Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year

As has been our custom for quite some time, we will probably usher in the New Year at about 10:30 Central time from our living room (or, more likely, our bed).  We've often said that New Year's Eve is amateur night, and we don't care to participate. Whatever time zone you're in and however you plan to mark the exit of the old year and entrance of the new--happy new year. 

Thanks to each of you who've made this "second profession" of writing an interesting and (mostly) pleasant experience for me. After leaving medicine after so many decades, I probably would have been bored with inactivity.

I'll be back on Friday. Meanwhile, however you celebrate it, here's hoping 2019 is great for you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas, 2018

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

May you have God's peace in your heart, not just as you celebrate Christ's birthday, but every day in the year to come. Merry Christmas.

My blog will resume after the first of the year. Enjoy the holiday break.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Texas Christmas

Note that my post on writing will be up sometime today on the Southern Writers Magazine blog. I hope you'll read it.

Meanwhile, I've had several requests to republish this. Hope it makes the Christmas season more real for you.  It did for me while I was writing it. 

The young couple knew the long trip would be difficult, but it was the Depression, and although there was no work in the small Texas town where they had started their married life, the husband had heard of work in California. So they packed up their car, praying that it would hold up for the trip. The wife’s father slipped a couple of crumpled bills into her hand and said, “In case of emergency, Honey.” Her mother stood nearby, twisting her apron, obviously worrying about her daughter but just as obviously trying not to show it.

The couple used up the last of the daylight driving. They had reached deep West Texas when they realized it was time to stop for the night. “We can’t spare the money for a hotel,” the husband said. “I’m going to see if the folks at one of these farms will put us up for the night.”

They pushed on between pastures marked by sagging barbed wire, the road a winding black ribbon in the flickering yellow headlights. At last the driver spied a cluster of lights in the distance. “I’ll try there.”

The man who came to the door wore overalls and a gray, long-sleeved undershirt. He didn’t seem to take to the idea of this couple spending the night, but his wife came up behind him and said, “Oh, can’t you see she’s pregnant. The hands are out in the north pasture with the herd, and the bunkhouse is empty. Let them stay there.”

In the middle of the night, the young husband was awakened by his wife’s cries. “I’m in labor.”

“But, you’re not due until—“

“Just get help. Please.”

He did. In a few minutes, the rancher’s wife bustled in, laden with towels and blankets. “Just put that down,” she said to her husband, who trailed her carrying a bucket of hot water in one hand. “Then you two men get out.”

Soon, the men tired of waiting outside and the rancher grudgingly invited the stranger into the kitchen. They’d almost exhausted a pot of extra strong coffee when they heard a faint cry. Then, “You men can come back now.”

The two men were halfway to the bunkhouse, following the faint light of a kerosene lantern, when three weary cowboys rode up and climbed off their mounts. “We saw lights on here. What’s going on?”
“Come and see,” the young husband said. And they did. 

When he saw the mother holding a wrinkled, fussing newborn close to her, the gruff old rancher turned to his wife and said, “Well, Mother, I’m glad you talked me into letting these folks stay.”

“We had to,” she said. “It was a wonderful gift for me, seeing that little baby born. Who knows? Maybe he’ll grow up to be someone special.”

Now imagine that the scene wasn’t West Texas, it was Bethlehem. It didn’t take place in a bunkhouse, it occurred in a stable. And it wasn’t just a baby—this was God’s own Son--the Christ child was God in blue jeans, as one of my friends puts it. Does that make it more real to you? I hope so.

During this season, as you think about Jesus’ birth, don’t put him in spotless white swaddling clothes in the middle of a Christmas card. Picture him in the most humble surroundings your imagination can conjure up, the Son of God Himself in a diaper, born to give each of us the best gift we could ever imagine. 

Merry Christmas. 

See you next year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The First Christmas Without Them

It's been many years now since the death of my first wife, but I still get requests for this piece that I  wrote after my first Christmas without her. I've been gratified at the continuing ministry of my book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death of a Spouse. Despite having had seventeen novels and novellas published, this work of non-fiction remains the most satisfying among them all. I hope this piece ministers to those who are finding this season especially tough.

