Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween--What's Your Position?

Tomorrow evening is Halloween. I've noticed that all around our neighborhood, houses have been festooned with faux spider webs (some complete with large spider replicas), skeletons, gravestones, and other evidences of the holiday. At other houses, decorations lean toward pumpkins and similar fall symbols.

Let's don't get into the origin of "All Hallow's Eve" or Mexico's "Dia de los Muertes." Rather, the question I'd like to pose is whether those of you with children and grandchildren plan to help them with trick-or-treating? Will they attend a "Fall Festival" somewhere, perhaps at church? Do you turn off your porch light and refuse to encourage the tradition? Or do you don a costume yourself in order to answer the door and give out candy?

Just asking. Hope you'll let us know where you stand on all this.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monster Mash Book Bash

"Shedding Light In A Dark World." Have you ever considered that this is what the authors of Christian fiction do? Matter of fact, that's the dedication of my next book--to the authors who shed light on a dark world. It seems fitting that in this season, we talk a bit about that.

A number of authors of Christian fiction will be moderating sessions and offering comments at this website October 29-31. I hear rumors of books to be given away as well.  I'll be talking tomorrow, Tuesday, October 29, between 9 and 10 AM Central time about characters, good and bad. What's the worst character (not badly written, just bad) you've ever encountered? The best? Which would be harder to write? I hope you'll drop by, "like" the group and join in the discussion.

(Disclaimer--I have no idea how all this is going to work, but then again, I have no idea why the light comes on when I flip the switch.)

Come back tomorrow on our regular day and we'll discuss your attitude toward Halloween.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Writing: Pushing Onward

Most writers have a "day job" (which they're generally advised not to give up). Rare is the writer who chooses writing as their sole means of support. Not only is it a dicey way to make a living, it means that whether they want to or not, they write. I like what William Faulkner said: "I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning."

And often, life gets in the way. Just today I learned of two writers, one of whom has significant health problems that will require her to curtail her activities, another whose wife is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer...and it's not helping. Imagine yourself writing under these circumstances.

Having to "soldier on" despite what life throws at you isn't confined to writing, of course. In every profession and walk of life there are days, even weeks and months, when it's all we can do to get out of bed and face the need to be productive. We may be motivated by  economic need, by external circumstances, by promises made or contracts signed. Surely you've been there, done that. So now I invite you to tell us about what made you push onward when it was tough to do so. I look forward to reading about it.

(photo courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why Are You Here?

 Today I'd like to ask you a question. Who are you? Why did you come here? I have to confess that I've tried several times to make a leading survey tool work (okay, it's survey monkey--but it's probably not their fault).

So let's do this. Please leave a comment. Let me know who you are--writer, reader, interested bystander, family member, etc.--and why you read Random Jottings--like my posts, want to learn more about the writing life, referred by a friend, got here by mistake, etc.

Thanks for your participation.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Writing: taking time to dream

Last week, Kay and I were in beautiful Monterey, California, for a retreat held by Books & Such Agency, of which my agent, Rachelle Gardner, is a part. I can't recall another writing "conference" from which I came back so refreshed. That's not to say that the trip wasn't without some hiccups--such as the return flight from San Francisco during which our plane dropped like a rock when it hit turbulence. But, all in all, it was great.

Writers, like everyone else, need time to step back and take a look at where they're going. At the retreat, we were encouraged to list five things--five "dreams," if you will--and then think about how to achieve them and what it would mean if we could. I may never achieve mine (one writer's dream included ownership of the Seattle Seahawks), but it did help to slow down and plot my course.

And, speaking of plotting, on the drive to the resort Kay helped me get started on the plot of my next book. That one won't be out for almost two years, so I think I've got time to fine tune it.

Have you ever stepped aside and taken time to dream? Results? Recommendations? Let us hear from you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Roller Coaster Of Writing

Tuesday is normally my day to post about "stuff," with Friday reserved for tidbits about the writing life. But I'm just back from an author retreat held by the agency representing me (Books & Such), and after spending three days talking about writing, its challenges and rewards, that's on my mind. So when I saw this cartoon on Writer Unboxed, I had to ask the artist for permission to reprint it, and she graciously consented.

So, courtesy of Debbie Ohi, here's the writer's life in a nutshell. And if you don't think this is true, ask any writer, whether unpublished or multipublished.
I don't think this attitude is confined to writers, though. I'd love to know your reactions and applications for this.

(roller coaster photo via freedigitalphotos.net)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Writing: Balance

I've posted about many aspects of the writing life, but today there's one that's especially on my mind: balance. As I discovered when I got deeper into this profession, there's a lot to writing. It's not just putting words on a computer screen. Of course there's editing, revising, marketing, etc. But a writer doesn't function in a vacuum. Although there are a few writers who make this their profession, most of us--for one reason or another--have other responsibilities.

My friend and mentor, James Scott Bell, made a tough decision some time back. Jim describes himself as a "recovering attorney," but now he earns his living by writing. That means that he sets a schedule, makes sure he produces a weekly word count, and sticks with it. I applaud Jim and all the others who've chosen this route, but for most of us, the advice is still "Don't quit your day job."

