Friday, April 19, 2019

Easter 2019

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, April 16, 2019

My Day...

I was looking through the archives of this blog, and decided that perhaps you'd be interested in what I posted a year ago. As it turned out, I wrote about a typical day. It's changed a bit since 2018, but not a lot, I guess.

First, I've found that one of the changes 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 for me. Every day I wake up when the coffee starts to perk (I set it the night before...unless I forget). So, about 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 sometimes compose one or more of my own blog posts. Mid-morning we have some of 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. But sometimes (don't tell!!), I take a nap. Dinner usually is taken at home, although sometimes it involves eating out. If we're at home, we watch some of the recorded programs we've picked up on our TV. (Don't let my kids know that we eat in front of the TV set). We usually end up with one or more shows that give us their "take" on the news of the day. (I won't say which ones, but if you've followed my posts you probably have an idea about my political leanings).

That's a typical day for me. 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 may be what Lawrence Block calls a "Sunday writer." Nevertheless, I manage to keep things going, and have never missed a deadline--even those I set for myself.

What did you think a writer's day was like? Were you surprised? 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Writing: Kindle Countdown

Note: the process outlined below didn't go as smoothly as I'd like, because the special offer wasn't up at the hour it was supposed to start,  but it wasn't long before it was moving along. Maybe I shouldn't have sent out the info in my newsletter so quickly.

One of the advantages of indie-publication is the ability to use the Kindle countdown. For those who like to read their e-books on Kindle, this is an opportunity to get them at a reduced price. In my case, in order to introduce individuals who might not have downloaded my novellas in the past, I've arranged to schedule Kindle countdowns for two of them. If you have already read these, but know someone who hasn't and who might enjoy them, please pass on this information. (These are Kindle prices, and don't affect the print or audio versions of the novellas).

Surgeon's Choice: 99 cents from April 11-13 (starting at 8 AM PDT)
                             $1.99 from April 14-17
                             back to regular price on April 18

The count-down for Doctor's Dilemma will start on April 25. Same format and prices.


Tuesday, April 09, 2019

"It is not the critic who counts..."

On social media the other day, another writer posted a quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I thought was very appropriate--not only for authors who are rejected, but for everyone facing a difficult situation. I've heard it a couple of times on the TV show, Blue Bloods, because the man who said it was not only a President of the US, but also the first Police Commissioner of New York. And, lest you wonder why I chose the picture to the left, the Teddy Bear was named for him.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming... Who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

This, of course, is from Theodore Roosevelt. Whatever you think of his politics, the way he lived his life, this philosophy would serve all of us well. Failure is not trying to do something and failing. It's not trying at all.

What do you think?

Friday, April 05, 2019

Writing: Chekhov's Gun

Most writers are familiar with "Chekhov's gun." It's a principle that says that if a gun appears in act I, it should be fired in act II. If not, don't put it there.

Was Chekhov simply talking about a gun? Or does this principle apply to other things in the manuscript? What's the difference between a "red herring" that's inserted to lead the reader toward a false conclusion and a true "clue" that's dropped unobtrusively into the story that plays an important part in solving the mystery. Is one of these a Chekhov's gun?

Of course, all this primarily involves books that contain a mystery of some sort. Since what I write usually contains something that has to be determined--the identity of the antagonist, the reason for an action, etc.--I have to face this dilemma as I plot every book I write. 

In my very first published novel, Code Blue, I casually mention the presence of a mortar and pestle (instruments found in every early pharmacy) in a drug store. Later, this turns out to be an important clue in the solution of "whodunit." There's no gun involved, but I like to think this is an example of "Chekhov's gun." 

Look at the book you're reading (or writing). Does it have an example of Chekhov's gun in it? Should it? You tell me.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

What Happened To My Little Town?

My wife and I were commenting this weekend on how our suburban area has grown. We were going down one of the major thoroughfares and she commented that it used to be a two-lane, country road, but now it's a divided roadway. I was curious, so I decided to check and see exactly how this "little" north Texas community has grown over the last several years.

Its population was listed as about 35,000 as we began this century.  In less than 20 years, the population has grown to five times that. Part of this boom can be explained by the moving of headquarters of some large companies to this area, part probably followed the building of a work-out facility and headquarters for a major sports franchise, and a good bit of the change has to do with the general growth of the entire area.

I realize that nothing ever stays static, including the size of a suburb. We're not land-locked, and there's lots of room for expansion. I'd certainly rather see us get larger rather than smaller. But it's still something of a shock to visualize the changes going on around us.

