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).

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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.

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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.

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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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Friday, June 15, 2018

Writing: Decisions

Since starting to publish my novels without the help of a traditional publisher, I've learned how many of the decisions regarding a book's publication are up to the author--decisions that he/she often took for granted that the publisher would make.

For instance, the publisher chose an editor for my work. This could be a good or bad thing. Going in, I thought the same editor who accepted my novel would be the one who did the editing. That was before I found out that there's a macro-edit, a line edit, proof-reading, and (depending on how you break it up), perhaps more. It's frankly a gamble when someone else chooses your editor (and I've both won and lost this gamble). And just about the time you get the right person involved, for one reason or another the author is no longer with that publisher...or editor. Now, all that is a decision that must be made by the author. The result can be good or bad, but the decision in this case is mine, and I've settled on a good one.

Likewise, the publisher chose the artist who would craft the cover for a book. I've been fortunate in that I was consulted much of the time, and the covers for my books that were released by traditional publishers have been good. I remember completing rather complex questionnaires prior to a cover that gave the physical descriptions of major characters, as well as suggested scenes that might be used. When the book is indie-published, it's up to the author to find the right artist, give all the appropriate information to them, and make certain the end result is a cover with which you're happy. Again, I've successfully navigated this challenge.

Then there's the question of size of the book, matte or glossy cover, font to be used on the cover and in the body of the text, and on and on it goes. Should it be released in e-book or print or both? When should it be released? Is a pre-order period a good or bad thing?

For good or ill, I'm ready to release my next novel, Guarded Prognosis. It's available for pre-order (at a discount for the Kindle version until the official release date of July 17). I hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and an indie author (actually, all authors), should make all those decisions I've described above as well as writing the next one. I plan to release my novella, Emergency Call, in late November. Keep that in mind when making your Christmas shopping list.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Envy

Ever find yourself comparing your life with someone else's--and wishing yours were different? Writers are especially prone to this. We see a post about another writer's success, and (at least for a moment) some of us turn green.

I used to envy other authors, but the more I got to know some of them, the more I found out they had their own problems--you'd be surprised how many. The same holds true of people in almost every walk of life. The old Indian saying has a lot of truth in it: "Don't judge another until you've walked a mile in their moccasins." (Of course, one of my friends adds, "By then you're a mile away from them and you have their shoes.")

One of the quotations I like best is this one from Steven Furtick, a pastor in North Carolina: "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." Think about that the next time you get upset after reading someone's post on social media or receive a Christmas letter that sends you running for the headache remedy.

Don't get frustrated by seeing what someone else has. Maybe you're just seeing their highlight reel.

Let me know in the comments what you think about this. Although Blogger is having some problems, and I don't currently get notified of comments, I'll get around to them eventually.

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Friday, June 08, 2018

Writing: My Next Novel

People who have never written a book say, "I wish I could do that." People who have actually done it look at their manuscript and say, "I wish I could get it published." People who hold their first book in their hands say, "I did it." The next noise these people hear is the sound of agents, publishers, and readers saying, "When's the next one?" Add to that the challenges that await the author who decides to go the "indie-route" and you have my current situation.

When I became a hybrid author, one who has been published by a traditional pub house but decides for one reason or another to self-publish, I found a number of surprises waiting. But whether indie- or traditionally-published, one thing is universal among writers--an emotion experienced by first-time authors and someone (like me) who has seen multiple books with their name on the cover: the release date is always accompanied by some nervousness.

I've sent out almost a dozen copies of the e-book format of my next novel, Guarded Prognosis, for review. When I started seeing some nice postings about the book on Goodreads and getting emails directed to me saying they liked it, I breathed a sigh of relief. And now it's time for the general public to chime in.

We've made the Kindle version of the book available for pre-order (at about 40% off until release on July 17, at which time it goes up to the final price). I'm told that Amazon won't put the print version up for pre-order yet. However, on July 17, both the Kindle and print versions will be available via Amazon. And lest you say, "I don't have a Kindle," there are apps available--free of charge on Amazon--that let you download and read these books on Macs. (Currently the Kindle for PC is "unavailable"--don't know why).

One other thing a writer learns to expect is the question, "When's the next one?" I hope to release a novella this winter--Emergency Call--that features a physician who backs out of her snow-covered drive and runs over the corpse of a man her attorney-husband just defended. Watch for it. And meanwhile, I hope you read and enjoy Guarded Prognosis.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2018

June is Bustin' Out All Over...

