Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Random Reflections From The ACFW Conference

Growing up, I enjoyed reading the sports pages of the daily papers. (Some of you may not remember newspapers--but that was before computers). Anyway, one of my favorite things was when Blackie Sherrod did a column on "Scattershooting, while wondering..." The thing he wondered about might be stuff like "...why Tim Tebow didn't make it in the NFL." But, I digress.

I've just returned from the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. There I attended a panel composed of knowledgeable people who review or distribute fiction. One of the questions asked them was, "What do you think we need more and less of?" The consensus was that Amish fiction has peaked and we don't need more, but good Young Adult fiction is still in a state of shortage. What do you think?

I talked with some publishing professionals--editors and publishers. Although they didn't reveal any proprietary secrets, I came away with the distinct impression they recognize a major change in publishing, brought about by the ability of authors to publish their own books via e-publishing. They're trying to change to meet the challenge, but it's sort of like turning the Q.E. II--it's a slow process.

Writers, agents, and editors alike agreed that when a book is "indie-published" (i.e., self-published by an author), all the marketing will fall to the writer. Some people are temperamentally suited for this, some are not. I talked with lots of authors, and remain convinced there's room for both types.

Of course, no one knows what writing and publishing will be like in a year. Meanwhile, my plan is to maintain the posture of backside-in-chair, fingers-on-keyboard, nose-to-the-grindstone and try to write the best book possible.

Did you attend ACFW? What were your impressions? Are you a reader? Were you even aware of the upheaval in the industry? Chime in. I want to hear.

(My newsletter is scheduled to go out to subscribers on October 1 with a giveaway just for them. If you're not signed up to receive it, click the link in the right sidebar).

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Writing: References For Medical Information

Tomorrow I'll be at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, teaching (along with authors Jordyn Redwood and Candace Calvert) a one-hour course on "Medicine: The View From Inside." Since I'll only have ten minutes or so to give an overview of medical conditions from which a writer can choose if they wish to incorporate one in their work, I won't have time to present some information that many have found helpful. For that reason, let me give you a long list of "where to get the information you need."

            A. Start with search engine (must learn search terms; comes with experience)
                        1. http://www.google.com
                        2. http://www.bing.com
                        3. http://www.ask.com
                        4. http://search.yahoo.com
            B. Sift through the sites and choose carefully
                        1. Government (NIH, site ending with “gov,” etc.)
                        2. Medical center or respected hospital
                        3. Watch out for individuals with an agenda!
C. Other sites and sources
                        1. Harvard Family Health Guide- http://health.harvard.edu/fhg
                        2. AMA Family Medical Guide (out of print, might find an old copy somewhere)
                        3. Murder and Mayhem, D.P. Lyle, MD (St. Martin’s Press)
                                    a. also, his blog: http://dplylemd.com
                        4. Jordyn Redwood’s Medical Edge blog
                                    a. http://www.jordynredwood.com
5.  American Academy of Family Practice-  
 6. WebMD and eMedicine.com
                        7. Other societies and organizations
                        8. For medications
                                    a. Rx list-http://www.rxlist.com/script/main/hp.asp
                                    b. PDR-http://pdr.net (requires registration & fee for non-professionals)
            D. Local medical source:
                        1. Doctor:
                                    a. Your own doctor, if your relationship is good
                                    b. Public Information office at a medical school
                        2. Nurse:
                                    a. Doctor’s office
                                    b. Nurse at your company
                                    c. School nurse
                        3. Other health professionals
                                    a. Pharmacist
                                    b. Physical therapist
                                    c. Medical secretary
                        4. Librarians
                                    a. Medical schools
                                    b. Hospitals
                                    c. Public library

I'll add a word of caution: Verify your sources; beware of “they say” and “in my experience.”

I hope you'll find this helpful. Let me know if you have questions.

TWEET WITH A SINGLE CLICK:  A long list of where to get medical information for your writing.  (click here to tweet).

