Friday, October 19, 2018

Writing: Audio Version of Books

Recently, on one of the writer's loops of which I'm a member, the question of audio versions of our books came up. Since I'm in the middle of putting out one of those, I thought it would be interesting to address the subject.

In the case of the author contracted with a publishing house,  the document you signed undoubtedly has a paragraph that allows the publisher to put out your book in any and all versions, including print, ebook, radio, TV, audio, etc. This is pretty standard. Some of my books released by publishers are available as audio books, and I wasn't involved in choosing the narrators, listening to the material recorded, or--in essentially every case--marketing that version. I did receive a CD  of one of those audio books, but I have to say it was a surprise to me that it was even available. As for royalties, those are spelled out in the contract, and will vary with the individual situation.

For the indie-published author (and I include agent-assisted publishing), the decision to put out an audio version of a book resides with the author. This is done through ACX (which handles most of the audio books on the market). ACX is a subsidiary of Audible, which is part of Amazon. But all you need to know here is that ACX is where you go to start.

Choosing a narrator is tough, but the website walks you through this, including posting auditions and eventually choosing a producer. There are two ways of paying to have an audio recording of your book--either shell out the cost directly to the producer (who charges on a per hour basis) and be done with it, or strike a revenue-sharing deal with him/her (which means they'll get half your revenues from the recording). This is arranged before you choose your producer.

I've listened to every word recorded by the producer on all my self-published books. I find myself not wanting to do it, but with medical terms thrown in from time to time, I have to be certain they're pronounced correctly. How long will that take? Several hours. But I think it's worth it.

You'll need a cover for the audio book, but this can be resized from the one developed for the print book. And then you have to get the word out. It's all up to you. Worth it? Too early for me to tell.

In just a few weeks, I'll announce (in my newsletter--see sign-up tab on the right--and later on this blog) that the audio version of my last novel, Guarded Prognosis, will be be available just in time for holiday giving. And I hope to have a novella available for the holiday season, as well. Busy, busy, busy.

What is your opinion about audio books? Love 'em, hate 'em, or don't care? I want to know.

Click to tweet. "Ever been curious about how audio books are done?"

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"The World Is Too Much With Us..."

On Monday morning, my wife and I watched a recorded program in which a man--supposedly an expert in the field--segued from Google and the Internet into a discussion of bitcoins and cryptocurrency.  About halfway through the program, by mutual agreement we turned off the set. My problem was that, even if I understood all that this expert was saying, the changes he predicted weren't going to come about until I'm long gone. It was interesting, but until it happened it was sort of theoretical.

That same morning, I saw that Sears--a mainstay retailer for most of my adult life--was filing for bankruptcy. I'd been reading that a lot of their customer service, which until recently was one of the reasons people kept coming back to them, had slipped. Other retailers were changing the way they did business. The world was changing. And, to paraphrase Danny Glover in the film "Lethal Remedy," I'm getting too old for this stuff.

Wordsworth said, "The world is too much with us, late and soon." There was a time when I echoed those words, but now I tend to agree more with Bob Dylan. "The times they are a-changing."  If you'll allow me one more quote, this from obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk, "I don't mind change. I just don't like to be around while it's happening."

What do you think?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Writing: How Does A Novel Get Started?

I thought it might be interesting to see the things that go into the first stages of a novel. I've often heard, "I have a great idea for a novel." But an idea is one thing. Putting flesh on those bones is another.

How do I do it? I start with a single concept. This may be the "log line" for the novel, and is often the opening line of the back cover copy for my work. For instance, here's the log line of one of my novels: "A gunman who has nothing to lose faces a doctor who could lose it all." Sound interesting? But how about putting something together.

I sketch out the flow of the novel. There's going to be a gunman in the emergency room, and the major person he's confronting is a doctor. But that's a scene, not a novel. So I have to figure out how and why this confrontation happens, how it is resolved, and what happens next?

To do all this, I have to populate the story. I assume my protagonist is going to be that doctor, but is the person holding the gun the antagonist, or simply one of the people involved. What lies behind this scene? What happens afterward? And who are the characters, both major and minor, who are involved in the story?

Now what stages along the way does the novel follow? Do I use the three act structure, the "pillars" of a novel, Vogler's hero's journey? And what happens to prevent the "sagging middle" against which writers are constantly warned? Finally, what's the event or scene that Bell calls a "knock-out ending?"

I won't say that all these decisions happen at once. Sometimes I have to go back after several false starts, at times rewriting up to 10,000 words, before I get the sense of who is involved and how they are going to act. But eventually I get a first draft of the novel that has sprung from a single idea. In this case, the idea came from the confrontation of a resident physician of my acquaintance and a man with a gun. You've seen how the idea is fleshed out, and I can tell you that the end result  differs from the inciting scene. It was a start, but there's a lot of work that follows.

Oh, and this is just the first draft. Three or more revisions will follow before this becomes a novel. And later there's always the thought of, "I wonder if it would be better this way?" Like poems, novels are not really finished, just abandoned.

So what do you think? Still want to write that novel? Go to it. It's worth the effort.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Dependence On Social Media

Things have changed, and most of the changes are good--but not all of them. We used to depend on newspapers and radio or TV for our news. Now it also comes from computers and smart phones.

I'm not going to opine about what we read in the newspapers or its slant. The same goes for the commentators (they're not really news anchors in most cases) on radio or TV. But there's no doubt that social media posts have become a major source of news for us. This, of course, has its good and bad points. It's great that anyone with access to a computer can put their opinion out there. It's bad that some of us take these postings as the truth.

A couple of days ago, when I went to my computer I found a number of Facebook messages waiting for me, messages that said my account had been "cloned," and people were getting requests to friend me. I was ready to accept these messages at face value (especially since I got so many of them), but a little digging showed me that this was a scam. No one was cloning accounts. No one wanted to get info from my friends. There was no reason for me to copy and send the message to everyone I knew. But for a few moments I let social media dictate my life.

