Friday, August 28, 2015

Writing: When The Words Just Won't Come

This has been one of those weeks--a series of days like every writer faces at times. It may have been a combination of other tasks, a series of frustrations, and a sudden lack of interest in the work-in-progress languishing on my hard drive, but for whatever reason, writing for me this week has been akin to Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill. (Not familiar with that tale from Greek mythology? Click here to read about it).

I'm not naive. I know that other writers have faced this, and I know that--like most things--"This, too, shall pass." My method is generally to pull myself up by my bootstraps and write something--anything--knowing that eventually I'll have both the time and inclination to work again on my WIP. I may concentrate on posts via Facebook and Twitter. I might work on marketing (and, if you don't think writers published by traditional houses are free from marketing responsibilities, I have some ocean-front property in West Texas I want to sell you). But all writing serves a purpose, even if that purpose is only to put one's posterior in the chair with fingers on the keyboard.

Editor Alycia Morales has her own suggestions for so-called "writer's block," and I recommend them to you. I've shared my own approach. What do you suggest? I'd love to hear.

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PLEASE NOTE: I've joined The Suspense Sisters blog, and a couple of days ago I posted about mystery/suspense/thriller books. Do you know the difference? Check out the post.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What's Your "Walk Up Song?"

Baseball has changed--a lot--since I played and coached. One of the things we now have are "walk up songs" for players. A relief pitcher may want something raucous played when he enters the game. A hitter will probably choose one of his favorite popular songs. Just for kicks, I looked up some of the Texas Rangers' walk up music. I was going to post them, but I really didn't recognize any, and rather than list some I hadn't curated, I'll let you look them up yourself.

Mine? I'll show my age and musical taste by saying it's John Denver singing, "Hey, It's Good To Be Back Home Again." Why? Because I like the easy rhythm of the song, I identify with the lyrics, and I liked John Denver's music.

Some writers like to listen to music while they write. I use Pandora for background sometimes, but mainly when a granddaughter has the TV going in the other room. Otherwise, I don't need background music. What about you? Do you like music going while you go about your daily work, whether at the office or at home? What would your "walk up music" be? Let me know.

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For those who are curious about the question I posed last week, most people look first at Facebook, then Twitter. Blogs are at the bottom of the list.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Writing: Book Covers

For authors having a contract with a traditional publisher, the question of a book cover to go with their manuscript isn't a major one. The author may have some input (I have...thank you Thomas Nelson and Abingdon), but there's a designer or group charged with the task.

Now that many authors are self-publishing, the question arises: How do you get your cover designed? I asked three of my friends who are successful "hybrid" authors how they went about this.

A well-respected author and writing teacher gave me this response: "Find covers you like and email the author for his cover designer. Or search the internet for book cover designers and check their online portfolios. Don't pay more than $500 for a cover, unless it's highly specialized and you really need it."

 Randy Ingermanson went about it the way you might expect a PhD physicist to: He took a week to collect the names and sites of cover designers. He narrowed his choice to 20 people, then to five. "I ...then spent a long time weighing which would work best for me.  I finally chose one and he’s worked out extremely well."

The most surprising response came from Brandilyn Collins. She designs her own covers. "I’ve learned to be quite proficient in photoshop. I’ve also learned to do all my own interior layouts for ebook and paper, and the ebook conversions." You can see examples here (she did all except Sidetracked).

Before you ask, the cover shown above (for my novella, Rx Murder) was done by Dineen Miller. I think she did a pretty good job, don't you?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Your Preference For Social Media

Authors are told to have a presence on every possible social media site. The number of you who read this blog regularly has remained relatively small in comparison with some other methods for me to stay in touch with readers. Here's a brief survey that might help me. (And I'll be glad to share the results next week). Create your own user feedback survey

Tweet with a single click: "Which social media site do you go to first thing?" Click here to tweet.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Writing: Reviews

One of the first things writers are told--along with "avoid the passive voice" and "don't abruptly switch point of view"--is not to read reviews. When we talk with someone else, whether a neighbor or friend or co-worker or whomever, we put words out into the air. But when we write, those words might as well be chiseled in stone, because they're preserved on paper or electronically for anyone to read...and to judge.

I try not to read reviews, but at times I can't help myself. I received notification that my latest book, Fatal Trauma, had received some new reviews on Amazon, so naturally, I looked. Along the way, I saw a number of reviews from Amazon's Vine reviewers--these are people sent the book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. Some of them liked the book, some didn't, a few criticized the writing style. And I couldn't help wondering if they would have bought it in the first place, and if so, would the review have been different?

