Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Getting It Right

If you're a regular reader, you know I've played baseball, I've coached it, and I still enjoy watching it. Purists groaned when baseball introduced the "instant replay" and "challenges" a couple of seasons ago. The same thing happened in professional football, but it seems to have worked.

I've always respected umpires. They do a tough job, and seem to do it well. Oh, there are times I think they really blew a call, but they're getting better about asking another umpire, who might have had a better view of the play, for help. But I wonder how often a call of theirs is challenged and overturned.

The only figures I was able to find were for the season just concluded in the fall of 2014. At that time, when replays were reviewed because of challenges initiated by managers or questions from the umpires themselves, about half of the questioned calls were overturned. That sounds like a lot--but consider that the home plate umpire calls balls and strikes about 250 times a game (and these aren't subject to challenge). The umpires on the bases make calls over 50 times (and these usually can be questioned). So, on balance, maybe the umpires don't do such a bad job.

I complain from time to time (big surprise). But when I stop to consider the matter, maybe the things about which I'm complaining go as they should most of the time.

How about you? Would you like to have an "instant replay" of some things in your life? Do you think  the faceless entities like the phone and power companies about which we complain don't do such a bad job? What's your opinion?

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Writing: Different Strokes...

I guess I'm dating myself, but I was around when this saying was popular: "Different strokes for different folks." There are a lot of ways to apply that, but today I'd like to apply it to writing...and reading.

Writers hear about "rules" and "suggestions" that, if we follow them, are almost guaranteed to produce a best-seller. But the more I learn as I travel this road to writing, the more convinced I am that it's possible to ignore rules provided the final product is one readers enjoy.

One of the things about which we're warned is being unclear with our phrasing. Consider these two paragraphs:

A) Roger Leonides had been in London on the day of his father's death at Box House, the headquarters of Associated Catering.

B) On the day of his father's death, Roger Leonides had been in London at Box House, the headquarters of Associated Catering.

Which is clearer to you? The problem with A) is that it implies that the father died at Box House, whereas B) seems to more accurately depict what happened. Which is which? A) was taken from Crooked House, a classic by Agatha Christie that the Saturday Review of Literature called "a knockout." B is my own version.

Which one sold multiple thousands of copies? Yeah, that's right. Crooked House went through nine editions in English, not to mention something like thirteen in various foreign languages.

So, what do you think? What rules or suggestions do you think are important? Or does it really matter?

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(PS--For those who didn't notice, the man in the picture above is wearing shoes of two different colors--different strokes).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Sunday was the first official day of summer. Of course, summer's been here for several weeks, but now it's official. Summer means different things to different people. For workers, summer is a time to look forward with anticipation (or possibly dread) to a vacation. For  school children, it means no studying, no tests, no teachers--unless they're in summer school. For some people, it means the weather will be hotter when they engage in their favorite outdoor activity.

What are your plans for this summer? Leave a comment and tell us.

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Note: The Suspense Sisters review site today addresses Fatal Trauma. If you'd like to read what the reviewer has to say and leave a comment, click here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

And The Winner Is...

Thanks to all of you who've entered the Perfect Prescription Prize Pack Giveaway, helping me celebrate the release of my latest medical thriller, Fatal Trauma. In case you've forgotten, the prize consists of:

  • A $25 cash card
  • A copy of Fatal Trauma
  • A bag of coffee (because caffeine can cure a lot)
  • A medical-inspired coffee mug
  • Syringe pens
  • A box of medical-inspired cookies (because sugar can cure what caffeine doesn’t)
And the winner is Stephanie Halcomb. 

Congratulations to Stephanie. The folks at LitFuse will email you shortly.

I'd like to express my appreciation to LitFuse Group and my publisher, Abingdon Press, for putting all this together. And thanks to all of you for playing. Stay tuned to this site for tomorrow's regular post.

Oh--it won't be long before the release of my next novel, Miracle Drug. Watch for it in September.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Writing: Dr. Harry Kraus on Pseudonyms and Genre Switch

NOTE: Yes, enough people left comments on my recent post for me to give away a book. Click the highlighted link above to see the question. The random selection process has settled on Shirley D, and her signed copy of Fatal Trauma is on its way. Thanks to all who commented.

Dr. Harry Kraus is a talented surgeon, an excellent writer, and a committed Christian, and I'm proud to call him both colleague and friend. He recently posted on his own blog about his experiment writing under a pseudonym in a different genre. I've asked Harry to tell us about his experiences in that regard.

