Friday, August 17, 2018

Writing: Light At The End Of The Tunnel

When I was an intern (now we'd call it the first post-graduate year), I did a number of "rotations" on various services and wards. When I'd finished three months in one place I moved on to another. But first I had to write off-service notes on each patient I was currently caring for, to allow the physician who came behind me to pick up where I left off. There were times when I was glad to move on, others that I hated to see end. The off-service notes marked a time of transition. Sometimes I was sorry to write them. At other times, I was glad.

One of the first things I realized when I finished my medical training was that there are no off-service notes in life. What we started, we had to finish. Sometimes this was pleasant to do, but at other times it would have been so nice to walk away and let someone else take up the struggle we'd started. And when I transitioned from medical practice to writing, I found that the same thing was true. There are no off-service notes here. There is, however, the option to quit. And many authors have done this.

In case you're wondering, I'm not quitting. My "going indie" has given me the freedom to set my own schedule, and although I'll publish two novellas and a novel in 2017, next year I'm going to limit my writing to one full-length novel. That's the light at the end of my tunnel. (And in case you're wondering about the second novella for 2017, Emergency Case will be out late this year--watch for it).

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Our Electronic Age

I still remember my folks sitting in their car on the courthouse square in our small town, their windows rolled down, conversation ceasing as the vote tally was read out on election evening. Sometimes the final total wasn't available for days. But that's how we learned in those days.

We got our news from the paper printed in a nearby large city, and caught up on local happenings when our weekly local paper came out. Radio newscasters provided headlines, and when TV came along, we could not only hear about events but see clips that showed them. We marveled at the progress we were seeing. But that was just the beginning.

Now, we have so many channels available to us that even after having a satellite TV connection for an extended time, we still are sometimes surprised to find one we didn't know was available to us. And, the next time you're in a restaurant, look around and see how many of your fellow diners are staring at their iPhones, rather than their dining companions. And, if you've got a strong heart, see how many of your fellow drivers are texting while they navigate city streets.

This is the age of electronic communications. Have a question? "Google it." Wonder whether a friend has gotten back from a trip? Send a text. Want an opinion on something in the news? Read the opinion page of a newspaper (online, of course) or listen to a commentator on your favorite network. And when our Internet goes out, we consider it a disaster of major proportions.

Have we advanced? In some ways--certainly. In others--I'm not certain. What do you think?

Note: The International Thriller Writers organization has asked a number of their authors to chime in to tell whether they write "from the seat of the pants" or use a plot. I'm honored to be one of the authors asked to respond. Read the comments here.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Writing: How Long?

I released my latest novel, Guarded Prognosis, on July 17. I'm glad to see it's been well-received (all 5-star reviews on Amazon so far, and the readers seem to like it). This makes twelve novels and four novellas so far--not bad for a kid from a small Texas town, retired (sort of) from the practice of medicine, who never thought about writing. But with some degree of success comes problems.

Since starting to indie-publish my work, I've settled into a routine of one novel, followed by one novella, followed by another novel, etc. One of my readers has already noticed that I intend to publish another novella, Emergency Case, toward the end of this year, and he's asked when I'll release the cover of that one?  I read his comment and realized that it takes most authors anywhere from several months to one or more years to write a book that can be read in less than a week. That's a good problem, but nevertheless, a problem.

To answer the question I was asked, I've already finished Emergency Case and sent it to the woman whom I've engaged as my editor. At the same time, the lady who does my covers is working on a cover design. But, although indie-published work can come out faster than novels released by traditional publisher, it still takes a while for the process to play out.

I'd like to hear what you think about this. Is there a solution? Let me know. And meanwhile, thanks for buying the books. I appreciate it.

Tweet with a single click. "Indie publication has speeded up the process, but it still takes months to produce a book. What's your answer?"

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The New Age

I grew up when our main means of communication was the telephone. Our primary news source was the newspaper. And our entertainment came from the radio and the movies. But that's all changed.

Now we have a number of online sources to both receive information and disseminate our own interpretation. (I'm not going to get into the argument about the veracity of all this--you have your own opinions and I have mine). All I'll say is that our world has changed.

At one time in the past, newspapers and radio broadcasts were the primary means of giving news. Now, anyone with a computer and Internet access can voice their opinions, even stating "facts" without backing them up, while maintaining a certain degree of anonymity. It's up to the person(s) reading to decide how much weight to give them.

I can remember sitting in our living room listening to a news report and thinking, "He (or she) really has a pleasing voice." Now we watch a news program and our comments to each other may start with "I don't like that dress she's wearing" or "That tie looks good with that shirt." Not only do the people we invite into our homes have to possess a voice that is pleasing, but their appearance is also important. We shouldn't judge them by their appearance...but we do.

Times have changed. Whether for good or bad...well, that's something you'll have to decide for yourself. What do you think?

Friday, August 03, 2018

Writing: Facing Death (Of Some Kind)

Author/mentor James Scott Bell says that in writing a book it is necessary for the main character to face death of some type. He mentions physical death, emotional death, or professional death. I decided to look back over the books I've written to see if I truly followed this advice. The results are interesting. Without going into great detail, I'll simply say that--yes, in each of the novels my protagonist has faced one, two, or sometimes all three of these situations.

What about other authors? As you may know, I often pull one of the novels I've previously read off my shelf of books by favorite authors and re-read their work. I enjoy them (which is why I reach for them), but I don't think about why their books work for me (and many others). I've just finished going over some of the early Jack Reacher novels of award-winning author Lee Child, and find that in his novels the central character (Reacher) generally faces a professional loss (either his Army status or his ability to remain anonymous), an actual threat to his life (physical death), and occasionally an emotional loss (usually a female with whom he's become entangled). It works.

Does it work with other types of novels? I'll leave that to those of my readers who read romances (I rarely do) or other types of fiction. The floor is yours. Does this hold true on all kinds of novels? I'd like to know.

Note: If you want to have a chance to win a signed copy of my latest novel, watch for various interviews and guest blogs elsewhere. Here's the one on The Suspense Zone. (And don't forget to read their review--kind words, and much appreciated). You might also be interested in this interview I did with The Big Thrill, the magazine of the International Thriller Writers.

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