Friday, February 25, 2011

James Scott Bell on e-publishing

I'm privileged to have as my guest blogger today James Scott Bell. Jim is an incredible teacher and mentor. He gets much of the credit/blame for my entry into writing fiction, and has done the same for countless other writers, many of us now published and others who are still looking for "the call."

Jim has just announced a writer's seminar in Los Angeles, and if you're a writer in that area or you can get there, I'd urge you to go to this site and check out what he's offering.

The reason I've invited him to post today is that he's just entered the world of e-book publishing. While many of us have continued to stand stock-still with our foot hovering over that threshold, Jim has taken the step. But first, typical of him, he's looked into the enterprise thoroughly, and I've asked him to share what he's learned. Here's what he has to say:

Last Christmas my lovely wife got me a Kindle.

 I'm not an early adopter. I tend to get settled on things, like printed books, and stay perfectly comfortable. But I have to admit, once I got my hands on this nifty little e-reader, I realized what the appeal is.  Storage. Convenience for travel. And lots of classics for free (or very close to it).

And there were new novels by hot writers going directly to the e-book market, with some of those writers doing quite well financially.

And here I was, having to wait until August for a new print book to come out. Yet I had several short stories no one had ever seen, and a novella I'd been working on that no one was likely to publish (the novella form has all but disappeared).

There was no reason for me not to publish these myself, directly to e. And so I have.

See, I always admired the pulp writers of the golden age. The era of Black Mask and Chandler and Hammett and Cornell Woolrich, guys writing fast and furious for a penny a word, providing stories for a voracious public. Turning out some of the greatest examples of American suspense ever written. I wanted to write in that tradition, and now with e-publishing, I can.

I know there are many others contemplating this move. I understand the frustration unpublished writers face. But I have to offer some words of caution here. If you want to have any real success at this you need, first of all, to put up excellent books.

In the "old days" (I can't believe we're talking about old days already, meaning last year), the traditional publishing model acted as a harsh filter. You had to be really, really good to get through. Rejection was the hard taskmaster that made you do things to get better.

Now you can do an end around by going straight to e-publishing. But if you do that before you're ready, you can hurt your future chances. You can social network your way to an introduction. You can get people to take one chance. But if they get your book and don't like it, they won't return as customers.

So keep on learning your craft. Get feedback from trusted friends, or a good freelance editor.

Then there's the cover issue. I've seen some truly dreadful, self-designed book covers that scream Amateur!  Don't make this mistake. Hire a cover designer. I love the cover for Watch Your Back. I hired my friend and publishing pro, Jeff Gerke, to do it. (And if you're interested in Jeff's services, you can click on this link to get them)

All that said, here is what I've put in Watch Your Back:

In the title novella, Watch Your Back, hotshot IT guy Cameron Cates seems to have it all. A secure job, a fiancĂ©e who loves him and the prospect of a steady life ahead. But then he sees her.  The new woman at work. And like watching a car crash in slow motion, Cam knows he can't turn away and is powerless to stop what happens next. A tale of lust and greed and corporate America––and what happens to dreams that become all too real.

Fore Play is the story of the world's top golfer and the trouble that follows his off the course activities. Let's put it this way: his game will never be the same.

In Rage Road, a nice young couple thinks they're out for a smooth ride through some lovely country. The truck behind them has a different idea.

Married man Frank Dabney has learned to listen to his wife, Susie. But in Heed the Wife he finds out he may have listened one too many times.

I'm really happy to be able to offer this at only $2.99. It is indeed a good time to be a writer.

Any questions?

Thanks, Jim.

Jim's new book, Watch Your Back, is out exclusively in e-format. Priced at $2.99 it's available right now for Kindle and Nook. Hope you enjoy it. I did.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


It's frustrating. In one of my first writing classes, when the group reviewed the first several pages of a novel, the author was required to remain silent. We were told, "That's what happens when someone reads your work. You're not going to be there to defend it. So get used to it."

My second book of medical suspense, Medical Error, is available as a free Kindle and Nook download at Amazon and B&N respectively this week. And, as was the case when my first novel, Code Blue, was made available free, there have been some negative comments because it's Christian fiction. Now frankly, my books don't have a conversion scene or a hard-sell of Christianity, certainly not as much as some others in the field. But they do deal with how Christians and non-Christians handle some of life's reverses. And I don't apologize for it. But to see a review that begins, "I'm am capable of finding a Bible for myself, and if I wanted to be witnessed to, I would go to church" still bothers me.