Or, at least that's what the musical says. Somehow, June has sneaked up on us. Our weather here in Texas has apparently decided to go straight to summer, and the temperatures lately have been more typical of August than the end of May.

This is the month school is "finally" out. The sounds you hear are cheers from the children and subdued sobbing from the parents who are frantically planning what they can do to keep their kids occupied until school starts again.

Graduation for many high schools takes place in late May or early June. I had occasion to attend one this past weekend, and couldn't help thinking about the emotions going through the heads of those who are receiving their diplomas. Some are going directly to the workforce, some have committed to our armed forces, many are headed for college. I've been through that, both myself and as a parent, and I can only say to each of them--Godspeed.

This summer, my wife will be doing some grandmothering, I'm getting ready to release my next novel (it hardly seems like this will be my sixteenth), and our extended family is about to head out on various vacations. What does your summer look like?

Friday, June 01, 2018

Writing: Does It Matter Where?

A recent post about J. K. Rowling donating the chair in which she did her writing made me think about writing space and whether it matters where an author composes his/her work.

When I retired from medicine, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted an "office" in my home. Not only could I write there, but it would also be a place where I paid bills, did correspondence, and "retreated" to avoid bugging my wife. I'll have to admit that I'm not an author who would make James Scott Bell proud, since I don't set a quota for my daily writing. I've gotten a lot from Jim's books and lectures, but that's one of his rules I've never managed to put into practice. Then again, I've never missed a publication deadline or failed to finish a book on time, so my philosophy of "whatever works" seems to be holding up fine.

Some authors make a habit of writing at a neighborhood coffee shop--usually Starbucks. I know a number of them who say they're unable to write without their laptop at their favorite table, while they sip a grande latte made with a double shot of Kenyan blend, soy milk, and sugar in the raw.  Since I rarely drink coffee except what is brewed at our house, I'll probably never know.  I do know that some of my colleagues enjoy writing on laptops, because they prefer to write at their favorite coffee house or in various rooms (often more than one) in their home. Again, I'll simply say, "Whatever works."

Do you think it matters where a writer crafts his/her books? When you try to type the great American novel, do you look around you for inspiration, or do you prefer silence? Let me know. Meanwhile, I suppose I'll stick with my little office. It's so small the mice are hunch-backed, but it works for me.

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NOTE: For those of you who follow my "author page" on Facebook, I'm going to take a "sort of" vacation during the month of June. I'll be cutting down the number of posts there, including no posts on weekends. Enjoy the summer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Day After...

I hadn't planned to blog today, but all the posts about the true meaning of Memorial Day led me to think about "the forgotten stanza" of our national anthem. Here are the words of the fourth stanza. I think they're appropriate for this week following Memorial Day...and every day.
O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Memorial Day, 2018

Monday is Memorial Day, an American holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It was originally known as Decoration Day, and originated in the years following the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Most people are ready for a long weekend. But there's a good deal of misinformation about Memorial Day. It is not a day for honoring those who previously served or are actively serving in our armed forces--there are other holidays for that, most typically Veterans' Day (formerly Armistice Day). And, although mattress and tire sales have seemed to come around on this three-day holiday, that's not what we celebrate. It's for honoring the gift given to all of us by those who didn't come home.

Take a moment and remember the men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice. And remember--Freedom isn't free. 

I'll see you all again next Friday with another post about the writing life.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Writing: Character List

As many of you know, I often re-read novels by some of my favorite authors. Many of these feature the same characters, forming a series. I haven't done this yet,  although I'll do it in my novella I plan to publish toward the end of the year. Stay tuned for details. But in the meantime, have you ever paused to consider how a favorite author recalls the hair color a character has, the car he/she drives, the city in which they live?

The answer, of course, is that all authors--at least, all whom I know--maintain some sort of character sketch on each person featured in each of their books. These are helpful in maintaining continuity and accuracy, and are also beneficial to the person designing a book cover. I've heard stories about cover pictures of blonde heroines that don't match up with the brunettes about whom the author wrote.