Remember. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's true."

Friday, October 05, 2018

Writing: Why Go To A Conference?

Some of the authors who follow this blog (both of you) have just returned from an annual writing conference. Others are making plans to go to one after the first of the year. A third group, and apparently a large one, is debating whether to invest the time and money to attend such a conference in the future.

I'm certainly not the world's expert on writing conferences--I've attended as a student, I've participated as a faculty member, and I seriously consider each major conference as it's announced. I think it all boils down to your status, as well as what your expectations are if you attend them.

Some are what I describe as "newbie" writers. I don't use the term in a pejorative fashion--I was one myself--and this is perhaps the group that will get the most from attending a writing conference. But choose one that offers what you need, not one that's the most high-profile. When making such a choice, consider several things.

People starting out entering the publishing world often don't understand the ins and outs of what has become a rapidly changing field. I liken it to algebra--you go along and go along in utter confusion, then suddenly it makes sense. At least, it did for me. And that's important for someone just starting out as a writer.

You may have a great concept of English grammar, but the ability to string words together that are grammatically correct does not automatically confer the ability to write something that will hold the reader's attention. I don't hold with always following the rules, but one needs to understand the reason for each one before breaking them. Sure, Picasso could put body parts anywhere he wanted, but I'd bet he knew where they belonged before he moved them. That's why the novice writer has to learn about point of view, avoidance of passive voice, sparing use of adjectives, and dozens of other admonitions.

Please, fledgling writers, don't go to a conference because there are lots of editors and agents there and you expect to get representation and an immediate contract. For every attendee to whom this happens, there are dozens who are disappointed when their dreams come crashing. Make friends, enlarge your sphere of contacts, and enjoy the atmosphere of being with others who understand what you're doing and offer support.

Some veterans teach because they feel it's important to give back. Asking around will give you the information you want as to which classes are best. Choose them, pay attention, make certain the faculty recognize your name and face. You'd be surprised at how these relationships eventually deepen.

There are many more things to consider about conferences, but perhaps these will help those dipping their toes into the writing pool. Come on in. The water's fine.

Tweet with a single click. "Considering attendance at a writer's conference?"

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Fall...Already?

Somehow, we've turned a page of the calendar and it's October. Around these parts it means the State Fair of Texas (but we haven't gone in years). It also means that we're nearing the end of Daylight Saving Time (which I've likened to cutting off an inch of cloth from the top of a piece and sewing it to the bottom to make it longer). Football is in full swing. Baseball (if you're a fan in this area and your team has been out of contention for a while) is nearing completion with the World Series. And everywhere you turn you'll find pumpkin spice flavoring--lattes, cookies, even pumpkin spice pasta.

It means the temperature will drop, the leaves will turn colors and then turn loose, and those who haven't done so (present company included) will start thinking about Christmas decorations, presents, and meals.

So how about you? What does fall mean? Let me hear.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Writing: Editing Our Work





I'm waiting to get the final edits back for my novella, Emergency Case, so editing is on my mind right now. And I thought it might be a good idea to once more go through the types of editing--at least, this is the way I do it. (There are other classifications and names for the edits, but the end result is the same).

First comes the MACRO EDIT. What I'm looking for here is how the story arc flows, whether there are glaring holes that need to be filled or characters whose actions or personalities should be changed. This is an important step, and the results have made me--on more than one occasion--go back and change things in the book. Sometimes this has happened after I've written ten thousand words or more, and at least once it has meant rewriting parts of the whole book. One of the things I recommend is not falling in love with your own words, because you may have to delete them later.

After that comes the LINE EDIT. This isn't what it might sound like. The purpose of a line edit is to evaluate (and correct) the way the author has used words to communicate ideas. It often involves rewriting a section for accuracy or clarity. But it's not (or at least, usually isn't) a situation looking for errors in spelling, punctuation, or word usage. That comes next.

The final step is the COPY EDIT. That changes numerals written in number form to those spelled out (I never can keep the rules straight). It puts in or removes commas, changes ellipses to dashes and vice-versa, and makes sure that if a name is Holiday in the first of the book it doesn't appear as Hathaway toward the end. (The last one has always been my downfall).

I said final step, but there's actually one more--the PROOFREADING. This is done just before printing, and is for picking up errors missed previously. And, despite all efforts, there is probably something that has been overlooked. It happens everywhere. I was just reading the work of an excellent author, a novel published by a well-respected publisher, and found the same word misspelled twice on the same page.

Ah, writing. How wonderful to put one's words out there for the world to see and criticize. That's why an author shouldn't do all this on his/her own.

What do you think? Is all the editing necessary? Should an indie-published author pay someone to edit (I do) or do it themselves? Let me know.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Scattershooting

Every once in a while, I hark back to the columns of the late Blackie Sherrod, probably one of the best sports writers in this area. He did one periodically with the lead line of "Scattershooting while wondering what ever happened to..." (He'd fill in the blanks depending on his recollections and whatever was on his mind.)

My thoughts today are scattered, and I really don't feel like gathering them into coherent paragraphs. I've just gone through the process of changing our TV/Internet/Phone carrier after tiring of the constant service interruptions by bad weather, inferior equipment (often poorly installed), and other factors. I've watched my local pro football team play an absolutely abysmal game. The season is finally (mercifully) ending for the local pro baseball team. I'm concerned by the current political climate in our nation. And this morning I emptied the rain gauge again. making a total of over six inches in the past several days. (But fortunately we've been spared the flooding that the news has showed us from other parts of the country). And, of course, I continue--despite being "retired"--to work on the products of my second career, writing.

