Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Interesting Rule

In our day to day lives, we all observe rules--sometimes we call them laws, sometimes suggestions, but whatever we call them, they're there to keep our lives orderly. Many of these "rules" we learn in early life as we learn to speak the language, so they are so ingrained that we don't even this about them. Recently I heard about a rule which I've been observing most of my life without realizing it. And I'll bet that you have incorporated it into your speech as well.

I'm told that this rule used to be taught in school, although I don't recall Ms. Billie Casey doing so, and I consider my education to be pretty complete. When describing something in detail, we often observe an order (although we may not realize it). That order is usually opinion, size, shape, color, origin, purpose. So if I ask if you've seen the ugly, oversized, rectangular, dark brown purse it sounds better than pointing out the dark brown, overly-large, rectangular ugly purse. We don't think of the rule. It just sounds right the first way.

Do you agree with this rule? Why, or why not? What other "rules" can you think of that we observe without thinking of them? I'd like to know.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans' Day, 2019

Today is Veterans' Day. It had its beginning as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, commemorating the armistice that was signed to end the first world war--at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year.

Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, and should not be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in military service. I'm proud to have served, and always feel a special thrill when someone recognizes that I'm a veteran and thanks me for my service--even though it was quite a while ago.

We'll fly our flag today, as we do every day. Because brave men and women fought for our right to do so. When you see a veteran today, thank him or her for their service. It will bring a smile to your face and theirs.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Writing: The Ear Knows

Ever see a word or phrase written and immediately think, "That doesn't seem right?" Then, when you say it out loud, you find you're correct. We learn a language by seeing it, by hearing it, and by repeating it. And our ears gradually learn what is correct--and incorrect--grammar. For this, as well as other reasons, the ultimate test of what we've written is, "How does it sound?"

This was brought home to me by listening to a book I have written, as preparation for putting out an audio version. I have to confess that I often write what sounds right in my head, but then when I hear the narrator say it, I think, "You know, I could have expressed that better."

There are many ways to self-edit your book, but the one that most of us skip is probably the most effective one--reading the book aloud. It will often pick up errors in writing that we tend to skim right over when simply looking at the written words.

Authors, have you found reading your manuscript aloud to be helpful? Or, as is the case with some of us, was it too much trouble? Let me know what you think about this technique.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Christmas is A-Comin' (Already?)

Wow, here it is November already--and (no surprise), I haven't done my Christmas shopping. My wife has started, and I'll probably depend on her to guide me through the maze.

Since we have family in Texas (near and not-quite so), Virginia, and Nevada, we'll probably expect them to visit us sometime between Thanksgiving and sometime in 2020, but the days of having everyone together for Christmas are probably gone. But we'll be glad to see them, whenever they come.

How about you? Are you looking forward to shopping? Do you still send Christmas cards? Will you celebrate on one day or a bunch of them? Let me know.

PS (commercial announcement): for those of you who like to give (or receive) books for Christmas, you might want to consult this catalog for ideas. (Hint: Bitter Pill is on p. 23, and the catalog URL is  https://joom.ag/M3Se). If you or a friend are into audio books, there'll soon be an audio version of Bitter Pill.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Writing: Questions For An Author

I thought that perhaps it was time to give you some of the questions and answers that go with the writing business.

How to you get your ideas?

I used to say from “ideas.com” until I found there really is such a site. The truth, as is true for most writers, is that I take the things going on around me and then wonder what happens next. Alternatively, I ask the question Al Gansky taught me: “What if…?” Then I take it from there.

Do you need an agent? How do you find one?

If you want the editor of a publishing house to offer a contract, you'll need a literary agent representing you. Often, we find someone who would be just right as our representative, usually when we meet at a writing conference. If we’re fortunate, we ask them, and they accept. In rare instances, the agent will ask us. All this has been made somewhat moot as more and more writers see the handwriting on the wall about the publishing world and decide to self-publish their work. Do you need an agent then? If you’re not established, yes. An agent will give you advice...and if you're just starting out, you'll need it.

How do you go about getting published?

If they’re offered a contract, I think a writer should carefully consider signing with a publisher. Later they might decide to branch out and become a hybrid author (one who’s work is put out both by a traditional publisher and independently) but having that publisher behind you for the first several books—especially the marketing expertise and “muscle”—is quite helpful. Of course, some people start out "indie-publishing," but that's tough, because much of the time we don't know what we don't know. Confusing? Yep.

Once you “go indie,” do you no longer have to worry about editing the manuscript?

No! No! No! One advantage of self-publication (which no longer carries the stigma it once did) may be that you don’t have to write a synopsis or please an editorial board, but it does not free you from multiple revisions, including hiring an outside editor. This may be for a macro (“big picture”) edit, line editing, and/or proof-reading. It’s important for the indie author to put forth the best possible book. And this means using a professional for editing, as well as cover design and execution.

Aren’t all authors rich?

I suppose if your name is Clancy, or Child, or Rowling, you’re probably able to put food on the table by your writing. For most of us, our royalties are welcome surprises that we receive every three to six months but aren’t nearly enough to support our families or allow us to quit our day jobs. Authors get an advance against royalties, and this has to be earned out before we get a penny of additional royalty money. Some small presses don’t even give advances, so the royalties are bigger—but not huge.  

