Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Thanksgiving, 2021


Are you ready? Well, ready or not, Thanksgiving is two days away. It's different, this year. We may not be able to gather as we usually do, the "feast" may cost more, lots of things are different. But despite the changed situation, we can still find things for which we are thankful. When I looked out this morning, I saw the American flag flying, as it always has, from the stanchion attached to the front of our house. There may come a time when we can no longer fly our flag, but until that day, Old Glory will be displayed daily, symbol of the freedom we enjoy.

Our Thanksgiving Day meal may be a bit different, but we'll still eat it in gratitude--gratitude for our family (near and far), gratitude for enough and more when there's so much want around us, gratitude for the freedoms we take for granted. The political climate, the changes necessary because of the "plague" that still exists, the situation in general--all these things affect us, but we can still find things for which to be grateful. I hope the same applies to you all.

Enjoy your holiday. See you next week.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Writing: Indie vs Traditional Publishing


You'd think that the process of waiting for a writer is over once they either hook up with a publisher or decide to "go indie." In the former process, you'd imagine that every step would be planned out, and all you have to do is wait for the money to roll in. In the latter, the author merely relaxes and lets the process take over. In both cases--wrong!

We're all aware of the time frame for the average novel published by a traditional publisher--from the time of signing the first contract, it may be anywhere from 12 months or more--lots more--until an author can hold the finished product in his hand. And, when you become aware of everything involved in the publishing process, it's understandable. But, you think, it has to be different when you're at the wheel of the indie process. Well, yes and no. It goes faster, but every decision is up to you--and when (as you should) you choose to get a professional involved for cover design, editing, and other functions--you are the one who does the choosing. 

Meanwhile, of course, you should be working on the next novel. And the one after that. And so forth.

Note: I thought I was through writing, but my wife thought otherwise, and--as usual--she might be right. I'm in the last phase of preparing a novella for publication. My time table is for it to be released after the first of the year (to take advantage of all the Amazon gift cards to be given). Details will be released soon--first on my newsletter, and later on this blog. Meanwhile, enjoy your preparations for the holidays.  

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Veterans Day, 2021


 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--even after the election results a year ago. 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.

I'll skip tomorrow, and see you next week.

 

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Cell Phones: Blessing Or Curse?


One of our favorite shows (yes, we record and watch them) features our beloved obsessive-compulsive detective who loves to say, about his gift, "It's a blessing...and a curse." More than once I've said that same thing about our electronics--especially the cell phones. 

I hate seeing someone in a conversation with others who has one eye on his/her cell phone. And seeing a couple in a restaurant--together supposedly but each checking their cell phone phone and never paying attention to the other--now, that practically brings me to tears.

Admittedly, I'm sort of a Luddite in this regard anyway. I use my cell phone to make and receive calls, and occasionally get a text (besides the political ones, which I usually delete, and the ones from my spouse, which I do NOT ignore). My wife, on the other hand, is often on her cell phone while listening to TV or crocheting or otherwise occupied, doing at least two things at once and sometimes more than that. I can't do it, so it's sort of difficult to see others divide their attention. 

And if you want to see how dependent we are on our cell phones, just try doing without them for a few hours, much less a day or more. Nothing brings us to our knees like finding that the Internet is down. Maybe it's just me. Don't know. Am I alone in this, or do you sympathize with me? Let me know.

Friday, November 05, 2021

Writing: Setting The Stage

As I began thinking about what to write on Friday, I thought about character descriptions. Does your heroine have brown eyes, or blue, or green, or hazel? And does it matter? The old trick of looking in the mirror and telling the reader about hair color and style, and all the rest of it, may work once--but not much after that.

I just received an advance copy of Patricia Bradley's latest, and she does a good job of describing her main characters to the reader in the first couple of chapters--as well as telling us who they are and what they do at the onset. Which brings up another point. The reader may not have read the books that precede this one in the series, so it's incumbent of the author to "catch them up," without revealing the entire plot of what's gone before. (By the way, I'm looking forward to reading more by Patricia--so far, so good.)

Of course, if you've chosen to write free-standing books (as I have), you'll need to set the stage for your reader in every one--occupation, quirks, the whole works. So you have that to look forward to with each of  your books

So, my advice is to set the stage carefully, and in the first couple of chapters if possible. Is this important to you? What do you want to know? What don't you care about? Let me know.

PS--don't forget to set your clocks BACK one hour at bedtime Saturday, and enjoy the extra hour we get back.


