Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My Day (And Welcome To It)

I'm composing this ahead of time, because when it's supposed to post I'll be involved in a family visit. When I thought about that, I decided that perhaps readers of this blog would like to know how my day is spent. I mean, after all, I'm retired from my previous occupation. I must spend a lot of my time writing. It must be a breeze for me. Yeah, right!

First, I've found that one of the trade-offs with age has to do with sleeping in. As I'm fond of putting it, "When you reach the point where you can sleep late, you find that you can't sleep late." And that's true. Every day I wake up when the coffee starts to perk (I set it the night before...unless I forget). So, by 6 or at the latest 6:30 I'm up. My wife and I watch the news that we recorded the evening before, have our usual 10 minute discussion on what to have for breakfast (I'm the guilty party here--the idea of "whatever you want" just doesn't compute with me), then eat it while watching one of the shows we've recorded.

Much of my morning is spent at the computer, although there's very little writing done during that time. Instead, I look at the emails I've received, read through the blogs I follow, and usually compose one or more of my own blog posts. Mid-morning we pause for the energy drink we've come to like. Then I try to write a bit, while my wife does the 101 things necessary to keep the house going. (Bless her heart, I guess that for quite a while I just assumed elves came in during the night and cleaned the toilet and washed my dirty clothes).

My afternoons often consist of writing, editing, and marketing, while she does all the things she has on her plate. Dinner depends on what we have lined up that evening. The plunge of the Texas Rangers into the depths of mediocrity (actually, they'd need to improve to be mediocre) frees up some of our time. Family duties take up an occasional evening. For instance, last evening I accompanied my wife to the school administration building where one of our granddaughter's drawings was exhibited, along with others chosen from the classes in the myriad schools in Frisco--lots of them. The day before that, I mailed things my wife put together for the birthday of another granddaughter.

Exciting, isn't it? I guess I'm an aberration among published authors, since I often read on social media about my colleagues who seem to spend their entire day writing. But, in the end, I suppose I'm what Lawrence Block calls a "Sunday writer." Just as I always made time for my family while I was in full-time practice, I want to make time for them in my retirement. As the late Barbara Bush reminded us, at the end, no one will regret not spending more time at their work. Family is what counts.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Writing: "Selling" Your Work

Writers talk about the "good old days," when all an author needed to do was sit down and write a "great American novel," then turn it over to others to sell it. But has that ever happened, or is it just a longed-for circumstance that never really existed? I can't speak to older times, since I got into this writing life a bit more than a decade ago, but I'm told that an author has always had to be involved in the marketing of his/her work. I do know that writing is only a part of the job of an author nowadays. Someone has to get the word out, and as has been said before, no one is as interested in your book getting into the hands of others as you are.

When a book has been written (and there's a lot that goes into that), the fun has just begun. The author must "sell" it to an agent, who in turn "sells" it to a publisher. If the author decides to indie-publish it, they can skip these steps, but then assume the responsibility for all the activity that follows.

Assuming that the book is ready to print, someone (either the author or the marketing department of their publisher) sends advance copies out to various critics for review. The book is also sent to people who'll help publicize the book--call them a "street team" or "influencers" or whatever.  Copies should go to libraries (both church and public). Book store managers need to know about the book, including copies where appropriate, hoping they'll recommend it to their customers. There's the matter of appearances on various social media sites (often with a giveaway of the book). And the list goes on.

How about a formal launch? When my first novel came out, I arranged with an independent bookstore to hold a book launch there, complete with a cake and a reading from my work. I was disappointed at the turn-out, but heard later that a well-known public figure had done a book reading at that same site with an even smaller crowd in attendance. In retrospect, perhaps if I'd worked harder at inviting people, the number present would have been larger, but I'm still not certain it would have made a lot of difference.