So, that's where I stand. Ever have a time when you were supposed to do something and your thoughts were scattered? If so, you have my sympathy.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Writing: Busy, Busy, Busy

I'll confess--I've been enjoying not having a deadline to meet. As an "independent" author, I've been free to relax a bit. After all, there's no editor or marketing manager or someone else from a publishing house to tell me that a manuscript is due on such-and-such a date, that I need to get edits returned by a specific time, that I should cooperate in marketing because my book will be published an a certain day...in other words, there's a real temptation to enjoy this relative freedom. But at some point, authors unassociated with a publisher have to wake up to the fact that it's all up to them to set up a schedule and meet some of those deadlines--even if they're self-imposed.

My book, Guarded Prognosis, has been doing well, and I thank each of you who has read it (or any of the other dozen novels and four novellas I've written). I'm now in the midst of arranging for that novel to be available in audio format (which means I have to listen to the entire novel myself, correcting any errors the narrator makes). And in a moment of weakness, I said there'd be a novella published late this fall, which means I'm back at work putting the finishing touches on Emergency Case. So, despite the temptation to kick back, I'm back at work...writing, editing, creating, selling, even a little bit of teaching. Ah, the writing life.

Which brings me to a question for you. What do you think the ideal interval between release of novels would be? One per year? One per six months? Does your answer reflect your status as a writer, a reader, or both? Let me hear.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lessons From A Bumper Sticker

It's been a nightmare around here, folks. I was just thinking about how calm my wife and I have been as we wrestled with the vagaries of the "new and improved" type of technology that brings television images into our homes. The Internet is working fine. The landline (yes, we still have one of those) is available for incoming and outgoing calls. But the TV set keeps giving us the message that there's no wireless connection between the wonderful box that gets signals and our set.

Fortunately, the repairman (yes, he's been out here once already) gave us his phone number, and promises to come out today. But just as I was settling down, I read James Scott Bell's post about his own experiences on the freeways of LA. He kept his cool, although I get the impression it wasn't easy. His suggestion is that authors come up with a bumper sticker to be applied by their protagonist. Why don't we think of one for ourselves? Mine might be "Count to Ten." There was a time when I would explode at the drop of a hat, and supply the hat. But I'm better than that now. Or, at least, I try to be.

It reminds me of the incident where a car was pulled over by a patrolman. The driver, all injured innocence, asked why he was stopped. He was told that, despite the fish emblem on the back of the car and the bumper sticker saying they were members of a well-known church in the area, the officer took note of  the way the car was being driven, and assumed that it was stolen.

Think about it. And act accordingly.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Writing: Changes In Publishing

There's a wonderful recurring segment from the movie, Airplane, where Lloyd Bridges, as a harried flight controller, repeatedly says he "picked the wrong week to quit..." You fill in the blanks. Here's the YouTube video of those segments.

I thought of this when I began to consider the changes in publishing that have taken place in the decade or more since I got into this activity. At that time, perhaps due to my inexperience and lack of familiarity, the roles in publishing seemed clear-cut to me. But that has changed.  I see writers speaking, agents becoming teachers, authors becoming editors, and in general everyone playing "fruit-basket-turnover" as people scramble to be compensated for their efforts. I'm retired, but it's nice to be paid for my writing efforts, and I think others who work in the publishing industry deserve this financial recognition as well. But it seems that idea is becoming passe.

It's probably an instance of "the good old days" not being really as good as we remember them, but what ever happened to the times we've heard about-- times when a writer could devote his/her time to writing the best book possible? Now, writers spend at least half their time (or part of their income, if they hire someone to do it for them) in marketing books. And it seems that unless you attach a bargain price to your work product,  people aren't interested.

I don't know what the answer is, but there are days when I find myself thinking, "I picked the wrong time to get into the publishing industry." What do you think?

Tweet with a single click. "Changes are going on in publishing. Have you noticed?"

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Privacy

There was a time, mainly when I was practicing medicine, that I felt the need to always be available. Honestly, I sometimes resented it, but it went with the profession. Now that I'm retired, things are different. I carry a cell phone when I go out, mainly to make outgoing calls. Because we also have a landline at our house, we're pretty available almost all of the time.

Over the past several months I've noticed a definite increase in calls--both on our landline and our cells--that aren't from people to whom we'd like to talk. Rather, they want to sell us something, get us to vote a certain way, or otherwise manipulate us. In other words, they're "spam" calls.

I've tried the various apps to block these calls, and they work some of the time, but the spammers are always coming up with new ways to get around these. For instance, they "spoof" calls, so that if your Caller ID shows The White House, don't get excited--it's not the President calling. It's someone who wants to sell you insurance, and they could be calling from across the country or anywhere in the world.

Recently, I've noticed a number of calls that have the same area code and prefix as a recognizable cell. Apparently, these callers think I'll see the number, ignore the ID, and answer. I  also keep getting frequent calls from unfamiliar numbers in different area codes--I suppose there are enough folks who answer to make it worth their while to keep calling.

Anyway, it's nice to be available when friends, relatives, and expected callers want to reach us. But I'm getting tired of others who try to sneak in. What do you think? Is our "new" availability worth the invasion of our privacy it makes us vulnerable to? I'd like to hear.


Friday, September 07, 2018

Writing: "The Road Not Taken"

I've seen a couple of posts recently about what a writer does when their contract comes to an end. Matter of fact, I've written about it myself, talking about the times I've been "between engagements." I've been fortunate enough to have ten of my twelve novels released by a "traditional" publisher. My four (soon to be five) novellas and two latest novels are independently-published. At least for the foreseeable future, I'll probably remain a "hybrid" writer (i.e., published both by traditional and indie means). I've made my choice, but it wasn't easy.

The dichotomy brings to mind Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken." The as-yet-unpublished writer, like the protagonist in this poem, has two choices--to seek publication from a conventional publishing house or go it on their own as an "indie." Each has good and bad points. These have been set out elsewhere, and I won't belabor the material by repeating it. Let me simply say that, whichever road the writer chooses, there will be both regret and joy. I've considered a number of factors in making my choice. And, with the fluid situation in publishing, these are subject to change.