(picture via freedigitalphotos.net)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Are Blogs Disappearing?

I've heard it since I began to seek publication: "An author must have a social media presence." So, I've maintained a blog, a website, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account. I've set up shop on Pinterest and created a presence on Goodreads.

My blog schedule has gone from five days a week to three days a week to its current twice a week, with Tuesdays devoted to stuff in general and Fridays to writing. I keep up with the number of people who read the posts, and it's leveled off at what I consider a low number. And I have to admit that I'm beginning to agree with one of my colleagues who recently posted on Facebook that he believed the blog is going the way of the Dodo bird.

So, here's my question. What do you think? Which social media outlets do you participate in regularly? Are blogs a waste of time? What about websites? Leave a comment and help me decide.

Oh, and thanks for coming by. Next time, I'll try to have coffee and cookies for everyone.

(photo via freedigitalphotos.net)

TWEET WITH A SINGLE CLICK: Are blogs a thing of the past? (click here to tweet).

Friday, September 19, 2014

Writing: Keep Your Head Down

The oft-repeated mantra for a writer is to assume this position: behind in chair, fingers on keyboard. The idea, of course, is that in order to be a successful writer it's necessary to keep at it. If you can't write every day, write as often as you can. Persistence pays.

By the way, when I first started out on this road to writing, I'd hear people talk about the reward of BIC, fingers on keyboard, and I'd think, "Yeah, right." But it's true. Of course, this also involves learning the craft and improving with every paragraph. Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

But I digress. I'd add to the anatomic advice for the would-be writer a third position: keep your head down. And by that, I mean don't spend your time reading so many social media posts that you forget what your own calling is. The temptation is to see so many posts that talk about a book winning this award and a writer attaining that honor that we decide there's no use in our continuing. That's wrong!

If you could see the story behind those award and honors, you'd see hours and hours spent at the chair in front of that keyboard, searching for just the right word, the best phrase, the most effective way to communicate the ideas in our heads. You'd probably also see a stack of rejection notices as these writers learned the craft. So don't let what's going on with other writers keep you from doing what you need to do. Keep your rear end in the chair, your fingers on the keyboard, and your head down. That's the recipe for success.

Any questions or comments about the writing life? Leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

(picture via freedigitalphotos.net)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Whose Brand Do You Wear?

Golfers mark their golf balls so they can identify them if there's a question--for instance, two balls in a sand trap or two balls in the cup (yeah, right!) How we mark our balls is an individual matter. Some people use one or more colored dots, some fill in the open spaces in the name on the ball (both a's in Callaway, for instance). My partner uses a stylized version of his initials.

My "brand" is one I learned when Cynthia and I spent a week at the Prude Dude Ranch as part of an Elderhostel program. If you're familiar with cattle brands, you may know about adjectives such as "rocking" or "lazy." Given my prior specialty as a physician, I was drawn to the curves at the beginning and end of the brand, signifying "running." That gave me an idea, and I mark my balls like this: a "running nose."

Whose brand do you wear? Your family? Your profession? Your relationship with God? Is it evident to those around you, even when it's not easily visible? 

I'd love to hear what you think about the brand you wear.

TWEET WITH A SINGLE CLICK: Whose brand do you wear? (click here to tweet this).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Writing: Meeting With An Agent...Again

The annual conference of the American Christian Fiction Writers is coming up in two weeks, and lots of nervous not-yet-published authors will be meeting with agents or editors. But what if you've been published, have had an agent, and now are meeting with another one? Sound unusual? I was asked this question just a few weeks ago. Here's my answer:

I believe the first thing a prospective agent will want to know is why and under what circumstances you left your previous agent. Was the parting acrimonious or friendly? Whose idea was it? And why? Although you want to be truthful, remember that the writing community is a relatively small one, so don’t needlessly bad-mouth your former agent. Like Joe Friday on Dragnet, the person to whom you’re talking just wants the facts.