Which brings up the question I've posed here before. Should Christian fiction be labeled thus, to avoid people downloading something free and finding it's not to their liking? My answer is "no," any more than fiction should be labeled erotic, profane, or objectionable to many of us in other ways. In brick and mortar stores, you can thumb through the book and get a sense of it. Online, many books have the "look inside" feature that allows a peek. And, in this case at least, the book came at no cost.

That's my opinion. What's yours?

PS--Don't forget to come back tomorrow to see what author James Scott Bell says about e-books and the changes going on in publishing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day

I'm departing from my new Tuesday-Friday posting schedule to blog today about President's Day. I'm old enough to recall when we celebrated Lincoln's Birthday (February 12, the same as my father's) and Washington's Birthday (February 22). Then the government decreed that we'd simply lump them together, add in all the other presidents, and celebrate with a single holiday on this Monday in February.

You'll probably have your own opinion about our presidents, past and present. I certainly have mine, but I won't discuss it here. Instead, I'll simply remind my readers that we have been admonished to pray for those in authority. Here is the passage from I Timothy 2:1-2--
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
I plan to do it, and I hope you will, too.

Just a reminder:
My publisher, Abingdon Press, is making my second novel of medical suspense, Medical Error,  available as a free Kindle download from Amazon or a free Nook download from Barnes & Noble until February 27. I hope those of you who haven't read it yet will take advantage of this opportunity, and will share the news with your friends as well.

Watch for a great guest post by author James Scott Bell on Friday, when he discusses what he's learned about e-book publishing. You won't want to miss this one.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Medical Error: Free Download

I've just received word that my publisher, Abingdon Press, will make my second novel of medical suspense, Medical Error,  available as a free Kindle download from Amazon or a free Nook download from Barnes & Noble for a week, starting on Monday, February 21. I hope those of you who haven't read it yet will take advantage of this opportunity, and will share the news with your friends as well.

If you've enjoyed my two previous books, remember that that the next book in the Prescription For Trouble Series, Diagnosis Death, launches April 1. No fooling.

Oh, and be sure to come back here Friday for a great blog post by author James Scott Bell about e-publishing. You'll want to read this one.

Friday, February 18, 2011

You Be The Editor

My third novel, Diagnosis Death, will be released on April 1, although if past experience tells us anything, it might see the light of day before then. Both Abingdon Press and I thought Diagnosis Death would be the last in the Prescription For Trouble series. It seems we were wrong. You can expect to see Lethal Remedy appear about September 1.

You'd think I'd be resting now, but I'm not. An author always has to stay a year or more ahead of the publication of his/her next book. And that brings me to the reason for this post. I'm toying with a couple of ideas for that next novel. Here's the opening scene of one of them. One person says it grabs them. One thinks it's cheesy. You get the deciding vote. Leave a comment and express your opinion.

The body sprawled in the entryway added nothing to the Christmas decor in Dr. Anna McIntyre’s house, even though the man’s jacket matched the green of the tree by the window, and the blood pooled around him was almost the color of the garland draped on the mantel.
The look the EMT exchanged with Anna said it all. There’s nothing we can do. She’d seen that look many times before on the face of colleagues, felt it cloud her own visage more often than she could count. Some patients couldn’t be saved, but it never got easier to accept.
“Are you going to transport him to the morgue?” Anna said. “Can we get the body out of here?”
The medical technician picked up the last piece of his equipment. “No, ma’am. The coroner will have to do that. “ He zipped the bag closed and shouldered the strap. “We’ll wait in the driveway, in case the police want to talk to us.”
 “Of course,” Anna said, more to herself than to the EMT. She glanced down at the knife hilt, protruding like an unwanted appendage from the body’s chest. No question. This was a case for the coroner…and the police.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Internal Editor

Writers talk a lot about our internal editor. By that, we mean that when we type a sentence and recognize it could be expressed in a better fashion, we make the correction then and there. Our internal editor, looking over our shoulder so to speak, whispers to us and we respond. These commands are the result of writing, editing, having our work critiqued, attending classes, reading books on the craft of writing, and attuning our ear to what sounds best when we consider cadence and syntax.

My friend and mentor, Alton Gansky, told a class that "Once you begin writing, you'll never read the same way again." And he's right. When I read books by my favorite authors, I'm attuned to what they do that works, and even to what doesn't. It's a part of the process of being a writer, and I'm used to it. It feeds my internal editor.