When I've asked before, virtually none of my respondents have paid much attention to the publishing house who name is one a book. The author (and his/her reputation, if they've had work published before that) seems to be the determining factor. Do you agree? Let me know.

Tweet with a single click. "How is choosing traditional vs. indie publication similar to Frost's 'The Road Not Taken'?"


Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Service

I bought a new tee shirt the other day, and wore it this past weekend. I proudly stand behind the slogans shown on the shirt, and am not ashamed to say that I served in the US Military. But that's not the only service we should think about. Let me hasten to say that this past holiday, Labor Day, was about the service rendered by many others.

I thought about those who were working while others of us were taking a long holiday. I considered the personnel who made possible our shopping for groceries, clothing, hardware, and so many other items. I thought about the medical personnel who were working during this holiday time. The more I thought about it, the longer my list became. Unfortunately, we've come to take this service for granted--even on Labor Day.

So, if you enjoyed some time off this past holiday weekend, please join me in saying "Thank you" to everyone who was working during our "time off." We appreciate your service.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Labor Day 2018

This weekend, including Labor Day on Monday, marks the unofficial end of summer. Many have some time off--perhaps a three-day weekend. The children, most of whom have just gotten started back in school, are at home again (which is fine with the majority of them but sometimes not with the parents). There will be barbecues and sales and other things.. But don't forget why we celebrate.  


Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It became a federal holiday in 1894. May your celebration include a time when you stop to meditate on all those whose efforts have made our country great. Enjoy

.




Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Sometimes You Have To Push Yourself"

My wife said something recently that continues to resonate with me. I've let my regular habit of walking go for a bit as I dealt with some back problems. Now that physical therapy and medication have that under control, I'll admit I didn't exactly run to get started again. I'd go part-way on the course I'd laid out, then double back. Eventually, my wife (who's pretty good about getting me back on track), said, "You know, if you expect to get back in shape, you may have to push yourself." So for the past week or so, when I get to the point where I usually turn around, I've gone on--I've pushed myself.

This doesn't go just for exercise, of course. I've faced some tasks that were unpleasant, or difficult, or otherwise were hard to contemplate, much less carry out. How did I get through? I pushed myself.

In writing, I often seem to reach a spot where it would be easier to let things slide, to read or watch TV. How do I get past this? I push myself.

I doubt that I'm the only person who's ever faced this. When do you have to push yourself? What do you do to get past these "bumps in the road"? I'd like to hear.

Tweet with a single click. "Do you ever have to push yourself to do something worthwhile?"

PS--Don't forget my offer from my previous post. Last week I offered a free "key" to allow downloading of one of my audio books for those readers who want one.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Writing: Tooting Your Own Horn

One of the hardest things for an author to do is what my mother would have called, "Tooting your own horn." Since millions of new books are published in the US every year, the only way an author's work can be recognized is by getting the word out--in other words, "tooting our own horn." I have heard it said (and I agree) that word-of-mouth is the best means of advertising. But in order for that information to be shared, an author must mention that the book is available. This is easier when there's a group of people familiar with prior works by that author, but it's still not "automatic."

An author is always cognizant of the necessity to get people to recognize his/her work, and that means keeping the name of the writer and the latest book in front of people. How can we do this? Social media has changed the way this used to go, and I can't tell if it's for the best or not. All the time that a writer wants to spend writing, they're thinking, "How do I get the word out?" And when the author is tied up with their blog, their home page, their Facebook page, their Twitter comments, their Instagram posts, they're thinking, "I should be writing."

The best advice I've received--in addition to, "Write the best book you can"--has been to pick a couple of types of social media in addition to your home page, post regularly there, and not worry too much about the rest. My home page only needs my attention three or so times a year. My blog has devolved into a twice a week thing. My Facebook author page features information that I think would be of interest to both writers and readers. My tweets cover a variety of things. And in the past, my newsletter (published three or four times a year--sign up to the right of this post) gives news of new releases and often includes special pricing on one of my novels. That's it. The rest of my time, I spend writing (and doing the other things a normal person does).

Every once in a while, I make something available to regular readers of this blog, and this is one of them. Several of my novels and all my novellas are available in audio format. My latest, Guarded Prognosis,  will come out as an audio book by the end of the year. Meanwhile, if you listen to audio books, I have a "key" that will let you download one of these novels in audio form. Simply leave a comment that includes your name and email (the latter in this format to foil bots--Dr R L Mabry at gmail dot com), and I'll send the key to a number of randomly selected commenters so long as my supply lasts.

 Note: I plan to post this on my author FB page as well, but the only comments that are eligible for the audio key will be those left here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Toe The Line

According to Wikipedia, "Toe the line" is an idiomatic expression meaning either to conform to a rule or standard, or to stand poised at the starting line in a footrace." It's gotten a lot of play lately, mainly in regard to football players standing on the sideline at attention (or at least close) as our National Anthem is played. I have my own opinion about all this, but that isn't the thrust of this blog post.

I got to thinking that each of us, unless independently wealthy, ends up working for someone--we have to toe the line sometime. I certainly learned this when I was in the US Air Force for three years. I learned to yield to the authority of officers above my grade, to delegate responsibility to enlisted personnel and officers below my grade, and when given an assignment, to give a dollar's worth of work for a dollar's worth of pay. 

As a solo practitioner of my medical specialty, I learned quickly that I worked for my patients. That was what I went into medicine to do, but there were times it wasn't easy. When I left my practice after several decades to become a professor at a prestigious medical school, one of my friends (also a physician) asked if I was willing to go to work "for the man." I reminded him that I'd been doing this in one form or another for many years. I was used to toeing the line.

As an author, one might think that I could truly say I was independent...but that would be wrong. I learned this again the other day when I made the mistake of reading a review of one of my novels on Amazon. Lincoln's quote might be applied to authors, when he talked about getting a reaction from some of the people vs. all of the people. We work for our readers, and not all of them love our work.