Other questions? Let me know.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

I'm Back...and The Reason Why I Was Gone

Did you miss me? Actually, I missed (sometimes) the chance the share my thoughts with the two or three of you who read this blog regularly, but I resisted the temptation. I was at my computer some days, but did no writing. I simply read what others wrote on their blogs and Internet posts, agreeing with some and disagreeing with others. I even left comments. But it was freeing not to be responsible for my own posts, even on an infrequent basis.

My wife is the second blessing in my life...most men don't have one wonderful woman in their life, but I've had two. When she said that her heart rhythm had changed to atrial fibrillation (an irregular irregularity, if that makes sense to you--it did to me), we consulted her internist who sent her to an excellent cardiologist. Since then, she's undergone two cardioversions (you've seen them on TV--the doctor puts the paddles on a patient's chest and restarts the heart...sometimes). The conversion to a normal rhythm lasted only a couple of days in each case. Her medication was changed, without benefit. There was another option, and we chose it.

Her main problem was tiredness. It literally hurt me to see her having to sit down and rest after tasks that I took for granted. On the recommendation of her cardiologist, she underwent a cardiac ablation two weeks ago. This involves a general anesthetic, putting electrodes through the femoral veins and into the heart, then electrocauterizing areas that cause the abnormal rhythm. I'm a doctor, which means I know all the bad things that can happen...including death.

Fortunately, the procedure worked without complications. She even feels good enough to start work on the initial edit of my next book. We're not out of the woods, but getting there. And I'll be posting again twice a week. I invite you to come along. I'll try to make it fun.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Back in a Bit

I'll be absent from this space for a couple of weeks. Lest you be concerned, it has nothing to do with my health (except that I'm getting more "mature" every day, but aren't we all?), and there's no crisis at home (except the fact that everyone seems to think that, since I'm a writer, I have all the time I need for other things). No, I'm simply going to take a couple of weeks off.

Have I quit writing? Not at all. I've published my latest novella, Bitter Pill, and the response has been gratifying. Soon I'll be able to announce the audio version of this one. I've finished the draft (I edit as I go, unlike some authors) of my full -length novel, working title Critical Decision. After more editing and revisions, and with a wonderful cover designed by Dineen Miller, I plan to release it after the first of the year. I'm considering what's next, but right now I thought it was time to slow down for a bit, so that's what I'm going to do.

If everything goes as planned, I'll be back on October 29 (two weeks from now). See you then.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Writing: Get The Reader's Attention

I've finished the first draft (including lots of editing along the way) of my next novel, working title Critical Decision. While I wait for a macro edit, I've arranged for a cover and for later a line edit and proof-reading. And I'm kicking around a few openings for my next one.

I try to catch the reader's attention in the first scene, ideally in the first page or two, in order to keep them reading. Of course, I write medical mysteries or thrillers (I've written elsewhere about the difference, although it seems to me to be an artificial distinction), so that doubles the necessity to catch the attention of the person looking at the first page. Here's one I came up with while "doodling" on the computer. What do you think?

The hand holding the pistol was steady as a rock, aiming at her chest. The trigger finger was so tense that the knuckles of that digit were white. There was no chance of missing at this range. One squeeze and it was over.
She reviewed her options and found she had nowhere to go from here. This might be the end. She wondered idly if she’d hear the gunshot that killed her.
“Any final words?”
Then, the cell phone in her pocket began to vibrate. At first, she ignored it, but finally she heaved a sigh, turned from the computer, and pulled the instrument from her pocket. As she feared, the call was from her sister. 
“Patricia, I hope this is important.” Actually, she was glad for the interruption. Maybe a way out of the situation she’d gotten her heroine into would come to her. She was barren of ideas right now. 
“It’s Mom. She’s gone by ambulance to the hospital. They think it may be a heart attack. I’ll meet you there.” And she was gone.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Talk Among Yourselves

I've got a bunch of things to do today--and I let this time slip past me (again). Sorry about that. I'll be back on Friday with a post about "the writing life," but for today, I'll have to pass.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Writing: Is An Editor Important?

It's hard to get used to calling myself a "hybrid" author. Such a strange term--like I'm half-man, half-beast or something. What it really means, of course, is that I've had books published by royalty-paying publishers and self-published (or "indie," for independent) books.  As an author who has indie-published, a question I'm often asked is, "If you publish a manuscript independently, is it necessary to employ an editor?" That's a valid question. After all, you've written what you consider the greatest book in the world (well, maybe not the greatest--but you think it's ready to publish). Why spend the money on an editor?

I asked a number of multi-published authors this question: "Do you use an editor, even when you're going to indie publish the manuscript." The response was unanimous. "Yes." I got comments like "I wouldn’t dream of publishing without having the manuscript edited first!" and "I'd never think of publishing something that's not professionally edited". Someone whom I respect in the publishing field and who now publishes only independently uses a person whose judgment they trust as a beta-reader and for developmental editing, then uses an outside editor for copy-editing and proof-reading. Incidentally, I do the same.

So, there you have it. It's not a large series, but I think it's indicative of what authors feel and do. Don't fail to use a professional editor (and the same goes for cover design), even when you publish independently. You'll be glad you spent the money. 

What are your thoughts on the subject?