But lately I've noticed that the internal editor lives even outside the confines of my novels. My blog posts and emails are subject to this process now. I will sometimes rewrite a sentence in an email because I notice that I've expressed my thought in the passive voice--and novelists are warned to shy away from that. At other times, I'll see that in a blog post I've used the same word twice in the same paragraph, so I'll change it. Score one for the internal editor.

Apparently not all writers allow their internal editor to escape outside the confines of their novel. For instance, my cyber-friend and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Palmer, types his emails in all lower case (sort of like e e cummings) and uses multiple elipses (three dots) almost exclusively for punctuation. When I get an email from Michael I sometimes want to go back and rewrite it, but I rein in my internal editor.

How careful are you about your emails and blog posts? Do you have an internal editor? I'd be interested to know.

Friday, February 11, 2011

National Anthem

The performance of our national anthem at the Super Bowl set me to thinking. Not necessarily about the grace notes, glissandos, slides, and general inattention to the tune demonstrated by the performer. Although that style turns me off, apparently it's favored by lots of popular artists. Not even the fact that she messed up the lyrics. It happens, even if you rehearse, even if you know the words cold. (I know one preacher who won't lead the Lord's Prayer without a copy on the pulpit).

No, I wondered why we don't sing some of the other verses written by Francis Scott Key, not just the first. The first stanza, the one we traditionally sing, describes the the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry the morning after a British bombardment during the War of 1812. But there are four stanzas, and the last one really speaks to me. What do you think?

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Information Age

A few days ago I answered an email question directed to me in my position of Vice President of the American Christian Fiction Writers. I did a bit of research and tried to do a good job of providing the information requested. No sooner had I hit "send" than I got another email, with one more complaint, one I'd anticipated and answered in the email I'd just sent. That, my friends, is one of the negatives I see with today's instant communication.

It's no longer necessary to sit down, compose a letter, mail it, and wait for it to reach its intended target. We tap a few keys, hit "send" on whatever device we choose, and voila, our message is on its way. Unfortunately, because it's so easy, we may not think through what we're doing. That often results in a follow-up email or tweet or instant message, necessitating another reply, and... You get the picture.

On many occasions, I've paused with my hand hovering over the mail drop, running through my mind the words I've put into a letter or the implications of a document I was sending. Why? Because I knew that once I consigned that envelope to the US Mail, it was unlikely I'd be able to get it back. It was gone. Do I do the same thing when sending an email? I try, but sometimes my enthusiasm (or anger...I'll admit it) gets the best of me, and I send that missive on its way, only to wish I had it back. 

I'm not saying I wish we didn't have email, or the Internet, or cell phones with texting capabilities. What I am saying is that I'm discovering that I need to pause before I hit "send." Matter of fact, that would probably be a good thing before I open my mouth, as well.

What do you think?

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Ultimate Game

In case you've just come out of a cave somewhere, you might not know that the Super Bowl will be played in Arlington Texas at JerryWorld--I mean, Cowboys Stadium--this Sunday. It will pit two teams that were the nemesis of the Dallas Cowboys in past Super Bowls: the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. And for Cowboys fans, the ultimate insult will be seeing those two teams running up and down the field at the House That Jerry Built while the hometown team watches from home on TV.

Personally, I think the best story about the Super Bowl came from the Cowboys' enigmatic and highly talented running back, Duane Thomas, pictured here. Media day is generally boring for the players, with the same reporters asking the same questions and getting the same answers. Duane wasn't cut from that mold, though. When he was asked something to the effect of "How does it feel to be playing in the ultimate game?" his reply was a classic. "If it's the ultimate game, how come they're playing it again next year?"

We may encounter situations in life that we think are the ultimate, the pinnacle, the point on which everything hinges. If we succeed, we exult. If we fail, we dissolve in despair. But most of the time, those weren't the be-all and end-all. They were just one more waypoint on this journey called life. And something just as important may come back around later. So we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get ready for the next opportunity. Watch the quotes from the losing team on Sunday, and see if this sentiment doesn't show up in them. That's what we can take from the Super Bowl. The rest, to me, is mainly hype.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Guest Posting Today

I'm guest posting today at Writer Unboxed, interviewing a father-son combination of authors. New York Times best-selling author Michael Palmer's next book of medical suspense, A Heartbeat Away, releases this month, as does Delirious, the debut novel of his son, Daniel. Hope you'll drop by and meet these two talented men.