As my hero, obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk, used to say, "I don't mind change. I just don't like to be around when it's happening."

What about you? Do you agree that change is inevitable? What changes have you seen? And are they good or bad?

Friday, March 29, 2019

Writing: Sick Of Your Book

Ah, yes. An author only has to work a few hours a day, and not every day if something appeals more. Just let those words flow from your brain to the keyboard, then sit back and collect royalties. And if you think that's what an author's life if like, let's talk about some ocean-front property in Arizona I'd like to sell you.

Authors, when asked, will tell you that they rarely re-read a book once it's written and published. Why? Read on and see.

With rare exceptions, authors don't write books in one draft. A writer goes through several revisions of a book, anywhere from a few to a bunch, and at some time they look at what they've written and think, "I'm sick of this."

For my next novella, Bitter Pill, coming out in another two or three months, I've used two editors. The first did a macro-edit, and I had to revise and rewrite several sections a number of times until she was satisfied. Then another editor did a line edit, which means going through the manuscript another time to accept or reject the changes (plus adding or subtracting a word here or there on looking once more at it). When I get the clean copy back, I'll look at it once more before sending it off for publication.

Since there is a small but significant minority who prefer to listen to these books rather than read them, I'll choose a narrator for the audio version. This means reading--and hearing--the book one more time. As I've said before, I choose to listen to every word the narrator speaks, making sure it's pronounced correctly. This may not be necessary for every writer, but in my case I think it's important that words like "adenocarcinoma" come out right.

The upshot of this? At some time or other, in going over a manuscript for what seems like the dozenth time, most of us say--either to ourselves or out loud--"I'm sick of this book." Then again, we hope you like the finished product. If you do, we forget our initial reaction to those words. It will be worth it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Spring Is Here

The "official" first day of spring has finally come. In Texas, weekends will find people putting their children among the roadside bluebonnets for pictures, many of which will go out on Easter.

The Dallas Arboretum will feature Dallas Blooms, a spectacle well worth taking in.

Spring training in baseball will give way to the opening day festivities. Until then, the Texas Rangers (and every other team) will be undefeated.

My golf partner and I will (hopefully) finally be able to get our golf clubs out and start  playing, no longer shut out by rain, cold, respiratory infections, and other factors.

It's spring. It's time to celebrate the world we've been given. What are you going to do about it?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Writing: What Genre Is Your Book?

The question keeps coming up: How would you classify your books? What's their genre? And, as the song goes, "Here I am, stuck in the middle."

What I write is medical mysteries with a heart--that is, a bit of romance...usually. I've looked at my novels and novellas and discovered one or two that don't fit that description, but by and large what I write does. Sometimes the medical aspect is prominent. Sometimes the romance is more evident. And once of twice I've had co-protagonists who are already married and the romance is pretty understated. So what's the genre?

I've wrestled with this before, and as I get more confident (with twelve novels and five--soon to be six--novellas under my belt) I've finally decided that people will either like or dislike my writing, no matter the genre it falls under. So I publish them and let the chips fall where they may. But, then again, I'm indie-publishing. It gets more difficult if you're trying to get a contract with a traditional publisher, because it's more important that your book can be placed in a specific category.

What should an author do if he/she produces a book that doesn't fit into one of the usual categories? If they're a newbie, trying to break in, I'd suggest that they see if their work comes closest to fitting into one of the usual genres, and put it there. If they have several books to their credit and want to branch out, then so be it. But that's just my opinion.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

To Whom Shall We Turn?

No, this isn't a political piece--although I have my ideas about the process and the people involved. It's about modern-day reporting, and it was triggered by these lines from a book I'm reading.

"Just what I read in the papers, and if you've ever been involved in anything the papers wrote up, you know better than to trust them."

I have been a lifelong subscriber to our local newspaper (although I now get it in e-newspaper form). I watch news on the major channels, both broadcast and cable. I stay abreast of events in the world, our nation's capital, and those in our state. And I make up my own mind, rather than letting the talking heads give me their interpretation of events. But it's getting more difficult each day to do that.

When I was young (read, "When the earth's crust was cooling..."), journalists were taught to independently verify their facts from two sources before reporting them. Somehow, this has fallen by the wayside. Reporting of facts has given way to opinion. Some of what we read--perhaps most of it --is either frank opinion or slanted in a particular way. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to draw one's own conclusions.

What do we do amidst all this confusing material? I lean on words written long ago, words recorded in John 6:68. I recommend these to all of us, especially now.