No, we all have to toe the line sometime. And when I forget whom I need to ultimately please, I read the little card pinned above my computer, the one carrying the verse penned by my cyber-friend and colleague, B. J. Hoff:

"It matters not if the world has heard, or approves, or understands...
The only applause we're meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands."

Tweet with a single click. "When and why do you toe the line."

NOTE: I'm once more participating in the Thriller Roundtable of the International Thriller Writers. Check the site to chime in.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Writing: Light At The End Of The Tunnel

When I was an intern (now we'd call it the first post-graduate year), I did a number of "rotations" on various services and wards. When I'd finished three months in one place I moved on to another. But first I had to write off-service notes on each patient I was currently caring for, to allow the physician who came behind me to pick up where I left off. There were times when I was glad to move on, others that I hated to see end. The off-service notes marked a time of transition. Sometimes I was sorry to write them. At other times, I was glad.

One of the first things I realized when I finished my medical training was that there are no off-service notes in life. What we started, we had to finish. Sometimes this was pleasant to do, but at other times it would have been so nice to walk away and let someone else take up the struggle we'd started. And when I transitioned from medical practice to writing, I found that the same thing was true. There are no off-service notes here. There is, however, the option to quit. And many authors have done this.

In case you're wondering, I'm not quitting. My "going indie" has given me the freedom to set my own schedule, and although I'll publish two novellas and a novel in 2018, next year I'm going to limit my writing to one full-length novel. That's the light at the end of my tunnel. (And in case you're wondering about the second novella for 2018, Emergency Case will be out late this year--watch for it).

Tweet with a single click. "Physicians find that there are no 'off-service notes' in life."



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Our Electronic Age

I still remember my folks sitting in their car on the courthouse square in our small town, their windows rolled down, conversation ceasing as the vote tally was read out on election evening. Sometimes the final total wasn't available for days. But that's how we learned in those days.

We got our news from the paper printed in a nearby large city, and caught up on local happenings when our weekly local paper came out. Radio newscasters provided headlines, and when TV came along, we could not only hear about events but see clips that showed them. We marveled at the progress we were seeing. But that was just the beginning.

Now, we have so many channels available to us that even after having a satellite TV connection for an extended time, we still are sometimes surprised to find one we didn't know was available to us. And, the next time you're in a restaurant, look around and see how many of your fellow diners are staring at their iPhones, rather than their dining companions. And, if you've got a strong heart, see how many of your fellow drivers are texting while they navigate city streets.

This is the age of electronic communications. Have a question? "Google it." Wonder whether a friend has gotten back from a trip? Send a text. Want an opinion on something in the news? Read the opinion page of a newspaper (online, of course) or listen to a commentator on your favorite network. And when our Internet goes out, we consider it a disaster of major proportions.

Have we advanced? In some ways--certainly. In others--I'm not certain. What do you think?

Note: The International Thriller Writers organization has asked a number of their authors to chime in to tell whether they write "from the seat of the pants" or use a plot. I'm honored to be one of the authors asked to respond. Read the comments here.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Writing: How Long?

I released my latest novel, Guarded Prognosis, on July 17. I'm glad to see it's been well-received (all 5-star reviews on Amazon so far, and the readers seem to like it). This makes twelve novels and four novellas so far--not bad for a kid from a small Texas town, retired (sort of) from the practice of medicine, who never thought about writing. But with some degree of success comes problems.

Since starting to indie-publish my work, I've settled into a routine of one novel, followed by one novella, followed by another novel, etc. One of my readers has already noticed that I intend to publish another novella, Emergency Case, toward the end of this year, and he's asked when I'll release the cover of that one?  I read his comment and realized that it takes most authors anywhere from several months to one or more years to write a book that can be read in less than a week. That's a good problem, but nevertheless, a problem.

To answer the question I was asked, I've already finished Emergency Case and sent it to the woman whom I've engaged as my editor. At the same time, the lady who does my covers is working on a cover design. But, although indie-published work can come out faster than novels released by traditional publisher, it still takes a while for the process to play out.

I'd like to hear what you think about this. Is there a solution? Let me know. And meanwhile, thanks for buying the books. I appreciate it.

Tweet with a single click. "Indie publication has speeded up the process, but it still takes months to produce a book. What's your answer?"

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The New Age

I grew up when our main means of communication was the telephone. Our primary news source was the newspaper. And our entertainment came from the radio and the movies. But that's all changed.

Now we have a number of online sources to both receive information and disseminate our own interpretation. (I'm not going to get into the argument about the veracity of all this--you have your own opinions and I have mine). All I'll say is that our world has changed.

At one time in the past, newspapers and radio broadcasts were the primary means of giving news. Now, anyone with a computer and Internet access can voice their opinions, even stating "facts" without backing them up, while maintaining a certain degree of anonymity. It's up to the person(s) reading to decide how much weight to give them.

I can remember sitting in our living room listening to a news report and thinking, "He (or she) really has a pleasing voice." Now we watch a news program and our comments to each other may start with "I don't like that dress she's wearing" or "That tie looks good with that shirt." Not only do the people we invite into our homes have to possess a voice that is pleasing, but their appearance is also important. We shouldn't judge them by their appearance...but we do.

Times have changed. Whether for good or bad...well, that's something you'll have to decide for yourself. What do you think?







Friday, August 03, 2018

Writing: Facing Death (Of Some Kind)

Author/mentor James Scott Bell says that in writing a book it is necessary for the main character to face death of some type. He mentions physical death, emotional death, or professional death. I decided to look back over the books I've written to see if I truly followed this advice. The results are interesting. Without going into great detail, I'll simply say that--yes, in each of the novels my protagonist has faced one, two, or sometimes all three of these situations.

