Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Speaking Of Weather...

...we've had rain, high winds, lightning, and a few tornadoes every Sunday night for at least three straight weeks. We've also had enough rain on Wednesdays that my golf partner and I have been unable to play. We did get in some golf this past week, but played "cart path only" (which ranks right up there with a high colonic in my pantheon of pleasures).

Of course, in a few weeks we'll be longing for some of that rain as we look at our water bills and the grass on our lawns. We're never satisfied, are we?

It reminds me of what I've often been quoted as saying when I consider my age. "I'm not as young as I once was...and probably never was."'

The grass is always greener, isn't it? What's sending you looking over the fence at the grass on the other side today?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Writing: Starting With The Weather

Too many writers read various "rules," and try to make their writing conform to it. I'm thinking now of the "rules" of  Elmore Leonard, starting with this one: "Don't start a book with the weather." That may be good advice in most cases, but let me remind you that Madilyn L'Engle started her award-winning novel, A Wrinkle In Time, with the often-quoted line (frequently the subject of many jokes), "It was a dark and stormy night." I honestly don't know whether L'Engle just didn't care, or simply chose it because it worked. In either case, I have to say she came out ahead.

Would I start a novel with something about the weather? I might--if it worked into the plot and set the scene. But I'd try to make it something that would encourage the reader to keep going past the first paragraph or first page. Let me give you an example. Would you keep reading a novel that began in this way?

He switched the windshield wipers from intermittent to slow to fast as the rain grew steadily worse and sky darkened until his field of vision was confined to what was illuminated by his headlights. Parker strained to avoid missing his turn-off as he guided the car toward the Cutter mansion. He spared a glance at the dashboard clock. He was cutting it awfully thin, and he knew Cutter would be angry if he was late. Perhaps the weather was an omen of what was coming. But, good or bad, he needed to make the meeting. Whatever came after that... Well, he'd just see.

I not only started with the weather. I incorporated the rainstorm and darkening skies into the plot. We don't know what's around the bend, but it sounds bad.

So, what do you think?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Ever wonder what goes on behind your favorite author's work? Honestly, neither did I. Like most of you, when I'm not reading to gather facts, I read  in order to lose myself for a short time in the world crafted by a talented novelist. But I came on something recently that set me thinking about the person behind the words.

Like many of you, I've enjoyed the work of Agatha Christie. I still recall the time when I was alone in the BOQ of Lajes Field, waiting for the eventual arrival of my wife and small son, who were separated from me by an ocean. I decided to read a book to help pass the time, and ended up staying up all night to finish Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. Many of us have enjoyed her mysteries, but did you realize that she was often in the midst of depression, that she once disappeared for almost two weeks, and that her marriage was anything but happy? Neither did I.

Poe was said to be an addict. Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway, among others, committed suicide.  We never know what tortured lives are behind the words we enjoy. By the way, lest you worry about me (if you were going to), although I have the usual problems that beset all of us, I haven't reached the stage yet where you have to be concerned about me.

Would it help or hurt your enjoyment of books to know the circumstances of their authors?

Friday, June 14, 2019

Writing: A Writer's Oath?

When I received my MD degree, we didn't take the Hippocratic Oath. Even as far back as that time, we didn't  use that particular oath. We didn't swear by a number of pagan gods "not to cut for the stone" and similar things. Rather, what we took was a doctor's oath--one that bound us, for example, to "respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps we walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is ours with those who are to follow." There were other things that we committed ourselves to--things like putting the patient's welfare first, and being honest in our dealings. I daresay that none of us recalls the exact words of that oath, but all--at least most--of us tried to practice by those principles.

Should writers commit themselves to a similar oath? I was curious, so I did what most of us have learned to do: a Google search. And I found that Gail Carson Levine penned a simple oath for writers, one that I think bears passing on. Simply put, she commits to 1. writing as often and as much as possible, 2. respecting herself as a writer, and 3. nurturing the writing of others. That's it. In thinking the situation through, I'm not certain what--if anything--I'd add. What about you?

NOTE: Read this interview with Lena Dooley, leave a comment, and be entered for a chance to win a copy of Bitter Pill. As I recall, this is your last chance for a "freebie."

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Why Is A Celebrity An Expert?

I heard yesterday that one of the political candidates changed his stance on an issue, ostensibly because of an opinion voiced by a television celebrity. And that set me to thinking. No, this isn't going to be a political diatribe. Not that I don't have an opinion on this and similar subjects. Rather, it's because I happen to think that celebrities--sports figures, actors, musicians, even authors--don't have any more insight than I do about the things of the world. So why should the average American think that these opinions count more than Joe Six-Pack (or Jill Coke, if you prefer)?

If you think back to the last political campaign, you'll recall that movie and TV "stars" voiced their opinions--some rather loudly--about the issues and candidates. I don't recall why, but there was certainly no doubt which side of the fence they came down on. The next time you hear one of those famous voices calling for this or that, ask yourself one question. "What do they know that I don't?" If you find that for some reason they are  more knowledgeable than you, listen to what they have to say. Otherwise, think for yourself. I highly recommend it.

Feel free to leave your comments. I'm interested in your thoughts.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Writing: Punctuation For The Newbie

So you think you'll write a book. You're fluent in English. You know how to put the words together. And if you make a mistake, the editor will correct it for you. Right? Well, maybe, but it helps if you start off with an idea of what a manuscript should look like.