Selling the book is important, and it can be influenced by lots of things, but I remain convinced that the best publicity is word-of-mouth. That comes from writing a great book, followed by one person telling another they like it. Like ripples in a stream, this type of publicity spreads. That's what I want to "sell" my book.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Faulkner's resignation: "Every scoundrel... (with) two cents for a stamp"

William Faulker is one of the most-recognized authors in American history. But, like many of that group, he wasn't always a writer. He was at one time a postmaster (although he allegedly was away at times to go hunting or golfing). But finally, he'd had enough. His resignation letter is a classic among those who are fed up with their jobs (or with the system).
"...As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be d***ed if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.
"This, sir, is my resignation."
I imagine that many of us have had that same feeling. Before writing this blog post, I had occasion to look someone up on Wikipedia, and found that the post had been edited to replace the name of the President who nominated a certain person with the word "Hitler," and his party with the word "fascist." There was a time when we would have gone to the library to look up the background on a person. That was a pain, but it also delivered us from someone who has access to a computer. Sometimes I think that's a trade-off I'd be willing to make.

Some of the posts I see on social media make me want to join Faulkner in chucking it all. Are we willing to trade the convenience of the Internet for the associated right to its use by people who insist on espousing their position (which is legitimate), but sometimes do it with troll-like actions (which I don't like)?

How about you? Do you hesitate to post things on the Internet that may be criticized by others? Are there other situations where you're afraid to voice an opinion. Have you ever, like Faulkner, wanted to resign? From what--the Internet, or from interactions with other humans? Let me know? I'd be interested in whether I'm the only one out here who sometimes wants to resign.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Writing: What's In A Name?

Ever wonder how a novelist chooses a name for characters? There are several theories (and I've probably tried them all). This is the way one author approaches it. And here are my own suggestions.

Some people try to choose a name that identifies the character. Maybe it refers to his personality (remember Scrooge?) or his physical appearance (such as "Stark" or "Linda"). That works, but I find it should be reserved for major characters. You can't spend days coming up with descriptive names for people who come and go throughout the narrative.

Speaking of that--and getting a bit off the subject--I find that having too many characters is confusing. Moreover--and back to what this blog post is about--try not to have people whose first or last name is too similar to that of others. Having a "Matty" and a "Mary" might work, but it's better if the names are "Alice" and "Mary."

I once tried using a name from my high school graduating class, but this backfired. I used the name "Frank Perrin" for a deputy sheriff in one of my novels, and when it was over you weren't sure if he wore a black or white hat. Then I got a note from a woman who wanted me to be the honored guest speaker at our class's 50th reunion. She was--you guessed it--the wife of my friend, Frank Perrin. Well, he thought it was funny, but I put that character in a follow-up novel, and you can be sure there was no doubt at the end that he was the good guy.

Some authors use a list of most popular names for any given birth year. Others choose names from the "spam" emails they get. Still others give little thought to naming their characters. It seems that plot trumps everything in writing and in the end, (as Shakespeare said), "What's in a name?"

Leave your comments for me. I'd love to hear whether you like posts like this. (If you don't, I suppose you can leave those comments as well, but I may sulk awhile after reading them).

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

" 'Tis A Puzzlement."

"The life of a writer must be so easy." I hear these words just often enough to make me re-think this second career into which God has led me. For those unfamiliar with my story, I was looking at retirement, not the life of an author. I practiced medicine for almost four decades, including ten years as a professor at a prestigious medical center. Retirement was going to include golf, travel, and leisure. But when my first wife passed away (just before my planned retirement), I journaled to express my feelings.Then I wanted to turn my journaling into a book, but had no idea how to do it.

Although I was so discouraged after one day at the writing retreat I attended that I wanted to go home, I persevered and eventually started on my road to writing. The Tender Scar, the book that was eventually published after that, has over the past decade ministered to thousands of people suffering the loss of a loved one. But I also was challenged at that same retreat to "try my hand at fiction."

After four years, four books, and four rejections, I quit. But I eventually tried once more, and shortly thereafter (long story) I got my first fiction contract. Now I've had fifteen novels and novellas published, and (God willing) will add to that number before the end of the year. But along the way I've discovered that being a published author doesn't automatically mean a full and peaceful life.