What about other authors? As you may know, I often pull one of the novels I've previously read off my shelf of books by favorite authors and re-read their work. I enjoy them (which is why I reach for them), but I don't think about why their books work for me (and many others). I've just finished going over some of the early Jack Reacher novels of award-winning author Lee Child, and find that in his novels the central character (Reacher) generally faces a professional loss (either his Army status or his ability to remain anonymous), an actual threat to his life (physical death), and occasionally an emotional loss (usually a female with whom he's become entangled). It works.

Does it work with other types of novels? I'll leave that to those of my readers who read romances (I rarely do) or other types of fiction. The floor is yours. Does this hold true on all kinds of novels? I'd like to know.

Note: If you want to have a chance to win a signed copy of my latest novel, watch for various interviews and guest blogs elsewhere. Here's the one on The Suspense Zone. (And don't forget to read their review--kind words, and much appreciated). You might also be interested in this interview I did with The Big Thrill, the magazine of the International Thriller Writers.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

How Time Flies

My wife has been spending a lot of time this summer helping take care of two of our granddaughters while their parents are at work. She looked at the calendar the other day and remarked that school starts back in just a few weeks. I haven't paid much attention, but when I did I found that, indeed, time has literally flown. We've been busy with our own projects, while the days have hurried by.

When I was practicing medicine, there were certain events by which I marked time: a medical meeting, a lecture I had to give, something on the horizon which needed attention. I'm now retired, but there are still things that demand my attention since God apparently felt that writing would be a good way for me to occupy my time. Since then, I've learned more than I thought possible about that industry, and this has multiplied when I began to publish independently (instead of fulfilling a contract with a traditional publisher). Now I set my own schedule, but there's very little leaning back and resting on it.

I took about a week off after the release of my latest book, then started in on another one. As my uncle used to say, it keeps me off the street and out of pool halls. Lord willing, I'll keep writing so long as I'm able (and people keep reading my novels). But time has certainly flown.

As we approach this point, at least half-way through the summer, I'll ask this. Are you happy school will start soon, or sad? Have you taken or do you have plans for a summer vacation? What's going on in your life?

Tweet with a single click. "Summer has flown by. What marked it for you?"

Friday, July 27, 2018

Writing: It's A Full-Time Job

I realize that some of you see my posts on all the things a writer has to do (besides write), and think I'm making up some of that stuff. So I was very pleased to see the following material in the newsletter of one of my colleagues, Elizabeth Goddard. One of the nice things about this writing game is getting to know some great people, and Beth is certainly at the top of that list. She writes romantic suspense, and I recommend her work--well, after you've read mine.

From Beth (with her permission):"...So for me as a professional multi-published writer currently contracted with two publishers, the phrase 'working on a book' means this:
  • Ideas for the next proposal are constantly swimming around in my head.
  • Working on the next proposal for the next series to give to each publisher after current series is done.
  • Writing one or two books at a time to meet the next deadlines.
  • Editing that book before I turn it in.
  • Turning it in, then starting on the next book due. 
  • Editing the book(s) I turned in earlier—these edits from my actual editor/copyeditor/line editor.
  • Reading the galleys.
  • Working on the art documents required for each publishing house, front and back matter. 
  • Marketing, marketing, marketing. 

I'm sure I've forgotten something. Now, take all of the above and understand that it's all on my to-do list at the same time. These tasks are not linear. Sure, I can't exactly work on each item at the exact same time, but in any given day or week, I'm working on all of those things—editing a book previously turned in, writing a new book, polishing another book."


Thanks, Beth. And readers, see? It's not just me. There's a lot to writing besides putting words on a page. And we usually don't find out the extent of the "other stuff" until we're well into it. But I wouldn't trade it for the world. What do you think? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Taking Pride In Your Work

NOTE: you may wish to read my interview with American Christian Fiction Writers this week.

No one enjoys every facet of what he/she does at work, I guess, but our attitude toward what we do makes a big difference. I've recently seen a video of a song popular many decades ago, and it set me thinking. Do we take pride in our work? As a physician, I took pride in caring for a spectrum of illness. Some of the things I did were sort of mundane (such as cleaning wax impactions from ears) while others were literally a matter of life and death (stopping a nasal hemorrhage that could have been fatal). And when things changed to make it difficult for me to take pride in my profession, I eventually changed professions. (Then God opened yet another door to me, but that's a story for another time).

What about you? Do you take pride in what you do, or is it just something to put groceries on the table and pay the rent?

Watch this video with that in mind. Maybe it will be meaningful to you, maybe not. But it certainly made me think.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Writing: Book Reviews

I've forgotten how many books are published each year (and I don't want to stop right now to look it up), but sufficient to say that it's a lot. Despite all the various marketing suggestions, I've found that the best way to get the attention of a reader is to write the best book possible and then depend on word-of-mouth advertising. That's why reviews are so critical to authors.

Here are samples from the early reviews for my novel, Guarded Prognosis. I hope those of you who've bought it found it worthwhile reading. If so, a review is always welcome.

“This is an intriguing story with plenty of plot twists to keep the most avid mystery reader guessing. He has created realistic characters that make the reader root for a victory. Guarded Prognosis is a book the reader will find hard to put down. I stayed up way too late to get to the end! “

“Written in Dr. Richard Mabry's award-winning style, GUARDED PROGNOSIS will touch the reader at every level. … 5 stars for another page-turning medical suspense by Dr. Richard Mabry.”
           
Guarded Prognosis has it all! Danger, intrigue, illness, questions, answers, and a gentle faith thread that settles in the reader’s heart as well as the story’s. Caden and Beth and Caden’s father are authentic and engaging characters, and you’ll quickly become invested in their outcome. A must-read for anyone who loves medical thrillers or just a good mystery!”
           
“Dr. Richard Mabry writes the best medical suspense that I've ever read. Some doctors will never be writers and some writers will never be doctors, but he does both quite well!”