After that, the agent will want to see a sample of your writing. You’re ahead of the game if you’ve previously been published, because you can bring a copy of your latest book for them to read a few pages at random. Offer to send them a copy if they’d like to read more. But don’t force the book on them right then. No agent wants to take home a suitcase full of stuff from a conference.

If the question hasn’t already been answered, they’ll want to know what your genre is. What’s the track record of sales for your previous book? If the book didn’t sell well, don’t try to hide the fact (the agent, like a publisher, can get this information). Instead, be ready to suggest ways your next one can sell more copies.

Then they’ll want to hear about your ideas for future books. A one-sheet is nice, but it may not be mandatory. It’s probably best to have one, though. If there has been interest from a publisher, the agent will want details. Have any of the books you’re pitching already been seen by specific editors? What was their reaction?

At some point, ask the agent if they’d like you to send them a formal proposal. I was disappointed to find that being previously published doesn’t negate the need for proposals—at least, not in my case. Perhaps J. K. Rowling or Tom Clancy can get a contract with just an idea for a book, but for most of us it doesn’t work that way. Agents and editors like to know you have concrete ideas about your next book.

My final advice? Be truthful and open. Be confident without being brash. Be ready to listen instead of just talking. And pray about the outcome—you can be certain the agent will do the same.

Oh, and if you're going to be at the ACFW conference, check out the 11 AM Saturday class I'm co-teaching with Jordyn Redwood and Candace Calvert on "Medicine: The View From Inside." I hope to see you there.

TWEET WITH A SINGLE CLICK: How do you prepare to meet an agent if you've had an agent and are a published author?  (click here to tweet). 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 2001--May We Never Forget

I'm departing from my regular Tuesday and Friday blogging schedule to recognize the anniversary of an event that (in my opinion) is as important as the day on which the first shot was fired in the war our fledgling country fought for independence. This day marked a dividing line beyond which our lives would forever change.

We probably all remember where we were on the morning of September 11, 2001. As we pause to recall those terrible moments and all that has come since, may we renew our commitment to our country, our fellow citizens, and our God.

God bless America.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Back To School

Now that school has started again, I thought it would be fun to consider how your children/grandchildren reacted to going back. Were they eager, or did they hang back and wish that summer could go on just a little longer?

And how about the parents? Was this a relief they'd been awaiting all summer, or were they sorry to see school begin again?

How did the return to school go at your house or with your family? Let us know in the comments section.

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(picture via freedigitalphotos.net)

Friday, September 05, 2014

Writing: Gone But Not Forgotten

You may have heard or read this before, but I found it interesting. Here's a list of ten best-selling novels that were never followed by another. On reading the reasons for no second novel, I decided that I'd already beaten the odds by not dying before a second could come out.

Actually, I'm fortunate enough to have had seven medical thrillers published, with numbers eight and nine already written and ready for release next year. Since those two will be published by a different publisher than my last three, there will be about a year's hiatus between the publication of Critical Condition and Fatal Trauma. And that, in turn, set me wondering if such an absence would make my readers forget about me.

I've recently seen promos for two TV shows featuring actresses I hadn't heard from in a while. Tea Leoni came to public attention with appearances in a number of movies, but she's been under the radar for a while. But this fall she'll star in a new TV show.

Laurie Metcalf hasn't been in a hit show since her role on Roseanne, although Kay and I like her as Sheldon's mother on Big Bang Theory. Now she'll have a major role in a new TV show this fall.

Some authors write one book that is a hit and never write another. Some actors and actresses come back after several seasons away from the limelight. Which do you want to emulate? As for me, I'd rather keep writing and hope my absence from center stage doesn't hurt.

What do you think? Do you mind waiting for another book from your favorite author? Do you look forward to the re-appearance of a favorite actor? Let me know.

TWEET WITH A SINGLE CLICK:  Does a prolonged absence hurt the chances of a writer or actor? (click here to tweet)

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