Friday, January 29, 2016

Writing: Errors In A Book

Manuscripts sent to an editor are supposed to be as ready for publication as a writer can make them. But after that, they go through several edits: macro edit, line edit, galleys. When I get a galley proof to work on, the letter generally says that a copy editor is also checking the material for misspellings and other errors. But, despite this, spelling errors can get through. And I've finally decided that, since humans are involved, that's always going to be the case.

When I first started writing, I figured that a published book was as perfect as it could be. And that's the standard I tried to achieve with my manuscripts. But lately I've noticed typos and other errors creeping into some of the books I read. Here's an example. The late Robert B. Parker had a PhD in English. He had more than fifty novels to his credit. His novels were published by a well-known international publishing house.  Surely these books would be free of errors. And yet, in the one I'm currently re-reading, I encountered the name of a character misspelled as "Brain," rather than "Brian." It happens.

Should a reader notify an author when they find a misspelled word or other error in a book? Yes and no. They can let the author know, and he or she will undoubtedly forward the email or letter on to the editor involved. But a large publisher isn't going to do another print run just because of one such error. True, they'll probably correct it if the book goes to another printing, but that may or may not happen.

The book reviews you see are based on ARCs--Advance Reading Copies. These are unedited versions, but reviewers and endorsers are used to that, and make allowances. The final published form you pay for should be as perfect as the publisher can get it...but errors happen. My advice? Enjoy the book, let a responsible party know if there's an egregious error, but realize that nobody's perfect. Or, as someone once said, "Misteaks hapen!"

Have you found any errors in your favorite books? I'd like to know. Leave a comment and tell us.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"For Free, Take..."

Most of you won't recognize the name Duke Kahanamoku, even by his full name of Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku. He won swimming medals in three Olympics and was a world class surfer. But what I remember most is a quotation attributed to him by Arthur Godfrey (another name from the past for most of you): "For free, take. For buy, waste time."

Why has this come up? Because yesterday I saw a tweet that a fellow author was doing a giveaway in conjunction with her latest book. I, like most other authors, engage in various giveaways when I'm trying to help promote my work, but this most recent instance made me wonder, "Why do authors have to give some of our books away?"

Another colleague, whose husband is an excellent commercial artist, says he was asked to provide artwork for an activity at no charge. Could this be considered promotion? No, he was asked not to sign his work. In other words, he was asked for his product free of charge.

We've all done a little of this. I ask my golf partner legal questions. He asks me medical ones. But I don't say to the dry cleaner, "I've been coming here for a couple of years. How about cleaning and pressing this suit free of charge?" And see how far you get when you ask the grocery check-out clerk when they're going to announce the winner of $25 worth of groceries.

It's sort of an idle question, I guess, and nothing is going to change it, but I'd like your opinion. Do authors--whether of Christian books or secular ones--need to engage in giveaways to promote their work? Does it really work? Why or why not? I'd really like to know.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Writing: Interview with author Christa Allan

Today at the Suspense Sisters blog, I'm interviewing friend and author Christa Allan. Here's her answer to the story behind one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I've seen, the prologue to her first novel, Walking On Broken Glass:

The story behind the novel?  I’ve been a recovering alcoholic for almost thirty years now, and have stayed sober by the grace of God.  When I discovered Christian fiction, I couldn’t find stories I could relate to in terms of my life experiences. So many of them seemed sanitized. I wanted to write, not only about what happens when the road to sobriety is under construction, but challenges Christians face. My character, Leah, is confronted by her BFF Molly, who tells her she’s drinking too much. Molly’s willingness to risk their friendship to tell Leah what she needed to hear was also something I wanted readers to know. So many times, we see friends struggling, and we’re afraid to speak out and tell them the truth. If my friend had not summoned the courage to talk to me about my drinking, I’m not sure when or if I would have taken the steps to treatment. 

To read the full interview, click here. Christa is offering a copy of her most recent novella to one blog reader, so be sure to leave a comment. And come back next week.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dog Days In January?

Sources say that the "dog days of summer" were so-named because they were associated with the rising in the early morning of the dog-star, Canis. Ogden Nash calls them, "The days of the dog, July and Aug." We hear of baseball teams wilting as summer heat gets to them...the dog days.

But this is winter. Parts of the country are freezing. Why in the world am I talking about dog days? Because the expression has also come to mean days when there's no energy, times when we don't want to do our work. And those days can come anytime.

I think the days in January as we come down from the holiday high can be dog days for us (aided, I'm sure, by things like receiving the bills and finding that the tasks we put off until after the first of the year are now here).

For writers, the times of natural let-down following the highs of attending a writing conference can be dog days. I've experienced the feeling, and I suspect other writers have as well.

What are your dog days? Why do you experience them? What do you do to combat them? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Writing: Length of Novels

Note: In two weeks, I'll be teaching at the Weekend With The Writers retreat. Author Robin Mason posted this interview with me. You might enjoy learning "three things about me" you don't know.

Do you wonder how long a novel should be? I'm not sure there is a standard answer. Go to any library and pull several novels from the shelf, and you'll find a significant disparity in their lengths.

In the realm of Christian fiction (which is where my work is published), I've seen novels as short as 60 thousand words and as long as 120 thousand or more. My own run about 75 to 80 thousand. Some editors and publishing houses have preferred lengths of books, and obviously an author has to consider these when writing. But for the as-yet-unpublished writer (sometimes called the pre-published author), I'd suggest shooting for about 80 to 100 thousand words.

There was a time when authors and editors dealt with the number of pages instead of number of words, but current computer software makes it easy to see how many words are in a particular work. Usually, authors either "write long or short" in their first draft, planning to add or remove words when they do the second and third drafts. (How many drafts are enough? See my previous post on that).