Tuesday, November 02, 2021

November (already)

 It seemed that, here in Texas at least, we went from summer to fall almost overnight. Suddenly (it seems), we're into the last two months of the year. Say good-bye (and good riddance) to Daylight Saving Time. The State Fair of Texas has come and gone already. The World Series will wind down soon, the football schedule is half-way over,  and they're already talking about the Winter Olympics. (Whether the US should participate in that is a topic for another time, although I have my opinion there).

For those who've been curious, my corner of North Texas celebrated Halloween in its own way on Sunday evening, and we had a few--actually, a very few--small children going trick-or-treating around our neighborhood in the twilight hours. Then, whether the grown-ups gathered around TV sets to watch the Cowboys or World Series or just to rest before the upcoming Monday, it was all over.

Oh, and if it hasn't hit you yet, Christmas is just around the corner--again. What happened to the rest of the calendar? Are you ready? That's what I thought.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Writing: Advice

 Wow. I looked at the publication date of my first published novel, and remembered the years (yes, years) that preceded it. As you know, if you've followed along, I got into this writing thing after the death of my first wife, and before I got my first novel's contract, I had a non-fiction book, The Tender Scar, published by an equity publisher--and it's still going, through its second edition now. Since then, I've had a number of novels and novellas appear in print. And along the road, I've received a lot of advice. Some of it was helpful, some not. 

For example, many people have said, "I've got an idea for a book," or "You should write a book about..." Although I've tried to behave toward those people like my Sunday School teacher would like, what I'd really like to tell them is that an author has lots of ideas. The trick is to turn them into a full-fledged novel. Try that sometime.

Which led me to ask you this: What is the best (or worst) advice you have been given, or (if you don't want to play that game) what advice would you like to give an author? I can hardly wait for your responses.  

PS--for those who've been waiting, I just finished the re-re-re-editing process for my next novel (well, a novella) and sent it off. I'll let you know as the drama unfolds. 


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Halloween

We've done some decorating for fall, although (with the air conditioner running some afternoons) it doesn't feel like it. Around our neighborhood, there's some question as to whether the trick-or-treating is going to happen on Saturday or Sunday. (Yes, we're about to reach the end of October already). Actually, I don't know when to expect it, if at all. For instance, many churches, neighborhoods, and other groups are holding "trunk or treat" at various times this month.

Then, there's also the big question. What if the doorbell rings at a critical point in the Cowboy game, which is scheduled for that Sunday evening? I'll be interested to hear how you plan to handle it. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Writing: character names

As authors, we're encouraged to either use a fresh set of characters in our next story, or if we insist in using the same names in our next book, using copious notes to avoid tripping ourselves up along the way.

Ross Thomas gives a police chief an excellent name (Oscar Ploughman) but then sets a man with the same name in the same character in a different book with a totally different background. I'm willing to forgive these missteps, mainly because of the writing that Thomas does, but they show how he ignores the "rules" that authors are given. It shows me that rules aren't a guarantee of success in a book--good writing overcomes slavishly following the rules. Every time.

I know of one best-selling author who admits to hating research, and his lack of medical knowledge (or even that gleaned from a simple Internet search) shows it. Yet I forgive him because his books are so good. Have you found errors and ignoring rules in the works of some authors?  And are you willing to give those breaches because the writing is so good?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Scattershooting

 When you're as old as I am, maybe you'll recall the column in the Ft. Worth Press (long gone now) written by Blackie Sherrod. Sometimes when he had a few lines he wanted to pass along to his readers, he entitled his column, "Scattershooting, While Wondering..." Sometimes the end of the title was worthwhile, sometimes not, but it was always worth the effort to read his musings.

Don't know whether it was really a function of my wife wanting me to write some more, or her desire to have me doing something between breakfast and lunch, but I've done it. I've written it, edited it (several times), given heed to editorial suggestions made about it, done one final edit, and now I'm getting ready to pull the trigger. More info as the process continues.

Hate to admit it, but now that the Dallas Cowboys are 5 and 1, I have to think that maybe they're for real. We'll see as things progress.

We're fully vaccinated and eligible to get a booster shot if we wish. Meanwhile, we're going to go get our flu shots. Hope you all stay healthy this fall and winter.

More about writing and publishing on Friday. Let me know if there's something you're really wanting to know. Otherwise, I may have to do another "scatter shooting" column, and we don't want that, do we?