Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween, Time Change, And Stuff

I'll resume my usual "writing life" posts next week, but today let me address the weekend coming up.

Tomorrow is October 31, the traditional day for celebrating Halloween. Some families don't observe Halloween, saying the holiday is steeped in superstition. I'm not going to get into that. That's an individual thing for families to decide. As for us, our church has a Fall Festival for children at about this time, while we'll turn on the porch light and give out candy for a few hours tomorrow night.

I'm not sure whether Halloween is enjoyed more by children or adults. Small children may not understand why they're dressed in costumes and escorted to neighboring houses, but by and large they understand the candy that comes to them after the obligatory cry of "Trick or Treat." If the woman of the house answers the door, she usually asks, "And what are you supposed to be?" Husbands, on the other hand, might paw through the bowl of candy at the door and give out the ones he doesn't like, figuring that if there's any left over he might as well enjoy it.

Don't forget that tomorrow is also the night when we set our clocks BACK an hour, as Daylight Saving Time ends for another year. Most research, by the way, indicates that the majority of people don't enjoy an extra hour of sleep due to this change.  And, yes, it's always seemed to me like cutting an inch off the top of a blanket and sewing it on the bottom to make it longer. But that's the way it is.

My question to you is two-fold: Does your family celebrate Halloween, and why? What do you plan to do with your extra hour on Saturday.

See you next week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Going Back

The book title says You Can't Go Home Again, but in some respects you can. I lived in Duncanville, Texas, for many years. I practiced medicine there. I went to church there. Kay and I have many friends there. And, although we've moved a bit further north, tonight we have the opportunity to go back. I've been invited by the Friends of the Duncanville  Public Library to speak there tonight, and I was delighted to accept the invitation.

What do authors do when they address readers at a library or book club? Do people want to hear them read excerpts from their latest book? I don't think so. Actually, the two most common questions I've been asked are, "Where do you get your ideas?" and "How do you go about getting a book published?"

I'll probably address these sometime on one of my Friday blogs about the writing life. For now, let me just say that, if you're in the Duncanville area tonight, I hope you'll show up. There may be a few surprises for the people who are there.

Question for you. If you were face-to-face with a multi-published author, what question would you ask them?

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Writing: Signing Books

One of the things an author has to decide is how to sign books. It's certainly not something for which most writers plan, but it's an important practical matter. In my case, it's complicated a bit by my having two distinct types of books that I autograph: the non-fiction book I wrote after the death of my wife (The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse), and my novels (the most recent of which is Miracle Drug). I don't want to use the line I've come up with for the former--"Blessings"--for the latter. More importantly, I don't want to use the line with which I sign my novels--"Rx: Enjoy"--for the former.

Then there's the question of whether you're going to add a Scripture verse to your signature. For my book on getting past the death of a spouse, I chose the familiar passage from Romans 8:32-33. It's one I read and re-read during the days after Cynthia's death. For my novels, I use Psalm 139:1-5, a passage that includes the very important phrase that God knows the very words that come from my mouth (or my pen) even before I do.

That having been decided, I learned two things quickly. One is that a copy that's signed by the author is treasured more than an unsigned copy by some readers. To emphasize that, I ordered some stickers that I put on the front of signed books. These are available from numerous sources--just Google "signed by author stickers" or "signed book stickers" and check out the various sites.

 The other lesson I learned after my first book signing is that it's best to have a number of books pre-signed. That way, all I have to do is ask, "Do you want this personalized?" Then I can add the name of the person--and always, always, always check the spelling--above what I've already written.

Although I'm not much of one for book-signings per se, I think signed copies--however they're put in the hands of readers--are important. But a bit of forethought helps in the process.

So what about you? Does a signed copy mean more to you? What's your feeling about a Scripture verse to accompany the signature? Any thoughts you'd like to share? Leave a comment. I'd like to know.

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NOTE: If you're interested in reading some interesting things about me and my latest book, as well as getting a chance to win one of five copies of Miracle Drug, click here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It's Summer...No, It's Fall

Here in North Texas, the average temperature for October should be in the 70's, the weather guessers--I mean, forecasters--tell us. But as I sit here and write this, I can look back at recent days where the temperature was in the 90's. If this is fall, it's not typical.

Fall is also the time when football fever begins to heat up, while the final few games of the baseball season are underway. I won't say anything about how the Texas Rangers lost the divisional playoffs in the seventh inning of the fifth game, except there were more than twenty teams sitting at home, their seasons over before that of the Rangers. As for football, with our quarterback and star receiver on the disabled list, the Dallas Cowboys aren't setting the world on fire. But in Texas, high school and college football are still in full swing--even though the weather doesn't seem like fall.

What are your indicators for fall? Do you look forward to Halloween (or Fall Festival, if your church calls it that)? Is Thanksgiving the official start of fall for you? Does getting down the jackets and sweaters mean that fall has finally arrived? Let me know.

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Note: A reminder that I'm the token "mister" on the Suspense Sisters blog. If your writing question is chosen for answer on the site, you can win a gift card or a signed copy of one of our books. You can send your question to me at Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com, including your name and email address, and I'll throw it into the pot.

Second note: The giveaway of five copies of my latest novel, Miracle Drug, continues for another week. Click here to enter.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Writing: It's Just Like Baseball

Some of you who read this blog, especially my Friday posts about the writing life, are writers yourselves. You may or may not be published, either through a traditional publishing contract or self-published. But we're all trying to understand the constantly shifting sands on which we stand.