What there is to see beyond the name on a book cover might surprise you. I just communicated with a writer friend who spends hours each week driving her son for significant therapy, time that can't be spent writing...or marketing...or doing many other things. And this isn't an isolated instance. Yet she continues to write books that are excellent examples of inspirational fiction. I know offhand of numerous other writers whose personal lives aren't the perfect ones readers imagine. So why do we keep doing it? Because we're called to that activity, just as surely as ministers are called. We write because we can't not write. We don't do it for the glory (and we certainly don't do it for the money). But we do it.

I don't know why my first wife died suddenly, nor why God blessed me yet again with the love of another wonderful woman. I'm still not sure exactly how and why I got into writing. But it's a vocation I continue to pursue...although, as a retirement activity, it's not "so easy" at all.

Have I told you some things you didn't know about the life of a writer? Let me know.

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Friday, April 06, 2018

Writing: Rules and Suggestions

Writers, especially "newbies," are given some rules that are looked on as basic for producing good--i.e., readable--fiction. Keep point of view constant. Avoid the passive voice. Start where the action is. Try not to do an information "dump," but rather work the situation and back-story in as you go. All these are valid suggestions, and I--like many others--learned them as we cut our teeth writing fiction.

Let me talk a bit about one of these rules--the point of view. The best way I know to describe point of view is to imagine a TV camera and microphone perched on the shoulder of the POV character. What he (and the camera) sees, the reader sees. What he (and the microphone) hears, the reader hears. None of this "little did he/she know..." that was popular at one time. Such an interjections goes with the "omniscient" point of view, which imagines that the story is being told by a narrator, often one who not only sees all aspects of the story but is something of a gossip, not hesitating to share his secrets with the reader.

When can we switch POVs? In my writing, I identify the point of view character at the start of the scene, and try to keep the POV constant through that scene. Some authors have one POV character through the whole chapter, sometimes the whole book. Others (and there are a few like me) change  the POV character when they change the scene. However, I like to keep the number of points of view small--three or four at most--in order to simplify things for the reader.

That's enough about POV. I'll close by quoting one of the best rules for writers ever laid down. Elmore Leonard once gave an interview that contained a number of suggestions for writers, but the one I like best is this: "I try to leave out the parts the reader tends to skip." Do that, and you'll keep your reader turning pages, which is, after all, what we try to do.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Topics, topics, topics...

In the years since I've been doing this blog, I've attempted to avoid two very controversial topics: politics and religion. Actually, some people seem to have conflated the two. (Like that? Word-a-day strikes again). But I've sort of avoided them, especially the inflammatory posts I'm seeing lately.

I have announced some time ago that I accept "Friend" requests on this FB site from people I know or have met (through a conference, for example). If you're a fan of my writing, I suggest my "fan" page. That's here, FaceBook page, and on that I post (usually a couple of times a day) information that might be of interest to writers and readers alike.

When I look back at some of my earlier blog posts (and, by the way, these are now available in Kindle format for the princely sum of 99 cents, and are pretty good reading, if I do say so myself), it seemed a simpler time. I was able to talk about my first steps as a writer, the mistakes I made, the lessons I learned. In those early days, most of my posting was about writing. Now I do it on Fridays, devoting Tuesdays to general posts.

So, here's my question (or my questions, since more seem to be coming to mind). Do you read my other FaceBook page? Is it worth my continuing to post there on a regular basis? What would you like to see here? Is a writer's life at all interesting to you? Would you like my opinion sometimes? Or, are you thinking of dropping FB because, like many of us, you're a bit antsy about the gathering of information about yourself? I'd like to know.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Easter, 2018

The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed...Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead'...."
(Matt 28:5-7a, The Message)

In the ancient world, the message was this: "Christos anesti; al├ęthos anesti."

In our modern language, the words are different, the message the same: "Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!"

Have a blessed Easter.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Good And The Bad

The weather can't make up its mind. We'd thought about going to the Arboretum to see Dallas Blooms (don't miss it if you're in this part of the country in spring), but it looks like rain all week. And my friends in the northeast are still getting snow and cold weather. Our weather is changeable, but at least we're able to see those changes (and complain about them). It could be worse.