Thanks, all. And to those who haven't read it yet, I hope you enjoy it. Meanwhile, check out my interviews (including a few opportunities to win a copy of Guarded Prognosis) on Seekerville and the blog of Lena Nelson Dooley. And thanks for the chance to post on Beckie By The Book's blog and for the nice words of published author, Patricia Bradley, in her review.
           
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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Book Launch Day


After all the things I've written about (and many of the things that didn't get told in this space), today is the "official" launch day for my next novel, Guarded Prognosis. I'll be doing several interviews, giving away copies of the book, and in general find myself occupied with all the things that happen at the time of a book release. Wish me luck.

Scheduled interviews for this week include Seekerville and Lena Dooley blogBeckie by the Book and Patricia Bradley. And stay tuned, because there are more. Hope you find them interesting, and good luck on winning the book. If you've already ordered it and you're chosen a winner, I'll send you an Amazon gift card for $10. Fair enough?

See you Friday (if I survive).

Tweet with a single click. "Book launch day for Dr. Richard Mabry's latest novel, Guarded Prognosis." 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Writing: Book Release

I'm just a few days from the release of my twelfth novel, Guarded Prognosis. Along with the four novellas, that's sixteen works of medical fiction published over my name--a situation I couldn't have dreamed of (or even desired) a decade ago. You might think that by now the process will be old hat, but that's not the case. Each time brings thoughts of, "Will they like it?" and "Surely, this one isn't as good as some of my others." But we'll see.

This is the second full-length novel I've released via agent-assisted publication. I've used this same publishing process for all four of my novellas. One thing I've found during this process is that the marketing/publicity process never gets easier. There'll certainly be one instance when I don't see the guest post I prepared for a blogger. There may be a mix-up on dates for an appearance. All the scheduled blog posts and giveaways sometimes come at the same time, despite careful attention to dates on my part. It never goes smoothly. But these same kinds of problems occurred when I released a book by a traditional publisher. It just goes with the territory.

Anyway, come back next week and see if I've survived this launch. And thanks for sticking with me.

Tweet with a single click. "Publicity for a book launch doesn't get any easier, no matter how many books you've had published."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

It's July. Of Course It's Hot.

We're about half-way through "meteorologic" summer--June, July, August--and the comments are flowing. Where ever you are in our great land, chances are that you've already noticed. It's warm. Look at the calendar to see why.

I can never get over the reactions of people who seem amazed when Texas is covered by hot weather about this time of year. I can see those people who go to various parts of the country where they can enjoy a relatively cool climate, but c'mon folks, this is Texas. It's hot in the summer. It's cold in the winter. And if you don't like the weather, follow Mark Twain's advice--just wait a bit and it will change.

How about you? How's your summer going? And, as the saying goes, "Hot enough for you?"

Friday, July 06, 2018

Writing: Starting Late or Not At All?

One of the best analogies I've heard is that life is like a toilet paper roll-- the closer the end, the less that's left. I learned, with the death of my first wife, that we're not promised any future days, so it's best to make every one we have count. And that's what I've tried to do, even though sometimes I think, "Oh, I'm too old to start that."

Imagine what our folk art would be if Grandma Moses had said, "I'm too old to paint." Or, for that matter, what would we do at suppertime if Harlan Sanders hadn't promoted himself to Colonel and started selling fried chicken by the bucketsful?

When Cynthia died, a bit of me died as well. At first I committed my musings to paper in order to let me pour out my soul without bugging my children, my pastor, or my friends. Later, I let one of my closest friends read my raw journaling, and his reaction was, "You need to turn these into a book, to help others going through the same thing."

I had lots of misgivings, among them the thought that I was too old to try writing (other than the medical texts, chapters, and papers I'd had published). But after several years of writing followed by an unsuccessful search for a publisher, I encountered an editor (at Kregel Publishing) who thought the book deserved publication. That was over a decade ago, and The Tender Scar has ministered to many thousands since. It wasn't easy, and would never have happened if I had listened to that voice within me telling me I was too old to write.

In a little over a week, I'll release Guarded Prognosis. This makes twelve novels and four novellas of medical suspense published in a bit over a decade. And all because I didn't think I was too old to start.

How about you? Is there something you'd like to do, but think you're too old? You'll never be younger. Let me know.

Tweet with a single click. "When are you too old to try something new?"

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Independence Day, 2017

Tomorrow is July 4, the day we celebrate the independence of this great nation. On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies marked the signing of the Declaration of Independence, declaring themselves free from the British Empire. This is a day usually associated with with fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, concerts, family reunions, and various political speeches and ceremonies. I  suggest that, at some point, we pause and consider what has gone before.

The framers of our documents of freedom--the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution--didn't all agree. And sometimes, their discourse wasn't very civil. But as Benjamin Franklin put it, "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." Remember that these people put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors on the line to help give us the independence we celebrate.  This Independence Day, may we reflect on all that has gone before. What we now have is too precious to lose.

God Bless America.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Writing: What's In A Name?

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Actually, that's a paraphrase of the lines some guy named William Shakespeare (a pretty good writer) penned several hundred years ago. The actual words, from the play Romeo and Juliet, go like this. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet." But you get the picture. Whether Romeo's last name is Montague or Juliet a Capulet, the two individuals love each other. It doesn't matter what they are called, with all the history that goes with it.

If that phrase is accurate, and words don't really matter, why doesn't a writer just pick names willy-nilly for his/her characters? Actually, it appears that some do, but the thoughtful writer doesn't. Instead, there are some things we try to consider (or at least should).

We should avoid having two or three characters with easily confused names. We go to great lengths to describe them so the reader can identify them, but then we fail to separate the names. Was that Robert or Richard who's the weak brother? Was the best friend Julie or Jane? And remind me again what part Derek plays...or was it David? I try never to have two major (or even significant minor) characters whose first name starts with the same initial. I don't always succeed, but I try.