         After the death of a loved one, every holiday that follows carries its own load of renewed grief, but there’s little doubt that Christmas—especially that first Christmas without him or her—is the loneliest time of the year. 
         After the death of my wife, Cynthia, I was determined to keep things as “normal” as possible for that first Christmas. Since this was an impossible goal, the stress and depression I felt were simply multiplied by my efforts. My initial attempt to prepare the Christmas meal for my family was a disaster, yet I found myself terribly saddened by the sight of my daughter and daughters-in-law in the kitchen doing what Cynthia used to do. Putting the angel on the top of the tree, a job that had always been hers, brought more tears. It just wasn’t right—and it wasn’t ever going to be again.
         Looking back now, I know that the sooner the grieving family can establish a “new normal,” the better things will be. Change the menu of the traditional meal. Get together at a different home. Introduce variety. Don’t strive for the impossible task of recreating Christmases past, but instead take comfort in the eternal meaning of the season. 
         The first Christmas will involve tears, but that’s an important part of recovery. Don’t avoid mentioning the loved one you’ve lost. Instead, talk about them freely. Share the good memories. And if you find yourself laughing, consider those smiles a cherished legacy of the person whom you miss so very much.
         For most of us, grieving turns our focus inward. We grieve for ourselves, for what might have been, for what we once had that has been taken from us. The Christmas season offers an opportunity to direct our efforts outward. During this season for giving, do something for others. Make a memorial gift in memory of your loved one to your local food bank, the Salvation Army, or your favorite charity. Involve yourself in a project through your church. Consider a local emphasis like Toys for Tots or the Angel Tree--shop for a child whose smile you may not see but which will warm your heart nevertheless.
         When you’re grieving, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by Christmas, especially the modern version. The echoes of angel voices are drowned out by music from iPods and cell phones. The story of Jesus’ birth gives way to reruns of “Frosty, The Snowman.” Gift cards from Best Buy and Wal-Mart replace the offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If you find the season getting you down, the burden of your loss too great to bear, read once more the Christmas story in Luke, chapter 2. Even if you celebrate it alone, remember the true meaning of Christmas.  


Friday, December 14, 2018

Writing: Christmas Season

One of the first things I heard about writing was that nothing gets done during the two, three, or four weeks around Christmas in the publishing industry. Agent inquiries languish on hard drives, editors don't answer queries, and writers slack off for the holidays. I tried to adjust, as did many others involved in publishing. But that's changed, and one of the changes involves Christmas novels and novellas.

I first became aware of Christmas books through observing what my colleagues were releasing at this time of year. It didn't take long before I put two and two together and decided that having a new book out with a Christmas theme was an opportunity to capitalize on the gift market. Now it's a big thing--both in indie-publishing and from the established publishers.

I wanted to become a part of this trend once I started publishing my work independently, jumping into the Christmas novella scene with Silent Night, Deadly Night. This worked out pretty well, so I decided to publish another novella this year around Christmas, but I couldn't come up with a plot that I liked. Finally, though, I wrote one that took place just before Christmas and featured snow--close enough. And thus, Emergency Case was born. I doubt that it will replace the latest toy as this year's most popular Christmas present, but we'll see.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas to you all. Enjoy the season, but don't forget the reason we celebrate.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ready Or Not...

I look at the calendar and do a double take. Surely it can't be two weeks until Christmas. Maybe you're ready, just waiting for the big day. But some of us are not. Around our house, it appears that my wife is, as always, able to pull it all together, but like a duck, the surface may be calm but below the surface is furious paddling.

What's on your to-do list for Christmas? Is it getting out the cards? Our friends who usually send several pages about their past adventures simply sent us a simple photo card this year. Others are sending their Christmas greetings electronically (I just got one from a large publisher), while many simply find the practice too time consuming in the midst of everything else that demands their attention. We used to use these cards to keep up with our friends and relatives. Now we leave that to social media.

Is it the gifts? Have we spent as much on couple A as on couples B and C? Did we remember to get a gift for that person? Did they give us one last year? Is a gift card out because it's too impersonal? If we decide to give one, how much should it be for? Our society has become fixated on gifts, without thinking of the Gift we've all received.

At Christmas we celebrate Jesus' birth. Oh, I know that it probably happened in the summer (let's not get into that right now).  We're celebrating, so take advantage of it. I'm noticing that songs about Santa and snow are replacing traditional Christmas hymns, but they haven't drowned them out completely. In the midst of all this, let me suggest that you stop and consider the reason for the holiday. And thank Him for the best gift of all. I will.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Writing: The "Extras"

As I travel this "road to writing" (an appellation I've chosen to indicate that the writer must continue to learn...and, boy, have I learned), I'm discovering that there's much more to the craft than just putting the right words in the right order to make a book.

I've discovered that it's necessary to keep one's name in front of the general public. One way to do this is via guest blogs and interviews on various sites, always with a giveaway of the latest book the author is touting. Even if you're published by a traditional house, it's often up to the author to arrange these guest appearances. I've added the little "lagniappe" (something extra, if you don't speak Creole) of giving an Amazon gift card to anyone chosen to receive one of these books who has already purchased one. I've already listed the sites where people can go to read these interviews and guest posts and get their name in the drawing for my latest novella, by the way.