Here's one such character sketch from my files. It's of the main character in my recently published novella, Doctor's Dilemma, which takes place in Sommers, Texas:

Tyler Gentry, MD: Surgeon, finished residency and accepts position with Hall group. Dark brown hair, brown eyes. Olive complexion. About 6’ tall, 200#. Drives old Ford (which blows up). Went with Hall group because he was in need of money after residency. New car is a black Chevrolet Malibu. Lives in an apartment (furnished with what he had as a resident).


Father was a surgeon in Houston. Parents killed in private plane crash. Alcohol involved—he now avoids it.

Simple, but it has all the details I need. Have you given any thought to how series authors kept things straight? Have you ever thought about the character list for your favorite book? What would you include? 

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NOTE: The Kindle version of my novella, Doctor's Dilemma, is available for a reduced price through the end of this month. (And, even if you don't have a Kindle, there are free apps available from Amazon that allow you to read Kindle books on your PC, Mac, or smart phone). 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Public Speaking

According to Google, fear of speaking in public is the most common fear among people, weighing in at number one, ahead of death at number 5 and loneliness at number 7. Supposedly, we're afraid of not having the right words to say, afraid we'll do something foolish. I guess I skipped that one, though.

I don't recall much about my childhood, but recently I was reminded that at an early age (probably six or seven) I attended some classes in "Expression." Looking back on it, these were probably aimed at getting a rather shy and introverted child comfortable with appearing before others. As I recall, I gave a few "canned" speeches (at the time called "Declamation") and subsequently sang, along with three other kids my own age. This group must have either been fairly good or the only ones who would do it, since I recall singing before the local Lions Club and a time or two at school activities.

As an adult, I didn't really fear public speaking. As a physician, as a solo practitioner and later a medical school professor, I lectured all over the world. Matter of fact, when I remarried after the death of my first wife, our honeymoon was spent in Singapore and Thailand, where I was scheduled to deliver lectures.  When God sort of pushed me into non-medical writing, I taught at a number of writing conferences. I don't think that during it all I had any anxious moments due to public speaking. I don't know whether to give the credit to knowledge of my subject matter, God's grace for the moment, or my early Expression experiences. But at least I've avoided the number one fear of most people.

How about you? Are you more afraid of public speaking than of other things--including death and loneliness? I'd like to hear your stories.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Writing: Character Description

NOTE: The price of the Kindle version of my novella, Surgeon's Choice, has been cut by $1, and it is available via Amazon for this reduced price of $2.99 for the remainder of May. If you've already read it, tell your friends. (Actually, tell everyone--your enemies may enjoy it, too).

One of the problems I have is that I get so wound up in the story I'm telling that I neglect to at least give a minimal description of the person about whom I'm talking. That usually comes in the second or third draft, often following a suggestion by my first reader.

As many of you know, I like fiction by the late Robert B. Parker, and I often read through those books again and again, learning each time I do. I going through Taming A Sea Horse I found these two examples of describing a woman (his permanent girl-friend) and a man (who isn't a very wholesome character).

Here's his description of the woman's clothes. "She was wearing a black skirt and a lemon-yellow blouse with black polka dots and a pearl-gray jacket. Her necklace was crystal and pearl, large beads. She wore clunky black earrings and a big bracelet of black and gray chunks of something." He goes on to describe her stockings, her shoes, her purse, and the overnight bag she carried. I think it's a bit much, but maybe not.

Then the man: "Sitting on a barstool drinking Budweiser beer from a long-necked bottle was a guy with a round red face and a big hard belly. He was entirely bald and his head seemed to swell out of his thick shoulders without benefit of neck. He had small piggy eyes under scant eyebrows that were blond or white and barely visible, and his thick flared short nose looked like a snout." He goes on to describe his dirty white T-shirt, his overalls and work boots. I could really picture this man from what Parker wrote.

So, what do you like when a character is introduced? Do you like a physical description, something about their clothes, a particular mannerism? Prefer to picture the character in your mind from the author's description, or formulate your own picture of them? Let me know.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Money and Religion

Bloggers are subject to lots of different rules, or at least, suggestions. They're told to involve their readers, tell a bit about their own lives, talk about current subjects that might interest their followers. But conventional wisdom is to shy away from two subjects: money and religion.

More subjects have been added to that list, and I wonder about them. For instance, it may be okay for a blogger--especially an author (we wouldn't want to drive away a potential reader, would we?)--to talk about their devotion to a particular football team...unless the people who read it are fans of another team that's an arch-rival. So we soft-pedal that.

