you have seven such appearances in just a few days, it can take a fair amount of your time. (By the way, there's a chance to win a copy of Fatal Trauma at most of these).

I started with an interview by colleague and author Nancy Mehl on the Suspense Sisters blog. Here's the link. Then I had interviews with Leslie McKee of Romantic Times and was privileged to talk with Susan Sleeman at The Suspense Zone. Then there's this interview with Sarah Ruut at her blog.

As I said before: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." But I'll be the first to admit it's a happy problem. It goes with being a published author--and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Did you have this concept of what an author does? Would you like to know more about our lives? Let me know.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Writing: To Market, To Market...

Writers often yearn for the days when all they had to do was write. They'd leave the marketing to the publisher. Unfortunately, those days, like some of the stories I hear from my golf partner, are urban myths. Writers have always been responsible, at least in part, for marketing their work. True, perhaps the burden has shifted a bit more toward writers in recent years, but I'm unaware of any time when this bit of wisdom I was given early on in my writing career was untrue: No one is more interested in the sales of your work than you are.

Fatal Trauma will be the eighth medical thriller I've had published, and it seems to me that over the five years in which that has taken place I've spent more and more time marketing my work. We used to call it "platform." Now, I just think of it as name identification. What I want is something like the emails and social media comments that say, "I can't wait for your next novel." So I spend about half my time at the computer staying in touch with fans, writing blog posts like this one, lining up and preparing guest blog interviews and posts, speaking to book clubs, etc. Do I resent it? Actually, I've come to accept it. And if you're a writer, you will, as well.

Oh, one last word. If you plan to self-publish your work (whether fiction or non-fiction), remember you're solely responsible for marketing your book. So be prepared to work even harder for the rewards that come with not being tied to a traditional publishing contract. Is it worth it? That's a post for another time.

What do you think? Is marketing something with which a writer should be involved? How important do you think it is? I'd love to hear.

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Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Where You Least Expect Them

I have to admit it--we watch TV. Actually, we rarely watch programs as they're aired. Instead, we record them and generally zip through the commercials. (Shh. Don't tell the sponsors.) Mostly we either watch baseball or football (games involving our local teams) or sitcoms (often reruns of older ones). But one we watch on a regular basis is Blue Bloods.

In an episode entitled "The Job," the family patriarch, Henry Reagan, says this: "I see God's light in this family every day. And though I may not understand it, I trust in His plan for us all." Wow! You might expect to see that in a novel of Christian fiction (now sometimes called inspirational fiction). But would you anticipate hearing it on a network TV show? I love the job the writers of this show do in keeping up the interest of the viewers, but it's also a bonus when I see values like this portrayed.

Have you ever encountered deep truths where you least expect them? Do scenes like the one I described touch you? I'd like to hear.

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mage courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Note: As we approach the launch of Fatal Trauma, I'm featured on a number of blogs with guest posts and interviews. Here's one of which I'm particularly proud. Hope you'll drop by, read it, and leave a comment.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Writing: Point Of View

Writers are told to keep a consistent point of view. The thing that has helped me do that in my own writing is to imagine a camera and microphone perched on the shoulder of the POV character. If he/she can see it, it's from their POV. But if the thoughts are those of another character, that's what we call "head-hopping," an inconsistent POV.

I decided to check POV in a book by a well-known, best-selling author. In five pages, he switches POV seven times. How does he get away with it? He writes well, and most people don't read the way an author does. Should we pay attention to consistent POV if a best-selling author doesn't? Yes, until you've sold millions of books. Until then, I suggest we all follow the rules.

Here's a scene from my soon-to-be-released novel, Fatal Trauma. Can you tell who the POV character is?