Another thing I'm learning is that it's worthwhile to put out an audio version of the novels that come from the author's pen. For me, this involved choosing a narrator, then listening to their work and correcting things like their pronunciation. It's time-consuming, but worthwhile--especially if you have medical terms in the book, as I do. (By the way, if your work comes out via a publisher, they make the decision about putting out an audio version--this entire process may be out of the author's hands).

Last week, I offered a "key" to download my most recent full-length novel, Guarded Prognosis, to five randomly chosen people. The keys have gone out to the winners, and I hope you enjoy listening to the book.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Christmas rush

It has sat in the atrium of our house for a few days now, after we found it on sale at a local big box store. It will look great when we finally assemble it, but there's always something that comes up. Meanwhile, people are posting pictures of their decorated living rooms, sharing their Christmas ideas. Unfortunately, sometimes  lost in all the rush is the reason that we celebrate--God's gift to us, the best Christmas present we could ever receive.

I realize that Jesus was probably born in the summer months. I've heard the stories that our current Christmas was moved to coincide with the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. But all that's less important to me than the "reason for the season." And it doesn't matter when we observe the occasion.

So, whether you're all set for the holidays or are still trying to get everything done, don't forget why we celebrate. Whether it's in December or July, it's a wonderful time to stop and reflect on the greatest gift anyone could receive.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Writing: Finished!

I've heard it a number of times since I came (kicking and screaming and dragging my heels sometimes) to this writing business: "Writers don't so much like to write as they like to have written." It's true. Nothing compares with the feeling of writing "the end," of doing the edits and correcting the errors, of setting up the interviews, and finally seeing the finished product. At that point, the writer can truly feel that they have written. Before that there was a lot of effort, all aimed at this final state.

Earlier this week was the launch date for my fifth novella, Emergency Case. This, together with my dozen novels, makes seventeen books of fiction published with my name on the cover. I had no idea when I set out to write a book about my experiences after the death of my first wife, The Tender Scar, that this would be the result. But at the writer's conference where I began to understand writing and publication, I was challenged to "try my hand at fiction." Since you don't challenge a person to try something, whether it's bowling or writing, my reaction was to get to it. And four years spent writing four manuscripts that garnered forty rejections led me to the "overnight success" that has marked my writing journey. Go figure.

Do you have thoughts about writing (including "have written") you'd like to share?

Note: There are several interview sites where I bare my soul (well, almost) and you have a chance to win a copy of Emergency Case. They are here and here and here and here. And if you win one of the copies but have already bought the book, I'll send you an Amazon gift card. How's that?

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Launch Day

Well, today's the day. Until now, my novella, Emergency Case, has been available on Amazon for a pre-order price on the Kindle version. Now both the Kindle and print versions are on sale. (Note that the print version may take a day or two to be available--this has always been the case with Amazon, but have patience.)

Why did I write this one? I'd seen previous "Christmas" books, even wrote one myself (Silent Night, Deadly Night), but I really didn't have one in mind for this year, so I began wondering. What about a doctor whose progress backing down a snowy drive was stopped by the body of a man who turns out to be a client of her attorney husband? From there, I let me imagination take over. The story takes place in the time before Christmas. It has snow. What more would you want?

If you want to know more about me and Emergency Case (as well as getting a chance for a copy), click here and here. (And don't forget what I've already posted last week about other opportunities to win a copy of the novella). I hope you enjoy the book.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Just Dropping By... share the first two chances for you to leave a comment and get one of the first copies of my novella (which releases next Tuesday), Emergency Case.

On Patricia Bradley's blog, you can win an actual ARC (ever wonder what one of those looks like?) while on the Suspense Sisters blog you can be in the running to win either a Kindle or print copy of the book.

Stay tuned--there'll be more. And if you happen to have purchased the book already and win one on this or another site, I'll send you an Amazon gift card. What could be fairer?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

Today is Thanksgiving. The day means different things to different people. To some people, it means turkey, dressing, and Mom's sweet potato casserole. For others it's a day spent in front of the TV set watching football. To many, it's a day to be with family.

Unfortunately, for some it's another day of wondering where they'll sleep, what they'll eat, how they'll stay warm and dry. We are blessed people. Give thanks, but also plan to do something for someone less fortunate. Pay it forward. You'll be glad you did.