Those who blog or otherwise post on the Internet have been warned that they should only use photos and images that are freely available. Otherwise, they might be sued for copyright infringement. (Note: I use Pexels, so the images I post are okay).

Recently authors have been told to be careful about using a particular word in a series title, because that word is copyrighted. That has kept the authorial world stirred up even further.

There was a time (although it seems so long ago) that we could express our opinion without someone jumping in and not only voicing one that dissents (which is fine with me) but trashing us for holding that belief (which isn't fine, in my opinion).

So, authors and others who blog, are you careful about what you post? Or, for that matter, what you say in public? Is this a new thing, or has it been going on for a long time, and I've not noticed it? Let me know.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Writing: Just Write?

There's an old joke about employing people with small hands to screw in a stubborn lightbulb, because "mini hands make light work." There are times when I'd like to have some of those hands working for me. I had no idea when I first began writing that this is a business, not a hobby--and there's a lot more to it than just choosing words and putting them on paper.

When I was under contract with a traditional publisher, they did a great deal of the marketing, although I found that quite often the things I lined up were more effective than an outside publicity entity. I had some input into cover design, but the final product was--at best--a joint effort in which I didn't make the final decision. And the editing of my manuscript was often "farmed out" to an independent editor--but I still had to respond to those edits and later check the galley proofs for errors. In other words, I still had to do things in addition to writing.

As an indie author, I can pay for a professional cover designer (well worth it) and an independent editor (also a valid expense, although some indie authors choose to skip that step). But I have to approve a cover, and as an editor once told me, it's my name that goes on the book, so how I respond to edits is up to me. In summary, the details of publication, including the how and when, fall to me. And that's when I long for those additional hands.

The trade-off? Better royalty payments for indie authors and more true independence. Is it worth it? Sometimes. Would I change? It varies from day to day. Is there more to writing than crafting a plot that holds the reader's attention? Definitely.

Unfortunately, along with the "Love your books" comments that come our way, authors sometimes get the question, "When's the next one coming out?" Do you now realize what goes on behind the scenes? I'd like to know.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Teddy Bears and Security Blankets

Among the programs we like to watch are re-runs of M*A*S*H. (And can you believe the "police action" which was the setting for the show took place half a century ago?) Anyway, one of the things that is part of the show is the stuffed bear that the company clerk, Radar, sleeps with. His teddy bear (ratty, and with one eye missing) is his "security blanket" of sorts. And he doesn't want to part with it.

I thought of this the other day as I completed the Continuing Medical Education I do on a regular basis as part of the requirement for continuing my license to practice medicine in our state. I've been retired from medical practice for about fifteen years, but I continue to fulfill the requirements and pay a rather hefty amount to keep my license current. Why? It's not just because I occasionally am called on to prescribe. The license isn't something I renew regularly because I worked awfully hard to get it. When it comes down to it, I believe that I keep it active because--deep in my heart--I don't know if this writing thing is going to work out during the time of my "retirement." So I like having another profession as a security blanket.

How about you? Is there a thing or an activity that you're unwilling to turn loose of because you don't want to lose your security blanket? Realistic or not, many of us have something we're still hanging on to. I'd be happy to hear about yours--or your comments on mine.

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Friday, May 04, 2018

Writing: New Novel

Made you look! But, no, we're not having another baby, or even another grandchild. But the emotions are similar. I've seen the cover design for my next novel, Guarded Prognosis. And I'm as delighted as I was when I saw the  cover of my first novel.

This will be my twelfth novel. I've also indie-published four novellas, so all-told this will be sixteen works of fiction that have appeared under my name. I had no such expectations twenty years ago, and was thrilled when my non-fiction book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, appeared. (BTW, it's been going for more than a decade, is now in its second edition, and I love the cover designs my publisher came up with for both of them).

My previous novels have been traditionally published, and my input into their cover design has varied. But I was ultimately responsible for this one. To design it, I turned to the woman who has done the covers for all four of my novellas, and as usual, Dineen Miller has done a nice job. See for yourself:




If all goes well, this book will be available for pre-order next month, and published in mid-July. (Hint--subscribers to my newsletter will get the first news).

Authors, I'm still feeling the thrill after so many novels. (Oh, not as many as many of my colleagues, but it's still a nice feeling to see that cover). Does it go away with time? Readers, what do you think of the cover Dineen has designed? Any other comments?

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