Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The More Things Change...

For those who are interested (both of you), the epigram by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr translates loosely as "the more things change, the more they stay the same." I'm not going to argue the original French, or the provenance of the quotation, but simply say that it's flitted across my mind several times in the recent past.

I still remember the first big change in my life. It was when "my pastor," the man whom I'd heard preaching regularly for years, accepted a "call" from our church to another. I couldn't believe my ears. Surely this man had made a mistake. I thought I'd spend the rest of my life hearing Brother Dearing preach, but he was about to leave. I even talked with him, and heard him use such phrases as "God's will." Of course, I eventually accepted his moving on, just as I accepted other changes, some even more significant, in the forthcoming years.

 Things change. Recently, my golf partner moved to a retirement home, and because of weather, advancing age, and several other factors, we've had to put our regular golf games on hold. Maybe we'll resume them, maybe they won't. But I've learned that change is inevitable, and have learned to accept it and make the best of the circumstances.

Since the pandemic began, I've written "at" another book, and I'm about half-way through it. Maybe I'll get it finished, perhaps not. But I'll either persist and get it written, or I won't. Either way, I'll accept the change. Because change will occur, whether we want it to or not. 

How about you? Have you seen any changes in your life? How have you handled them? I'd like to know.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Writing: The First Draft

I've published both contracted and self-published books, both fiction and non-fiction, and both novels and novellas (a distinction that seems artificial). And there's one aspect of all of them that requires writing: the dreaded first draft.

Ann Lamott talks about the "s****y first draft." Jim Bell writes about "writing fast, editing slow." Every author has their own way of doing things (for those that might be interested, I edit each preceding section before writing another, like Al Gansky), but no matter what method you use, it all starts with a first draft.

Lately, I've found myself revising over and over, still not fully satisfied with the premise and the way I express it. I've done this enough that I no longer fear "running out of soap," as one preacher of my acquaintance calls it. But I do want to make certain that every book fulfills two criteria--1) it tells how average people deal with their circumstances, either with God or without Him, and 2) it's the best work I can put my name to. 

But the first step, whether it takes a month or a year, is that first draft. As the refrigerator magnet sent me by my agent says, "First drafts don't have to be good. They just have to be written." What is your opinion?

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Spring Is Here

 Two days after Easter. Here in North Texas it's cool enough in the morning to make the fireplace feel good, and warm enough later in the day to make the air conditioner kick on. (Glad we have the kind of systems that automatically go from one to the other).  But there's no snow or freezing rain, so I'm glad for that.

Watched the Texas Rangers for a bit on Sunday. Just about the time I'd decided that maybe they'd win a game or two this year, realized that MLB--going along with cancel culture and saying that any action that disagrees with them is bad--is going to move their All-Star Game out of Georgia. So switched over to golf, which hasn't (yet) been taken over by the liberals. 

All those things we were putting off until "after Easter" are now due, so it's time to get moving. Is your list long, or have you got it down to a manageable size? Mine has sneaked up on me, so I'll get on it--as soon as I get around to it. How about you?

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Easter, 2021

 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. 

Friday, April 02, 2021

Writing: A "One-Trick Pony"

 It's no secret that I've had problems with turning out a new book since I published my last about a year ago. Fortunately or merely by accident, it was published just before our nation--actually, the entire world--went into lock-down mode during the pandemic. It has more to do with my age and status--I'm retired from medicine--than with my sympathies (if you follow my blog, you know where they lie). Without going into the politics of the matter, let me just say that in the past few weeks I've opened a couple of documents in my laptop and begun work on what should be my next book. Meanwhile, I thought about the advice I often offered to fellow writers who were about to publish their first effort--don't stop there. You may never have another work published, but surely you have another book in you. Put it out there and let the decision rest with someone other than you. Don't be a "one-trick pony."

I have finally come up with the outline (in my head, of course) for what will probably by my next book, and my wife (who reads all my stuff) just today gave me the key to revising an older book on my computer which will be yet another book after that. Of course, all this may change, but for now I'm ready to plunge onward. I don't plan to be a one trick pony in my writing. I've published seventeen or so novels and novellas (not sure, and don't want to count),  and as long as God gives me the ability and the breath, I guess I'll keep on writing. And I hope that the rest of you who have even a spark of creativity will do the same. Let me know.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

"To Protect and Serve"

After consulting several of the writers' groups of which I am a member, I would venture a guess that the phrase, "Life begins after coffee" would serve as a motto for most of us. And for those non-coffee drinkers in the group, perhaps something that involves chocolate, tea, or a caffeinated soft drink would be better. I, although I head (slowly) toward the coffee pot first thing in the morning, have been thinking about another motto--To protect and serve.

Admittedly, my reading lately has moved toward detective stories of various types so I have encountered it a lot, but that motto has come to mean more to me as I apply it to my own life, as well as those whom I know.

Is it our duty as authors to protect those with whom we come in contact? I think that after listening to us or reading what we put into writing (whatever the format) the listener should have no doubt that the ideas we put forth are the result of reasoned logic, not what someone else says, whether it be on the Internet or in conversation. We've all seen examples of The Big Lie, that if told often enough, may be accepted as truth. Let us be spreaders of The Big Truth.