To begin with, double space the manuscript, using 12 point Times New Roman type. I've often wondered what would happen if you submitted something that's single-spaced, with justified margins (instead of the usual staggered ones) written in an unusual type face like Lucida. If your manuscript is the next Purpose Filled Life or The Shack, I suspect the agent or editor would overlook your failure to follow the rules. But, why take a chance?

How about that series of little dots that shows a trailing off of thought. These are called "ellipses," and there are three dots--not two or four. If you want to show the interruption of a thought or sentence, you'd use a series of dashes for that purpose. There are two of these--the "em dash" and "en dash." I can never remember which is which, and when they're used, but I know that if I hit the hyphen key twice, the result is a nice little dash (whichever one it is) and I can move on. So far, it's worked.

Wonder what a "pilcrow" is? It's the funny little symbol that is used to designate a paragraph. You'll probably never have to use the word, or even put in the symbol in your manuscript  (it's not typed, usually). But know what it is if someone like an editor adds it to your submission. Besides, think how cool it will be to slip the word "pilcrow" into your conversation. You'd really sound like a writer.

Of course, there are lots of other things a writer learns, but if you start out with your manuscript in the proper format and know some of the basics of things you'll use, you've got a leg up on the people who have no idea how to write a manuscript. Then, it becomes easier to say "I'm a writer," and mean it.


NOTE: I've posted at Seekerville yesterday and Suspense Sisters today. Drop over to read the blog post and interview, leaving a comment both places for a chance to win a copy of Bitter Pill.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Summer's Here

As I look down where our street dead-ends into the second green of a local golf course,  I see golfers coming out, like the swallows returning to Capistrano. When I watched the Memorial Tournament,  hosted by Jack Nicklaus, I remarked on how verdant the fairways and greens looked, how lush (and punishing) was the thicker grass that marked the areas where the shots of even the pros sometimes landed.

I watched the end of the baseball game Sunday afternoon and saw the Rangers win one. Who cares if they're quite a ways behind the Houston Astros? They're in second place and the season is well underway. Some folks are wanting their team to go to the Series, I am just happy with a team that's above .500.

The Dallas Cowboys are going through "organized team activities," which is a far cry from actual football. But exhibition football takes place in just a few months, and after that, the games actually count.

School's out. What does the summer hold for you all? For me, it means a chance to try out the "new" irons I've acquired--if only they came with a guarantee that they'd hit the ball longer and straighter. Let me know what you have planned. Have fun.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Writing: Releasing A New Book

As always seems to happen since I've started doing this "indie" (independent, as opposed to part of a contract with a traditional publisher), the process of releasing a new book didn't run totally smoothly. Oh, it wasn't all that bad--just a technical glitch with the cover size that slowed down the appearance of the print version of the novella, Bitter Pill, and by the time this post appears that should be taken care of. Then I'll have to go in and join the Kindle and print versions to give the readers a chance to get their desired format. But it's one more thing that authors who are publishing via a traditional publisher don't even worry about. On the other hand, I control the process from start to finish, and don't have to answer to anyone or anything. It's a trade-off, and it's worth it...sometimes.

When I released my first book, I was extremely nervous about it. I had a big party at a local bookstore (which has, incidentally, gone out of business now), and was sort of distraught when I didn't draw a crowd of hundreds. However, I relaxed a bit when a bookstore employee whispered to me that a famous author had a book release party there that drew even fewer people. Later, when I was privileged to assist one of our better-known Christian authors in a signing, I noticed that her crowd was also on the small side. So, lately I've just let a novel or novella release, thinking that it either would or would not be successful. After all, ultimately the effectiveness of the book isn't up to me. Do you agree?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Release Day

Tomorrow (or maybe today--Amazon sometimes does that) is the official release day for my novella, Bitter Pill. It may take a day or two for Amazon to link the Kindle and print versions, but I trust you'll eventually get it in whatever format you desire. This one has lived on my computer, in various forms, for several years. Finally, with lots of help along the way, I think it's reached a form you'll like. Let me know. And thanks.

If you need any encouragement, here's part of a long review from Carrie Schmidt (Reading Is My Superpower):
"Thoughtfully merging faith, suspense, and medicine in a plot that’s difficult to put down involving characters you’ll become emotionally invested in, Bitter Pill is exactly what we expect from this author."  (BTW, a randomly chosen commenter at that site will win a signed copy of the novella--and, as always, if the winner has already ordered one, I'll give an Amazon gift card).

Friday, May 24, 2019

Memorial Day, 2019

I know today is supposed to be about writing, but I think we need to recognize the forthcoming holiday. Monday is Memorial Day, an American holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It started out as Decoration Day, and originated in the years following the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Most people are ready for a long weekend. But there's a good deal of misinformation about Memorial Day. It is not a day for honoring those who previously served or are actively serving in our armed forces--there are other holidays for that, most typically Veterans' Day (formerly Armistice Day). And, although mattress and tire sales have seemed to come around on this three-day holiday, that's not what we celebrate. It's for honoring the gift given to all of us by those who didn't come home.

Take a moment and remember the men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice. And remember--Freedom isn't free. All gave some. Some gave all. 

NOTE: This will be your last opportunity to take advantage of the pre-publication price on the Kindle version of my new novella, Bitter Pill. If everything lines up just right, it will be available on Tuesday, May 29--but at the regular price. (Print version can be ordered then, as well as the Kindle).