One of my favorite authors, Donald Westlake, gives a female character (who starts out an "extra" but pretty soon plays a major role) the first name of Chloe. She's described as dark, attractive, hard to get a handle on, a woman of mystery. And somehow, that name seems to fit her. Not every name calls forth a picture, but it's great when that happy situation occurs. Can you form a mental picture when Robert B. Parker refers to Spenser's friend, Hawk?  His name fits the character he plays--ebony complexion, shaved head, slightly larger than life, controlled emotion beneath a calm exterior. The name just fits him.

So, even though a rose would smell as sweet by any other name, we've gotten used to the mental picture a rose conjures up, and would be quite surprised if we sniffed one and smelled a different odor. Better to stick to names with which the reader can identify.

What's your favorite character name, and why? I'd like to know.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Transient Glory

Sic transit gloria mundi is a Latin phrase that means "Thus passes the glory of the world". I was reminded of it recently when I looked at the cover of a paperback novel I bought years ago. It was by one of my favorite authors, one who'd won numerous awards for his fiction. The book has been marked down to nineteen cents! Sic transit gloria mundi.

In writing, we wonder how many people we touch. The average number of books read per year is 12, but that number is probably inflated by inclusion of people who read a lot. The number most often quoted is 4 per year--and I wonder if even that's not too high. Yet we keep writing, hoping to touch just a few, if not many.

We all affect people, some positively, some negatively. But few of us ever pause to consider the effect we have on those who look at us--at our work product, at our lives, at the way we behave. You don't have to preach from a pulpit or send forth the written word. Our lives tell a story every day. We need to remember that.

I used to throw prospective residents for a loop when interviewing them by asking the question, "What would you like your epitaph to be?" What I was really asking was "What do you want to be remembered for?" Some people spend their life making money, some strive for professional advancement, others just want to make it through another day. But stop and think. What would you like to be remembered for? How are you impacting other lives? 

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Writing: Waiting For The Next Step

A comment on social media by a friend and colleague who had just completed her last contracted novel and was at loose ends led me a blog post I had written in the past about this. I think it's still appropriate today.

God made a promise to an old and childless Abraham that someday he would be the father of many nations. Fourteen years after that, Isaac was born to Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Did you ever wonder what happened during the prolonged period of waiting the patriarch endured? Did Abraham worry because he was getting older by the day without the son God promised? Did he agonize, wondering if perhaps God had forgotten His covenant? Did he consider trying other gods, hoping they’d do better a better job for him? We may not know what Abraham did during this period, but whatever it was, it’s evident he never lost faith.
What would a writer do if subjected to such a prolonged silence? Would the unpublished writer keep trying despite rejection after rejection? Would the previously published writer persevere when there were no more contracts? Would indie-publishing be the next step, even though it was uncharted territory? We’ve all felt it—the urge to throw up our hands and quit. Should we do that, or, like Abraham, should we keep the faith?
Like other writers, I have endured some of those silent periods, and I have to confess that during those times I worried...a lot. I wrote for four years before finally getting my first contract. I was ready to give up many times before then, and once I actually quit, although God had other plans. After that contract, I thought things would go more smoothly. Wrong. Despite several published novels, I endured a silent period again, waiting for a publisher to want my work. When there were no phone calls, no email messages, I wondered if perhaps the call to writing I imagined feeling wasn’t real.
Finally, when I received another contract, I learned there was to be a hiatus of a year and a half between the publication of my last book and the appearance of the next one.  Although I worried that no one would remember me after such a prolonged absence, the void period turned out to be just what I needed. During that time when I wasn’t writing under deadline, I was able to devote myself to other things. I could be there for my family. I was free to study and read. In other words, the timing of that silent period was perfect. It was God’s timing.
When you encounter periods of silence like these, remember that they may represent an example of this perfect timing. If you are overcome with worry during such a period, think about Abraham. He never lost faith. We shouldn’t either. 
You may not be a writer, waiting for a contract. But whatever you feel is your next step, when you're waiting for the next shoe to drop, what is your reaction? I'd like to hear it.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Thinking

When I was practicing medicine, I was in solo private practice for most of my professional life. Then I accepted a position as a professor at a prestigious medical center, where I served for another decade. The advice I received from a good friend (now deceased)  resonated with me at the time, and comes back periodically: "Are you ready to work for 'the man'?" I thought I'd learned how to work for someone else in my almost three years in the Air Force, but I soon remembered why it isn't an unalloyed blessing.

When I was in solo practice, both the upside and downside to that situation was that I was responsible for making all the decisions. It was no fun to see the pay period coming up and know that I'd be the last one to get a check...if I got one at all. But it was a nice feeling to know that if I wanted to leave early to see my son's baseball game or swim meet, or my daughter's speech tournament, I could. On balance, it probably was the weight of being the one making the ultimate decisions that led me to accept the invitation to "work for the man."

I had a good decade at the medical center, with patient responsibility, surgical cases, and teaching duties. But I soon learned that having someone else in charge was a high price to pay. The straw that broke this particular camel's back was when I wanted to buy a new copy of a book most physicians use on a regular basis. The cost was about $25, as I recall. The administrator turned down my request, saying that I could use the copy one of my colleagues had bought. I had been recognized throughout the world for my expertise, had been president of one and vice-president of two of our professional organizations, had served on a number of commissions and committees, and was turned down for a $25 book. I decided to retire.

I have a similar situation in writing. When I was under contract to a publisher, they handled a lot of things I've discovered are the indie-author's responsibility. Royalty structure aside, I have to ask myself if it's worth it to be in charge of getting everything done. This is not a new argument, nor is it confined to my "new" profession. Each of us has to assess whether it's worth the security of having someone else in charge to relinquish our ability to fully control the situation. I'll reach a personal decision soon, but I suspect the question will come up again.

How about you? What's your opinion in this situation? Do you have a similar one in your own life? I'd like to hear.

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