Harry, tell us about your “River Hays experiment?” What did you do, and why?

I had several stories that I wanted to tell in an authentic way, but to do that would  involve adult situations that would offend some of my more conservative Christian readers. For example, the first "River Hayes" novel involved a back-story about the use of female slaves in America (prior to the Civil War) for sex. This was a common practice. I wanted to tell the story about Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with a slave, Sally Hemmings, a female who was a slave, yet a half-sister to Thomas's wife, Martha. I've read other novel accounts about the relationship of Jefferson to his slave and I don't buy the romanticized version. Sally was never on equal footing with this powerful, older, white man. Yes, she bore him children, but she was 15 years old when he began to use her for sex. The telling of this story demanded more graphic content which I was afraid would offend Kraus readers.

What’s your opinion as to why this failed? If you had it to do again, would you do it differently? 

It failed for numerous reasons. The first is that the books don't seem to fall neatly in one genre. My books appeal to women, but are not classic "women's fiction." My books are part thriller, part romance, and part historical. At the first reading, my agent called it "brilliant."  But alas, she's been unable to sell the manuscripts. A second reason is the tightening of publishers's belts in the new era of e-publishing. This makes publishers a bit more reluctant to take a chance on a new writer. Granted, I'm not a new novelist, but I was trying to win new readers without my Kraus name. A third reason is that my writing was not literary enough to be called "literary," but not plot driven fiction or genre-driven enough to be pop fiction.

You’ve had novels released by a traditional publisher, which would make you a “hybrid author” should you decide to self-publish. Do you think that “indie-publishing” might be a valid option in your case? 

I am currently planning on revising the manuscripts to take out any offensive language or adult content while trying to preserve the needed story content. I will put the stories out myself on Kindle under my name. The first, One Drop of Me is the story I mentioned above. It takes its title from the fact that it only takes one drop of black blood to make a person a slave for life.  The second, The Scar Thief, is the story of a plastic surgeon who has a love for erasing the congenital scars of her young patients. If only she could deal with her own! The third novel is the story of an American surgeon in Iraq who falls in love with an Iraqi woman from within the context of the battle of Fallujah. It is entitled Between the Gods and Men. The title refers to an esteemed place where some surgeons think they live (NOT you, Richard) and to the crazy place where battle surgeons find themselves: literally standing in the way of life and death for so many.

What’s your assessment of the current state of publishing? Do you see changes in the present state of the publishing world?

Certainly e-publishing is having a huge impact. Publishers are gun shy of taking risks. Quality is suffering in much of the indie book world. I'm not sure how all of this will play out, but I'm confident that readers will continue to have great material to enjoy and that the best novels have not yet been written!

Harry, thanks for telling us about your experiences. The arguments continue about traditional vs. independent publishing and the current state of the industry. Stay tuned for more.

Meanwhile, my question for my blog readers is this: Do you think the author's name on a book guarantees a certain type of content? Should writers use a pseudonym if they write in a different genre? Let me know in the comments.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Point of Decision

It's been years since I was on active duty with the Air Force, but I still recall some things, and one of them is the call of "V1." That's the velocity a plane reaches on takeoff when the pilot must make a decision--continue down the runway until reaching V2, the speed at which he can lift off ("rotate"), or abort the takeoff. It's a critical point.

On my morning walk a few days ago, the "20% chance of showers" caught up with me--when I was just exactly half-way through the walk. That is, it was just as far to walk back as to keep going. I'd effective reached V1. I decided to keep going. Fortunately, the shower stopped, I didn't melt, and I finished the walk. But it made me think about how many times we reach "V1" in our life--decisions a lot more important than whether to turn back or finish our walk. We have to go ahead with our plans or pull back.

I suspect that's happened to all of you. It certainly has with me. What was the situation that brought you to V1? How did you decide? I'd like to know.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Writing: Life Is What Happens...

We've all heard it, perhaps even used it: Life is what happens while you're busy making plans. I read that phrase recently, where it was attributed to John Lennon. Well, I can take the Beatles or leave them, although I liked some of their songs. But I chased down the attribution of the quote, and found that, indeed, John said something like that in the lyrics of one of his songs. Here's that info. But others said it before he did. But what does it mean?

That, in turn, got me thinking about how ephemeral our words are. Even the ripples from our actions eventually fade and die. In my case, when I practiced medicine I was known for a procedure that was very effective in my hands and those of others. I was even given credit with naming it. Inferior turbinoplastly was in the spotlight for years. But now, more than a decade after my retirement, not much is heard about it, and when I do read something it rarely mentions my work, although at the time it was called groundbreaking.