 Let me hasten to say that good reviews and comments about our writing stoke the fires of authors. But I have to admit that when I read a critical review, it sometimes gets me down.

What's your opinion about reviews? If you're a writer, do you read them? If you're a reader, do you leave them? Leave a comment. I promise not to get too depressed if you don't like this post.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Cell phones

I still remember when I got my first cellular phone. I was leaving for Chicago for an important medical meeting when I discovered that my father was to be hospitalized for a cardiac problem. I immediately rushed to the hospital, and after determining that he was doing fine, I assured him I was going to cancel my trip. Dad absolutely refused to let me do that.

We argued to the point that I thought it might trigger a real heart attack in one of us, and it very well might not be him. Finally, I relented, but purchased a cell phone to take with me. Those phones were about the size (and almost the weight) of a brick. They were cumbersome, but I could stay in constant touch when I had mine with me. And thus, the camel got its nose in the tent.

That was long ago, and since then cell phones have become a way of life. We talk on them, send text messages, read and send email, read and post Facebook and Twitter material, take and post pictures...and the list goes on. I understand how important it is for some people to have constant access to their messages, to be readily available for business or family reasons, but... c'mon folks. It bugs me to see a family sitting in a restaurant, the adults scrolling through messages and Facebook, the kids playing video games or chatting with friends. What ever happened to family time? For that matter, what ever happened to common courtesy?

Our society has encouraged us to build electronic walls that keep others out. And that's just wrong. Some people have love-hate relationships. I have a hate-tolerate relationship with social media. I post and read it because it's expected of authors. But I don't allow it to rule my life. And I'm sad when I see people who do just that.

Okay. I've sounded off. Now it's your turn. What's your opinion? I'd like to know.

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Friday, August 07, 2015

Writing: Behind The Mask

 Most writers are introverts. Take it to the bank. Oh, we may seem otherwise when we're in a public situation, but deep down we're introverts.

I'm not sure if this quote is original with Meg Chittenden, but I think it describes writers pretty well: "Some people hear voices when no one's around.  They are called mad, and sit in a room all day and stare at the walls. Others are called writers, and they do pretty much the same thing."  Given the option, most of us prefer to sit in a room, stare at the walls, then jot down what's happening in the universe we're creating in our mind.

And here's another thing about writers. Most of us are charter members of the Imposter Syndrome Club. If we've had our work published, even if we've won a few awards for our writing, we can't help thinking, "Am I really that good? Do I deserve this?" And for those who haven't reached the status of published author yet, the thought is, "Maybe they're right. Maybe I'm not good enough."

So, what do you think. Are writers really introverts? Does it matter to you what kind of personality a writer has? Do you think it affects their writing? Leave a comment. I'd like to know.

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NOTE: I've been interviewed on a couple of blogs recently. Click here for the site of author Patricia Bradley, where you can read a bit about me and enter to win a copy of Fatal Trauma. On the blog of Romantic Times reviewer, Leslie McKee, I"m giving away two copies of my novella,  Rx Murder. That link is here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Back Blogging

It seems like just a day or two ago that I put up my traditional July 4th blog post and began my month-of-July blogging holiday. I'm like the kid who doesn't want to go back to school, I guess. But I promised I'd be back in August, so here I am.

Some of you may have heard that my most recent publisher, Abingdon Press, has discontinued their fiction line. Let me hasten to say that I've received  assurances (and continue to see evidence)  that they will publish all the novels they have under contract. That means that Miracle Drug will release about September 15, followed by Medical Judgment next spring. Meanwhile, I've completed the first draft of a Christmas-time novella, Silent Night, Deadly Night, which I'll self-publish this fall.

What's ahead for me? A number of avenues are open to me, but nothing's certain at this point. But in the meantime, I'll continue to play golf on Wednesdays (weather and schedule permitting), go to church on Sundays, and write when I can. As my late Uncle Paul used to say, "It keeps me off street corners and out of pool halls."

Now, it's your turn. How's your summer going? What's new? I'd like to hear.

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PS--I'm pleased to join the Suspense Sisters Blog (they've named me a "Mister") and will be blogging there from time to time. Click here to learn more.

One more thing: If you'd like to get your name in the drawing for one of two signed copies of my novella, Rx Murder, go to the website of Romantic Times reviewer Leslie Mckee and enter. Here's the link.