In my case, I'm a retired physician, so my day job is helping around the house, doing a lot of grandfatherly stuff, and occasionally playing golf. In the case of other writers, the day job involves different things, but all of them are the same in one respect--they require time and commitment. And that means that, if we're to write, we have to carve out a time to do so. Thus, the hard part of being a part-time writer. Achieving balance.

I've gone through a tough loss in my life. My first wife passed away after forty years of marriage. I, above all people, know that we're not guaranteed another day. So I keep in mind that, although my writing is important, my family are even more so. That's why I make sure that Sundays are devoted to worship and family, not to writing. That's why, when we're asked to keep one or more of the grandkids, the answer is always, "Sure"--even if I should be revising a manuscript.  It's all about balance.

What do you have to balance in your own life? I hope you'll share with us.

Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

If I Were King...

Maybe you never thought it. I have. Maybe you never said it. I have. "If I were king..." "If I were in charge..."

It seems to me that I'm thinking it (and occasionally mumbling it) more nowadays. When I first began to drive, I was given a two-word mantra that I've used successfully since then: "Idiots abound." The long version is that the safest way to drive is by pretending everyone else on the road is using their car as a weapon, aimed at you. More and more I see people totally flaunt the rules of the road, even ignoring common courtesy, and think, "If I were in charge, they'd never get behind the wheel again."

Lest you think I've had a bad experience driving recently, let me assure you that on the highways and streets it's been life as usual for me. This actually came up when Kay and I were talking about a news story that was presented in such a confusing way it sent both of us to the Internet for more information. Who's writing these scripts, anyway? If I were in charge... Before that, we watched both local professional sports teams lose. Why didn't the manager bunt that runner along? Why did that receiver run the wrong route? If I were in charge...

Confession time, now. Are there situations that make you mutter, "If I were in charge...?" I'd love to hear them. By the way, if I were in charge...the Captcha letters and numbers would be a lot easier to read.

Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt!  This weekend I'm participating in an online scavenger hunt that features a number of authors of Christian fiction. If you at any time need to read the instructions for the hunt, please visit this link. Otherwise, look for the BOLDED word in the post that follows, then go to the next link (bottom of the page).

I was hesitant to join this activity, because my latest book is almost a year old and my next one doesn't come out until this coming spring. However, it sounded like fun. What follows mirrors what you'll find at each site. Good luck.
About me: For those of you who might not know me, I'm a retired physician, current Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of four published novels of medical suspense. My books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year. My latest novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award, and that's the book that will be included in the prize given to the winner of this scavenger hunt. My next medical thriller, Stress Test, releases next spring from Thomas Nelson and Sons.
About the current book, Lethal Remedy: Dr. Sara Miles’ patient is on the threshold of death from an overwhelming, highly resistant infection with Staphylococcus luciferus, simply known to doctors as “the killer.” Only an experimental antibiotic, developed and administered by Sara’s ex-husband, Dr. Jack Ingersoll, can save the girl's life. But potentially lethal late effects from the experimental drug send Sara and her colleague, Dr. Rip Pearson, on a hunt for hidden critical data that will let them reverse the changes before it’s too late.
And here's a sample: 

In the midnight darkness, the lamp spilled a pool of yellow light onto the papers strewn helter-skelter over the scarred surface of his desk. The page shook in his hand as he stared at the figures scrawled in the margins. It all came down to this.
The man scrabbled through the mass of documents and pulled another sheet. What was the line from Macbeth? “If it were done, ’twere well it were done quickly.” Decision time.
He eased himself from the chair like the unfolding of a carpenter’s rule. Do this, and he could say goodbye to this tiny office. He envisioned a corner suite with a view—maybe even a private washroom. But tonight the community restroom down the hall would do.
The man locked himself in a stall and dug in his pocket for the dog-eared match folder he’d carried all day. He struck one match. It fizzled impotently. Two more attempts before one lit. He bent it against its fellows and the whole folder ignited. He touched the improvised torch to the papers he held and watched as they burst into flame.
Would the smoke set off the fire alarm, activate the sprinklers? He cursed under his breath for not thinking of that. He held the flaming mass lower in the toilet and fanned the air furiously with his free hand. The ashes dropped into the water, and he breathed again. He flushed twice, and it was over.
He washed his hands, splashed water on his face, and walked back to his office. FOR good or for evil—probably a bit of both—it was done. 

To order this or any of my books, look in the right sidebar of this post and click on the link to your favorite bookseller. Now, here's the link to the next site in the scavenger hunt.


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Hurrying Along The Highway

Recently our national writers' organization held a meeting at the airport that's a forty-minute drive from our home. My obligations made it necessary for me to be at the meeting hotel most of the time, but a couple of times I sneaked home to sleep in my own bed. As I did, I traversed a busy, six-lane divided highway. Like a good, law-abiding citizen I held my speed to the legal limit--and watched cars pass me right and left. This made me think about our fast-paced lifestyle...not just mine, but everyone's.

The Message translation of the Bible says, “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run." As I watched the billboards fly by on my drive, I wondered what kind of message my life carries. Do my actions work like a billboard, visible and legible even to those on the run with their hectic lives? I hope so.

Are you doing anything to make certain others can read the billboard of your actions as they whiz by? Or would you rather they didn't slow down to look at what you do? Are you moving so fast you can't take time to change? What's your opinion?

(photo from colinjong.com)