Recently, especially with the rise of self-publication, novellas have become popular with both readers and writers. These shorter versions run from 20 thousand to 40 thousand words. Amazon now has a category of books that generally take less than two hours to read (and I'm happy to report that my two novellas, Rx Murder and Silent Night, Deadly Night are high on that list).

The question always comes up: "Is this novel long enough? Or too long? What's the optimum length?" That's similar to the question posed to Abraham Lincoln: "How long should a man's legs be?" His answer was, "Long enough to reach the ground." A novel should be long enough to present the full arc of the story, to show changes in some of the characters, and to hold the reader's interest.

What do you think? Do you like longer novels or shorter ones? What do you think about novellas? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The "Tyrannical Shoulds"

Unless you're a psychiatrist or have a special interest in the specialty, you probably won't recognize the woman in the picture. She was Karen Horney, a German psychoanalyst who practiced over a hundred years ago. She put forth a number of theories, many controversial, and none of which I plan to discuss here. (Pause and let the wind from a collective sigh settle). But in this period following Christmas, I've been reminded of a principle Horney set forth--the tyrannical should.

What do I mean by that? Think of this. In the rush of Christmas, what was your motivation for sending out Christmas cards? Was it to stay in touch with others? Or were some of the cards sent because you knew you "should" do it. If it's the latter, you were succumbing to the tyrannical should.

Did you give more expensive gifts than your budget would comfortably allow? Or did you give some gifts to people because you felt it was expected? Was it because of a desire to do something special, or because you felt you "should" do it? Think about it.

Of course, the tyrannical should doesn't apply only during the season just past. It shows up in every aspect of our life. We constantly do things because we feel as though we "should" do it. I'm very guilty of being a slave to the tyrannical should. I'd like to get away from it, and maybe this year I will. But meanwhile, when you and I do something because of what we think others will expect, when we hear that tape playing in our head that says "You should do that, even if you don't want to," let's think of Karen Horney and the tyrannical should.

Are there things in your life that you feel are a byproduct of the tyrannical should? How would you go about getting past them? I'd like to know. Leave a comment.

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Note: The winners of the audio books from the contest I mentioned in last Friday's blog are: Anne R, Susan S, Patricia B, and Lee C. I've sent emails to each with their key to download the book and instructions on using it. Thanks to all of you for entering.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Writing: Audio Book Giveaway

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm interviewed today on the Suspense Sisters blog, and we're giving away a copy of my latest novel, Miracle Drug. Drop by and comment.

AND ANOTHER GIVEAWAY: Although  my "middle novel," Stress Test, has been available via audio books for quite some time, it was only recently that my first four novels of medical suspense also were recorded in that format. Audio books are popular, especially with people who spend a fair amount of time in their cars or those who like to listen while doing other things. So I have decided to do a giveaway of some of my own books in audio format.

The five books pictured above are those available in audio form. Why just these books? For those who think an author is responsible for this, that may be true with self-published books, but in this case my publishers took care of it (so, thus, the choice was theirs). In addition to Stress Test, the titles of my novels of medical suspense available in audio format are Code Blue, Medical Error, Diagnosis Death, and Lethal Remedy. (And, by the way, they are all freestanding--there's no need to read them in any order).

To celebrate the new year, I plan to give away the code to download a free audio book. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post, together with your email address (in this format: dr r l mabry at yahoo dot com), and your choice of a book. I no longer have the Stress Test key, but the other four are fair game. I'll send the winner the key and instructions on how to use it. Lest you worry, I won't use these email addresses for anything else. (You have to enter your address in the space in the right margin to receive my newsletter).

That's it. I'll choose winners early next week and send them emails with the code and instructions. When you leave your comment, you might answer this question: What is your opinion of audio books? But don't forget: leave your email address and choice of book.

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Note: Recipients of my newsletter recently had the opportunity to win copies of my audio books. Winners were Sandra B., Dusty C-M, Cindy L., Christine B., and Anne G. Thanks to everyone who entered. If you entered and lost, feel free to try again here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and that no one found a lump of coal when they checked their stocking. Hmm. At the current price of coal, maybe we should re-examine that tale. Anyway, it's 2016 (even though I haven't learned to write it yet).

Do you still make new year's resolutions? One source says that almost half of us do that. Unfortunately, by and large, we don't keep them,  but it's nice to know that we at least try. What's mine? I've lost about fourteen pounds this past year, mainly through portion control and exercise. I'd like to lose another dozen or more, so I suppose that will be my new year's resolution.

Okay, I've bared my soul to reveal my resolution. What's yours? Leave it in the comment section.

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Note to recipients of my newsletter: I offered a giveaway last week. I'll notify the winners tomorrow. If you aren't signed up for the newsletter, enter your email in the space at the right, and get in on the offerings for recipients of my occasional e-communications.

Oh, and come back Friday, when I talk about one of the newer things in publishing--audio books--with a giveaway.

Friday, January 01, 2016

New Year, 2016

Today marks the beginning of another year. Like most of you, I'll have to learn to write "2016" on my checks. There are some things we've all been putting off until the new year. Well, that's here now. 

Although you and I stand on the threshold of another year, what we're guaranteed is this minute, these sixty seconds--not another year, not another month, not even another day. This is a lesson I learned when my wife of forty years died suddenly more than fifteen years ago. After the initial shock subsided, I started each day thanking God for giving me one more day, determined to live it as though it would be my last...because one day, that will be the case.

Keep that in mind. And happy New Year. I'll see you next week.