As one of my friends says, each morning that I'm able to get out of bed causes me to give thanks. We look around us and see that so many of our friends have much more serious problems than we have. I work hard not to be envious of those who appear to "have it made," and remember that when we look inside their lives we might be surprised at the problems they face. I've been amazed at times when I see such problems in those whose lives I thought was perfect. That's called "real life," and I'm glad to participate.

As spring rolls on and we approach Easter, what thoughts do you have about all this? I'd love to hear anything you'd like to share.

Oh, and in case you're interested in how my writing is going, I've just been notified that the audio version of my novella, Surgeon's Choice, is now available. I've completed the very last revisions of my novel, Guarded Prognosis, which I'll release this summer. And I'm about half-way through with the third draft of my novella, Emergency Call, which I hope to publish toward the end of the year. As my uncle used to say, "It keeps me off street corners and out of pool halls," so I'll keep writing as long as God allows.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Writing: What About Audio Books?

One area of the writing life that I haven't discussed yet is audio books. I'm no expert in this, but what I know I've learned by experience, and I'll be happy to pass it on. My narrator has just finished recording an audio version of my novella, Surgeon's Choice, so it's fresh in my mind. As for the finished product--well, read to the end to see about that.

When a book is released by a traditional publisher, the decision to turn out an audio version generally rests with that publishing house. This may vary with the individual contract, but that's how it's been for me. Of the ten novels of mine that were published that way, a few were also released in audio form. My share of the royalties comes to me as part of the royalty package for each book. I didn't choose the narrator, nor did I have anything to do with that process. It was automatic. Not so with indie-publishing.

The author holds the copyright on everything that's written, so if he/she is not limited by a contract with a publisher, that person can publish an e-book, a print book, an audio book--any or all of them. I have gone with audio versions of all four novellas I have indie-published. Since ACX pretty much has the market of audio books wrapped up, that's the way I chose to go. If you have an Amazon account, you can sign into ACX.com with that name and password. Then go to the FAQ segment to see how it works for authors--they have a lot of information, and present it better than I can.

Does it cost to do this? Your decision. I chose to do a royalty-sharing contract, which meant no money out of my pocket initially. The income from an audio book hasn't been huge, but it's like an annuity. It keeps paying.

If you choose to pay your narrator up-front, you get the entire royalty for every audio book sold. The average charges for narrators/producers varies but  the range is shown on the ACX site. Another question, by the way, is setting the price of the recording. That's out of your hands, even as an indie author. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad, but at least it's one less decision you have to make.

Choice of a narrator is an important matter. You post your book by listing it on audible,  add a 15 minute test segment for potential narrators to read, then choose one. Sounds simple, but it took me a bit of time and effort to settle on one. After that, you need to listen to every chapter after it's read--you're the only one who can tell if something is mispronounced, for example. This takes a lot of time, but it's worth it.

Of course, during these sessions of listening you find areas you wish you could change--we always do. Hearing the words read aloud is yet another reason to do that with your book before submitting it for printing.

At some point in the process, you have to upload a cover for the book. This is different in format from the print and/or e-book cover, but you can change the dimensions and format to meet the requirements of ACX. Your cover artist may be able to do this. After you accept the final audio book, it takes a few days for the technical aspects to be completed. Then it's posted on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Now, as for the audio version of my novella, Surgeon's Choice, I've just been notified that it is available on Audible, and can be found on the other sites within a day or two. At the "find a book" tab,  enter the title, add my name if you wish, and enjoy.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Writer's Office

The head of the literary agency that represents me commented recently that folks like to look inside "the life of a writer." My initial reaction was, "They'll be disappointed." But the more I thought about it, the more I could see what she meant. So here goes, folks. A look behind the curtain.

This is my office, a space so small that even the mice are hunch-backed. But I like it, because with one swivel of my chair I can turn from my computer, where I do my writing, to my desk, which is where I sign checks, consign waste paper to the recycle container beneath the desk, and scramble through the things that cover the surface.