Those of you who are readers might be marginally aware of the changes in the publishing industry, but I didn't understand them until I got in the middle of things myself.

A writer recently made a comment on one of the writing sites I follow that seemed brilliant in its clarity. And now I'd like to expand that concept by pointing out a similarity to a sport with which most of us are familiar--professional baseball.

The comment said that a three book contract, even from one of the "big" publishing houses, didn't represent security. The author's work has to sell. Performance in this industry is measured, not by how the words look on the page, but by the money they bring in. Publishers are in business to make a profit, and if an author's work doesn't contribute to that, the writer is let go. It doesn't matter how much the editors and staff like them, how many awards they've won, their past performance. As in so many other things, only current (and future) results count. If not, the commenter points out, there are lots of other writers out there. The publisher can go after them, and if they don't pan out, the house can sign yet another. And eventually, someone will produce a blockbuster...which is, after all, what the publisher is after.

How different, really, is this from baseball? A team may trade for a pitcher or position player because they show potential. Yet if that potential doesn't develop, if it's not demonstrated in earned run average or batting average, if it doesn't show up in performance, the player is traded or let go and another one signed. No matter how much they're liked by manager and teammates, regardless of their being a favorite of a group of fans, a business decision is made and they're gone.

This may be why more and more authors are going the self-publishing route. True, there's a lot of work involved, but the author is in charge of their own fate. They--to carry the metaphor a step further--own the team on which they play. Win, lose, or draw, the results are up to them.

What do you think? Writers, have you considered self-publishing? Readers, does the name on the spine of the book make a difference to you? Or is it what's inside that counts? I'd like to hear.

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NOTE: Thanks to LitFuse and Abingdon Press, there's a new giveaway of five copies of my latest novel,  Miracle Drug. Click here for the link, and good luck.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Public Persona Of Athletes

We've lived in North Texas for a number of years, yet have never taken a tour of JerryWorld...I mean, AT&T Stadium in Arlington. We prefer to sit at home, watch the games on TV, and armchair-quarterback what "our" football team does. But that doesn't stop me from being a fan...or from being ashamed of some of the actions of the players.

I'm writing this right after the Cowboys' loss to the New England Patriots, led by Tom Brady. The Cowboys deserved to lose--that's not the point. But it made me wonder if a person's athletic abilities should somehow excuse his off-the-field behavior. Recently we've had the "Deflategate" investigation of Brady and the Patriots for the lowering of pressure in certain footballs during a playoff game last year. Then there's the undisputed fact that Brady had a three-year relationship with actress Bridget Moynhan, fathering a son with her while they were "dating," before he married his current wife.

The other thing that came up this weekend was the signing by the Cowboys of Greg Hardy. Despite Hardy's athletic abilities as a defensive lineman, I personally think the Cowboys made a mistake by offering him a contract. They said they'd done their homework, and he'd changed. But we learned about a very questionable rap video he apparently made while suspended from football activities for domestic violence, a video that shows absolutely no contrition for past indiscretions. Sure, he's good. But is he the type of person you want your sons emulating? Or is the idea that sports figures are role models outmoded now?

How about you? Are you disgusted with the off-the-field activities of certain sports figures? Does being good at some type of athletics excuse an individual from other responsibilities? And do you think athletes should be role models for our children? I'd like to hear your opinions.

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PS: Tomorrow I'm blogging at Suspense Sisters about the books you'd choose if you were to be stranded on a desert island. Here's the link.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Posting at Suspense Sisters

I'm holding with my Friday custom of posting about the writing life, but today it's over at the Suspense Sisters blog. I'm talking about the writer's most important instrument, and what to do when it just won't work.

Not sure what that instrument is? Curious about to do when it's out of commission. I hope you'll click here to read the post and comment.

See you next week.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

"Just Look That Up"

I heard it just the other day. "Just look that up." We've all grown dependent on our electronic umbilical cords, haven't we? We use our smart phones, our tablets, our laptops and computers for everything--phone calls, contacts, web sites, email, browsing the Internet. And just let one of those things go out--if your Internet access goes down, your phone doesn't work right, you're in (shudder) a zone where there's no connectivity--and suddenly you feel like Robinson Caruso, alone on your own little desert island.

A friend visited us from out of town last week. I started to give him directions to our house, but he said, "I'll just program the address in to my GPS." And, I must admit, I use our own GPS when trying to navigate in unfamiliar territory. I tried using my phone's app for that some years back, then discovered that there was no cell service in the area of deep East Texas where I was going. Man, did I feel lost...both literally and figuratively.

This isn't a rant about electronics and how dependent on them we've come. I recognize that a visitor to our current world from fifty years back would be amazed at the advances we have. But can you imagine what might be down the pike?

What advances would you like to see in the next few years? I think it would be interesting to hear...or read...well, you know what I mean. Just leave a comment.

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Friday, October 02, 2015

Writing: Interview With Author Beth Goddard

Today, on the Suspense Sisters blog, I'm interviewing author Beth Goddard. Here's a sample:

What is your writing style?   (Do you outline?  Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants?   Or somewhere in-between?) 

When I first started writing, it was for Heartsong Presents and we were required to write a chapter synopsis—i.e., what happens in every chapter. That was good training for me because now I never have to worry what I’m going to write next. However, even though I outline or write up a synopsis beforehand, I give myself the freedom to change things as the story requires.

To read more, go to the Suspense Sisters blog. I'll see you again next week.

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