Now God has pointed me toward writing. My eight novels have been bought (and presumably read) by many thousands of individuals. What effect did they have? There's no way to know. Perhaps a decade from now, they'll all be out of print. But I know what I'm currently doing is what God meant me to do. So, other plans or not, lasting fame or not, that's what I intend to continue.

How about you? Has God (or life, if you prefer) changed your plans? Does what you do affect others? I'd like to know.

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NOTE AND A GIVEAWAY: On my last post, I asked if some of the things we've developed--like cell phones--are two-edged swords. I also asked commenters to list the things they enjoy that they couldn't live without. I need just a few more comments to reach the "giveaway" stage (and only I know that number). How about joining in? (And previous commenters who didn't leave your email address, feel free to add it at the end of that post). I'll let you know on Tuesday how this comes out.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Are We Developing Two-Edged Swords?

The advantage of a two-edged sword seems obvious--it cuts both ways. Matter of fact, that phrase probably stemmed from the use of a two-edged cutting instrument. But I was wondering if some of the technology we're developing hasn't turned into a two-edged sword that "cuts both ways."

The first thing that comes to mind is our dependence on electronic communication. We went from talking over the back fence and the use of rotary dial phones (some of you may even remember party lines) to push-button phones (including the Princess phone, which no one could ever hang up on the first try) to cell phones to email to a myriad of social media sites. If you don't think we miss those when they're not available, wait until the next time your computer goes down or your cell phone stops working. We're dependent on them now. If they're not available, everything changes. Thus, to my mind at least, they're two-edged swords.

There are other advances that we take for granted, but that have drawbacks. I won't name them--that's your job. What's your favorite modern convenience? Does it have disadvantages? Do we depend on it too much? Leave a comment.

Oh, and if there are enough comments--and only I know the magic number--I'll give away a copy of one of my books to one of the commenters.

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Friday, June 05, 2015

Writing: Changes In Publishing

As some of you know, I sort of backed into this business of writing. After the death of my first wife in 1999, I used journaling as a coping mechanism. Eventually, after a number of friends kept saying, "You should write a book," I attended a Christian writers conference. That put me firmly on the road to writing, and led to the publication by Kregel of my book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse. That book was published ten years ago, and I'm happy to say it's still ministering to those experiencing grief.

At that time, "self-publishing" was often called "vanity publishing." It was a matter of paying to have your work published, and was universally looked down on by those with contracts from traditional publishers. But somewhere along the way, some pioneers in self-publishing showed that it wasn't necessary to have a big publisher behind you if you were willing to spend up-front money to have covers designed and professional editors help smooth out your manuscript. Then, of course, it was up to the author to do the marketing of the work. But the reward--the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak--was monetary. The self-publishing author got to keep more of the profits from book sales than came with royalties paid by traditional publishers. And the process didn't take a year or more. In a matter of weeks, the book went from manuscript to publication.

I've dipped my pen into the self-publishing waters with my novella, Rx Murder. Shortly after that, my eighth novel of medical suspense, Fatal Trauma, was published by a traditional publisher, Abingdon Press (who've been great, by the way). That same publisher will release two more of my novels, which are already written and edited. What's next for me? Who knows?

The decision to seek a traditional contract vs. self-publication is an individual one, and none of us knows what the future holds. But one thing is for certain--the face of publishing has changed over the past ten years. I can hardly wait to see what's next.

What is your opinion about ebooks vs. print books? Does it matter to you whether a book is self-published or comes from a traditional publisher? What do you think is coming next?

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NOTE: If you've not yet entered the giveaway my publisher, Abingdon Press, and LitFuse are running to celebrate the publication of Fatal Trauma, click here to learn more and enter.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

And The Rains Came...

We've had rain recently...lots of rain. There have been floods and tornadoes and high wind, but in our little corner of North Texas, Kay and I have stayed dry and safe. Our hearts go out to those who've been touched by all the natural disasters, and there's with that emotion a bit of guilt because we haven't been.

When I see how people, cars, and even houses have been swept away by rushing water, I'm amazed. The elements may seem benign, but there are times they unleash their potential force with devastating results. Those of us who watch from a safe distance are so fortunate.

What lessons have we learned from these events? And what suggestions do you have to help those who've been touched by them?

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NOTE: In cooperation with my publisher and LitFuse, to celebrate the publication of Fatal Trauma, we're running a giveaway of a prize pack that's a Perfect Prescription. Click this link to learn more and to enter.