Note that I have an external monitor (left of the laptop) and external keyboard. Some people do all their work on laptops, as do I. This is handy when I  take a trip (which I'm doing less and less). But I like to have a larger screen and a different keyboard when I work. Thus, the two-screen setup.

Above my desk I have one copy of every book I've had published so far--the picture you see isn't current, because that's now eleven (soon to be twelve) novels, four novellas, and two editions of a non-fiction book. To the right, above my computer, I have a poem by BJ Hoff that I like to look at, especially after winning an award (there are now five or six on my wall to the left). It reminds me of why I write.

"It matters not if the the world has heard, or approves, or understands.
The only applause we're meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands."

That's why my author's notes in many of my books contain the Latin phrase, "Soli Deo Gloria." To God alone be the glory.

Have any questions about this peak into my office? Want to know more or less? Or do you care? Let me know.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Writing: Traditional Contract vs. Indie-Publishing

Friend and fellow author Tosca Lee had information in her latest newsletter that I thought should be passed along to my readers, so with her permission, here it is.

In answer to a question on traditional vs. self-publishing, here's her answer. "It really depends on what your goals are, including how quickly you hope to be published, the quantity you hope to sell, and your personality. The traditional route can take quite a bit longer. But a traditional publisher comes with a marketing and sales team. Self published authors have to be very comfortable putting themselves out there to market and sell themselves. (Either way, you’ll need to do this at least to some extent.) And either way you’ll work hard. Genre, too, can inform this decision. Romance, for instance, works very well for self-published authors."

And with even more information, here's Cindy, whom Tosca calls the "Asylum Warden"for her newsletter:

"Micro-publishing (the trendy term for self-publishing) can be a very attractive option. You get to choose your editors, your cover designer, your title and the timing of your release. In other words, you have lots more control. You will also be paying for those services out of pocket. And you can't skimp! What many writers don't realize is that whether you go the traditional or micro-publishing route, YOU HAVE TO (WORK) TO SELL YOUR BOOK! Unless you are in the elite top five percent of bestselling writers, much of the marketing and engagement with readers will be part of your job. This fact catches many--okay, most--writers by surprise. There are companies that can help you with this. Just make sure you get recommendations, read reviews, and find someone who is legit."

Let me add one more thing to this information. Getting a contract with a publishing company isn't an option many authors have--they aren't offered one. And one or even half a dozen books with that publisher doesn't mean you'll get a contract for more, which is why many authors start out with traditional publishers but switch to hybrid- or indie-publishing

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spring's Here (Well, Most Places)

The calendar says it's just about spring. We've taken the faucet covers off our outside spigots, thinking we're past the threat of a freeze. (Sorry about those of you who live further north. I was told the other day that Minnesota has two seasons--winter and July). Almost every day my wife points out that one flower or another in our beds has bloomed. I nod wisely, just as though I were an agronomist, although I can't really name most of them.

It's just a bit early for bluebonnets to pop up most places, but fortunately I took some photos in the past that help me remember what they look like. Our state flower will be showing up soon, followed by folks who stop their cars at the roadside to take pictures of their children and family members in the midst of the bluebonnets. (It's supposed to be illegal to trample the flower, but I've never seen anyone arrested for it).

My golfing partner and I are trying to remember which end of the club to hold after a long winter's lay-off.  I won't be participating in March Madness (can't get interested in basketball), it will be a while before football season rolls around (and I hope the NFL players decide by then to play what they're getting paid for), but I always get a little thrill when I read the magic phrase, "Pitchers and catchers report." If spring training has started, I move my short sleeve shirts into the front of the closet, because warm weather is just around the corner.

How about you?

Friday, March 09, 2018

Writing: Novel or Novella?

When a writer decides on a central theme for his/her book, it can be developed in 25,000 or 125,000 words. In either case, the author has to develop the characters and theme, answer the question posed by the book, and all the other things that go into writing an unforgettable novel. How does he/she decide on the length of the book? Glad you asked.

The length of a book may be dictated by a contract if the author's work is being published by a traditional publisher. My contracts always specified a length, a time for completion, and many other things. As an indie author, all that is up to me. I have to make a decision, and some of it is based on whether the reading public prefers a novella or a novel.