Dr. Mark Baker swept his straw-colored hair away from his eyes, then wiped his forearm across his brow. He wished the air-conditioning in the emergency room were better. Patients might complain that it was cool, but if you were hurrying from case to case for eight hours or more, it was easy to work up a sweat. 
“Nobody move!”
Mark spun toward the doors leading to the ER, where a wild-eyed man pressed a pistol against a nurse’s head. She pushed a wheelchair in which another man sat slumped forward, his eyes closed, his arms crossed against his bloody chest. Dark blood oozed from beneath his splayed fingers and dropped in a slow stream, leaving a trail of red droplets on the cream-colored tile. 
Behind them, Mark could see a hospital security guard sprawled facedown and motionless on the floor, his gun still in its holster, a crimson worm of blood oozing from his head. Mark’s doctor’s mind automatically catalogued the injury as a basilar skull fracture. Probably hit him behind the ear with the gun barrel. 
The gunman was in his late twenties. His caramel-colored skin was dotted with sweat. A scraggly moustache and beard framed lips compressed almost to invisibility. Straight, black hair, parted in the middle, topped a face that displayed both fear and distrust. Every few seconds he moved the barrel of the gun away from his hostage’s temple long enough to wave it around, almost daring anyone to come near him. 
The wounded man was a few years older than the gunman—maybe in his thirties. His swarthy complexion was shading into pallor. Greasy black hair fell helter-skelter over his forehead. His face bore the stubble of several days’ worth of beard. 
“I mean it,” the gunman said. “Nobody move a muscle. My brother needs help, and I’ll kill anyone who gets in the way.”
Mark’s immediate reaction was to look around for the nearest exit, but the gunman’s next words made him freeze before he could act. 
“You the doc?” 
Now the gun was pointed at him. Mark thought furiously of ways to escape without being shot, but he discarded each plan as fast as it crossed his mind. “Yeah, I’m the doc.”
The gunman inclined his head toward the man in the wheelchair. “He’s . . . he’s been shot.” He snatched two ragged breaths. “I want you to fix him, pull him through.” He punctuated his words with rapid gestures from the pistol. “If he dies . . . if he dies, I’m going to kill everyone in here.” The gunman turned back toward his hostage. “Starting with her.” 
Mark’s eyes followed the gun as it traversed once more from him to the nurse pushing the wheelchair. To this point his attention had been focused on the gunman, but now that he recognized the hostage, he knew the stakes were even higher. Although her red hair was disheveled, her normally fair skin flushed, there was no mistaking the identity of the woman against whose head the gunman’s pistol lay. The nurse was Kelly Atkinson—the woman Mark was dating. 

As a reader, do you find head-hopping a distraction? As a writer, do you try to avoid it?

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Note: Fellow author Judy Christie did what I consider to be an excellent newspaper story on me in the Shreveport Times. You may wish to check it out here.



Tuesday, May 05, 2015

What Ever Happened To "You're Welcome"?

I may be the last of a dying generation, but each time I thank someone, whether a person who holds the door for me or a server at a restaurant, I sort of expect to hear, "You're welcome." But I don't.

I hear, "No problem." Or "Yeah." Or sometimes nothing at all. I don't consider the act of doing something polite to be a problem, so in my opinion, the response of "No problem" is sort of inappropriate. And "Yeah," or similar responses just don't seem to be an acknowledgement.

What about you? Do you think "You're welcome" is outmoded? Is "No problem" the accepted response now to a thanks? Am I just showing my age? Leave a comment to let me know. If it hurts my feelings, I can just answer with "No problem."

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NOTE: Some of you have asked about a preview of my forthcoming novel, Fatal Trauma. You can read it here, and pre-order it from your favorite bookseller by clicking here.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Writing: Interview and Chance For More

Today I'm interviewed in Family Fiction Edge magazine. Check it out here (starting on page 12), and don't skip past the clickable link at the end--it takes you to a prequel of my latest novel, Fatal Trauma, and the opportunity for lots of cool stuff.

I'm also interviewed in The Big Thrill, the e-magazine of International Thriller Writers. You may also wish to check that one out.

And finally, there's a chance to win a copy of my new novella, Rx Murder, on the blog of my friend, Lena Nelson Dooley.

See you next week with another blog post.

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