What about serving? Like it or not, we are all setting an example of service--either positive or negative. My wife puts me to shame when she includes in her prayers those in our circle who need God's special touch--for healing, for resolution of circumstances, for help in any way. We can't always serve in a physical way, but when we can, let's not be like those in the parable of the Good Samaritan and "pass by on the other side."

Admittedly, to protect and serve may not be the most popular motto around, but I think it is applicable not only to others, but to ourselves. What do you think?

Friday, March 26, 2021

Writing: Every Word Is Important

 I don't know how you read through a manuscript before subjecting it to print. Some folks read their work aloud. Some go over it, word by word, backwards (I guess if it's in Hebrew you go over it in the other direction). A few simply leave it alone, thinking that autocorrect will straighten everything out. 

I've had something like 17 or 18 novels and novellas published (I don't want to go back and count--that's close enough). Some have been self-published. Others have been published by various publishing houses. All have been subjected to proof-reading to a great or lesser degrees. And there have been errors in almost all of them, errors that slipped by the author and various people whose job was to catch errors.

Don't think that's true? I was just re-reading one of the published works of a novelist whose name would be familiar to many of you, a novel that was published by a reputable publisher and which (I'm sure) was proofread. And I came upon this sentence: "He had back hair that was slicked back upon his head..."  I think the correct wording included BLACK hair--can't see back hair going all the way up on the person's head. But if you leave it to autocorrect to clean up your errors, this will slip by, because "black" and "back" are both accepted words.

So what is an author to do? My suggestion is to accept the fact that sometimes a word slips by that makes a good example on a blog post. What about you?

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Age Is Just A Number

I've made the comment more than once: age is like a roll of toilet paper--the closer to the end, the faster it seems to go.

Yesterday, a blog that I follow talked about "age is just a number." I sagely nodded my head (yesterday, I could node sagely), and found this comment at the end: "... inspired by a comment on our agency’s blog in 2012 by accomplished author Dr. Richard Mabry who stated, “Age is just a number.” Thank you for the inspiration, Doc." Wow. I didn't recall making the comment, but I've said the same thing lots of time...age is just a number.

 I've done lots of things in my life, both in my first profession (medicine) and my second (writing). I've sometimes wondered how I'll be remembered. And I've always come up with this: I'd like to be remembered, as was my father, as a man whose word was good, who never let up on giving his best. If that was how I was remembered (and I hope it's a long way off), I'll be satisfied.

How about you?

Friday, March 19, 2021

Writing: Hard Work, Perseverance, and A Bit Of Luck

I'm a published author! It's hard to realize, sometimes. Of course, it  may not mean as much to me as to some others. I wrote or edited a number of textbooks as well as over 100 articles in refereed journals before retiring from medicine. I still recall when I started my practice that it would be kind of neat to be invited to speak before my county medical society. When I retired from medicine, I had been invited to speak all over the world, written the textbooks and articles I already mentioned, was considered an expert in my area of practice, and in general had gone well beyond the hopes and aspirations I had when I started out. However--I've said this before, and I'll stick by it--the biggest thrill I had during all those years was seeing the expression on the face of a patient I'd helped back to normalcy.

My transition to writing began with the death of my wife, Cynthia. I read just about everything I could get my hands on about then, but couldn't find anything that captured my emotions adequately and gave me hope for the future. So I wrote The Tender Scar, which is at present in its second printing and has helped many others going through what I did. While I was trying to get that published, several people suggested I try my hand at writing fiction. I took up the challenge, and thought after four attempts that gained forty rejections that I'd failed. But then an agent and an editor decided I was worth their efforts, and that was the beginning of my writing "career."

Was it the result of hard work and perseverance? Certainly these played a major role. Several times along the way, I was ready to quit, but God had other plans. Eventually, these came to fruition.

So should you read? Definitely. Study the craft? Certainly. Write, write, write? Every day. Follow the BIC, FOK mantra? Yes, put your behind in your chair, fingers on the keyboard, and keep at it. But do you need to be at the right place in the right time? Yes--and only God knows where and when that is. Meanwhile, if you feel that you have a book inside you, by all means let it come out. The rest really isn't up to you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

What's Next?

 First it was going to be fifteen days to stop the spread of the virus. That morphed into a longer period, but there was hope on the horizon. By my calendar, it's been about a year since we started all this. A number of governors (including the one of my state, Texas) have lifted the restrictions, although many of us, even those who like us are a couple of weeks past getting our immunizations and thus not infectious, will continue to wear masks in stores--mainly for the benefit of those around us. As we transition into normalcy (or what passes for it, anyway), where do you go from here?

I've had a problem writing during all this, and I have found that I'm not alone among my colleagues. But it's time to get back on that horse (figuratively, of course--it's been too many years since I was actually on a horse). Then again, since I'm retired from my first career, medicine, it may be that I should also pack it in for my second career, writing. I guess only time will tell.

Have you decided what you'll be doing as we're freed up from some of our restrictions? Go back to your regular way of life, or start something new? I'd like to hear it.