A novella is shorter, costs less, can be read in fewer sittings. A novel is longer, costs more, and will require more reading time. What I have decided, in my short period as an indie- or hybrid writer is to alternate novels with novellas. I may (and probably will) change this as I see which my readers prefer. And that's where you come in.

So how about you? Once into a book, would you like it to go on for an extended time? Or do you prefer shorter novellas, those that can be read in a day or two? Let me know in the comments. I'd really like to know.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

It's Not A Contest

I still remember standing with my former department chairman and his wife as he and I swapped stories. Of course, no one could ever top Bill. It reminded me of the old Texas saying: "First liar hasn't got a chance." Finally, his wife nudged him and said, "Bill, it's not a contest." She turned and walked away. Before he joined her, I heard him say in a quiet voice, "No, but if it were, I'd win."

I've thought of that several times recently. I was probably at the top of my game when I retired from medicine after 26 years in solo private practice and 10 years as a professor at a prestigious medical center. I'd lectured all over the world, edited or written eight textbooks, had over 100 papers published in professional journals, and--if I do say so myself--was a pretty good in my field of rhinology and allergy.

But then I got to start  over as a retiree who decided to try his hand at non-medical writing. It was years before I got my first fiction contract. There were times when no one seemed to want to buy, publish, or read what I wrote. And although I eventually won some awards for my writing, the valleys were always interspersed with the highs. Had there been low spots in my other profession? If so, time had erased them, but they didn't erase the ones I was now encountering in my "second profession." I found myself competing again, and I was second echelon.

Recently I recalled the words of my former department chairman's wife. "It's not a competition." I realized that I shouldn't be jealous of what others do. As in golf, we compete in life against ourselves, not others. Ideally, we should applaud the successes of our friends and acquaintances, because we're not in competition with them. Hard to do, but I'm going to try. How about you?

Friday, March 02, 2018

Writing: Decisions

One of the things about being an "indie" author (i.e., not having your work released by a traditional publisher) is that you no longer can lean on the expertise of others about which path to take and which actions to choose in order to further your writing career. This must be the way an NFL cornerback feels when facing an All-Pro receiver, especially in one-on-one coverage.

So far as marketing is concerned, I've done fairly well continuing what I've always done. But analyzing trends and directions for the future... I'm like those wizards many years ago who tried to predict the future by animal entrails. Thus far, I've done fairly well, but there's always uncertainty around the next corner.

In a writing loop of which I'm a member, I found this site, and was amazed that it's open--without cost--to any of us. I thought I'd share with you some of the material I've learned recently.

-Sales at brick and mortar stores are slowly shrinking, while Amazon's share goes up. A bit less than half of print book sales are now made via Amazon.

-Audio books represent a small but steadily increasing market. Leaving out textbooks and children's books, 70% of online purchases of adult fiction & nonfiction are ebooks & audiobooks. And the share for ebooks is increasing. The "sweet spots," incidentally, for sales of ebooks are 99 cents and $2.99 to $4.99.

-Does release timing for a new book matter? Less and less for print work, and virtually not at all for ebooks.

There's a lot more to glean from this report, but it represents just one of the resources authors can use to make their decisions. Does it help? Who knows. But, as the saying goes about chicken soup, "It couldn't hurt."

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NOTE: Curious about my early days as a writer, what books I studied, how things went on my road to writing? Check out First Lessons in Kindle format on Amazon.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Interviewed Today

For those of you who are members of the International Thriller Writers, you may already have seen this. Others might not, and I thought you'd be interested in this interview with me that appeared in The Big Thrill magazine.

Oh, and can you catch the one typo that appears in it? By the way, it's not my error.

See you tomorrow with an interesting post about the writing life.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"Get Up And Go..."

I've been retired for over 15 years, and--aside from rare occasions when we have to be up to catch a plane or fulfill an obligation--we haven't use an alarm clock since. We're usually up between 6 and 6:30 in the morning, take our coffee into the living room, and watch the recorded TV news from the night before. (We've found that it rarely changes in that few hours, but just in case, we catch the last part of the morning TV news afterward). Then we're off and running.

But lately, as the saying used to go in the small Texas town where I grew up, "my get up and go has got up and went." My novella was released about six weeks ago. The editor has my revised manuscript for my next novel. I've written about half the novella I hope to publish this winter, in time for Christmas. And I find myself wanting to simply take it easy for a few days. Of course, I still have to write this blog, but after I finish that... Well, we'll see. Usually, something turns up to keep me busy. That seems to be the way things go in "retirement."

See you Friday for something about the writing life...assuming my get-up-and-go returns.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Writing: Book Distribution

I'm far from an expert in this area, but I'm learning...little by little. Here's a question I received right after my first indie-published novel came out--"Why doesn't my local store stock your work?" As is always the case, there are several parts to the answer, but here's what I've learned.

Book stores are profit-oriented. Gasp! Even Christian ones? Yep. And who can blame them? If they don't make a profit, they don't stay open--whether we're talking about a single store or a large chain. When they stock a book, they order from a large distributor, such as Ingram. They buy several copies of the work (it may surprise you how few) at a discounted price, but if those books stay on the shelves for awhile, that's dead space. So what do the book stores do? They return the books. That's why traditional publishing contracts have a clause that allows the publisher to hold back a certain amount of royalties as a reserve against such a return.

Print books are like any other bit of merchandise--some are proven sellers, others are not. Thus, the merchants who stock them are more likely to go with those that are most likely to sell. And, unfortunately, many mid-list authors and quite a few newbies in the publishing industry, fall into the category of also-rans.

Most of us who indie-publish go with Amazon for distribution of our work. The publish-on-demand model allows a print book to go out within a day or two of an order being placed. There's no hold-back for volumes that don't sell, because the customer has already bought it.  My indie-published books, for example, are available in hard copy from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but not other venues. Will that change? It can, but at this point I haven't chosen to invest to make that happen. (More on how that works in another post).

As for e-books, the vast majority of readers use Kindle, and free apps available from Amazon allow reading a Kindle book on a computer or smart phone. Those of us who go with Amazon initially are willing to ignore some of the other versions of e-books for now. And don't forget that you can check at this site to see if a library in your area allows you to "borrow" a book you want to read in e-book or audio format.

There are lots more questions to answer, and I'm not an expert in this area, but I'll attempt to answer them or find someone who can. Just let me hear via the comments.

Tweet with a single click. "Why aren't indie-published books readily available in some book stores?"

SPECIAL NOTE: I've put together selected blog posts from my first couple of years entering the blog-o-sphere, to share what I've learned, some of the trials of the newbie writer, etc. It's available for 99 cents in Kindle format (although a free app from Amazon lets you read it on your phone or computer also). The link is here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Thoughts About Golf (and Life)

For various reasons (including the weather), my golf partner and I haven't gotten out for our usual game for several weeks. However, he recently sent me a long list of golf true-isms, and I thought it would be appropriate to pass a few along. I suspect that even the non-golfers in the audience will appreciate them.

Never wash your ball on the tee of a water hole.
The less skilled the player, the more likely he is to share his ideas about your golf swing.
Confidence completely evaporates in the presence of a water hazard.
(A book I read years ago says it this way: The water hazard, where the golfer feels he must do with a 5-iron what Columbus did with a boat.)
The more your opponent quotes the rules, the greater the certainty that he cheats.
The wind is in your face on 16 of the 18 holes.
You can hit a two-acre fairway 10% of the time and a two-inch branch 90% of the time.
Your straightest iron shot of the day will be exactly one club short.
No matter how far the shaft extends, a ball retriever is always a foot too short to reach the ball.

A ball you can see in the rough from 50 yards away is not yours.

The ball teetering on the edge of the cup and failing to fall (as is illustrated above) is typical of the frustration felt by every golfer at one time or another. But it's not just golf that frustrates us, is it? When things don't go your way, remember the golf shot pictured...things could always be worse.

Have fun, and try not to take things too seriously. Oh, and fill in your divots--even when no one is watching.