May I wish you and yours a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving. I'll be back on Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pre-Publication Special

Just a reminder that the Kindle version of my novella, Emergency Case, is on sale at the special pre-publication price of 99 cents until the release date of November 27 (less than a week, now). Then both the Kindle and print versions will be available for order at their normal prices.

Newsletter recipients will already have been reminded of this special, but I wanted to let the rest of you know.

Reviews so far have been good. Hope you enjoy the book...and your Thanksgiving holiday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Time Flies

I follow a number of blogs--some for fun, others because they involve writing--and recently I got a message from one of the RSS aggregators I hadn't used in quite a while. I looked through what was, at one time, my list of blogs followed and did a double take. About 10% of them were no longer active. Some of these had gone away because of changes in the authors' lives, others because there was no longer an audience. Mine, on the other hand, had gone on unhampered.

My first wife passed away suddenly in 1999, and the book that stemmed from that event--The Tender Scar--was published in 2006. It's in its second edition, for which I thank all who've been helped by it. That book was a ministry.  I actually began considering writing a book in 2001, so I've been at this writing game for a number of years. Since 2006, I've had a bunch of novels and novellas published, both as contracted works by traditional publishers and via the "indie" route.

The point I want to make is that I've been incredibly fortunate over these past several years. I want to thank each one of you who has read and reviewed my work, as well as those involved in editing, proof-reading, design, and the hundred-and-one other things involved in this publication. I don't know how much longer I'll keep writing, but as my late uncle used to say, "It keeps me off street corners and out of pool halls." And that's not all bad.

Have a great Thanksgiving this year. Remember the reason we celebrate.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Writing: Is A Writer Different?

I recently had occasion to address a shipping label to a fellow writer. She's multi-published and rapidly making a name for herself in suspense fiction, yet she lives in a relatively small town in one of the southern US states and is very unassuming. This made me think about the mental picture of authors most people have--and the truth of the matter. It's been well established that some writers prefer solitude, yet our perception of them somehow is different than that.

Admittedly, the authors with whom I've become acquainted are those writing in the Christian genre, so this may not be true of all authors. But I suspect there's an element of truth across the board.

I've had twelve novels published, and Emergency Case will be my fifth novella, so I'm pretty well established as an author. Do I get recognized in public? Not a chance. Is there at least some recognition at church or among my friends of my position? Not really. Does my status get me a preferred tee time? Get real! The only thing I see different is that, when I take my car in for service, the manager asks if I have any new books out--because I always give him one.

Do I live in a nice house, or perhaps an apartment with a fancy address? Nope. So far as living on Park Avenue in New York or even University Park in Dallas, put those fantasies to bed. We moved from one small north Texas suburb to another about ten years ago, downsizing as we went. No mansion, no fancy apartment. Just a simple, one-level house.

Do I spend my time traveling to wonderful places for research or to write? Lawrence Block usually thanks owners of estates and such places who make them available to him while he writes. I labor (usually in my robe and slippers) in a small room on a laptop computer. And as for travel, I do my research online, believing Nolan Ryan was right: Anyone who thinks travel is glamorous hasn't done enough of it.

Most of us are just plain folks. But we hope you enjoy the way we put the words together for you, regardless of the glamour (or lack thereof) in our lives.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Holiday Season

Wow! One of my fellow authors had a post yesterday morning that began, "Since Thanksgiving is just a few days away..." I couldn't believe that. Then I looked at the calendar, and discovered that, indeed, Thanksgiving was only nine days away. Time flies--but when does the fun start?

Our Thanksgiving used to be quite simple. The kids had lunch with us, then I watched the football games--because that's the way it was supposed to be. Then the "children" moved away. Then they got married, and the question became, "Will they have Thanksgiving dinner with us or the in-laws?" As things changed further--the death of my first wife, God gifting me with the love of another wonderful woman (who had her own family)--getting our family together became more and more complex. And that's just for Thanksgiving. Christmas is even more complicated.

But we'll work it out. We always have. And through it all, we'll try to remember the reason we celebrate these holidays. And, after all, isn't that the most important thing?

What are your plans for a holiday get-together?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Veterans' Day, 2018

Tomorrow is Veterans' Day. It had its beginning as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, commemorating the armistice that was signed to end the first world war--at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year.

Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, and should not be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in military service. I'm proud to have served, and always feel a special thrill when someone recognizes that I'm a veteran and thanks me for my service--even though it was long ago.

This year, since November 11 comes on a Sunday, the Federal Holiday will be observed on Monday. We'll fly our flag on both days--and every day. Because brave men and women fought for our right to do so.

See you Tuesday with another post.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Writing: Errors In Previously Published Books

Recently I've received a couple of notifications from readers that they've found an error in previously published books. I always appreciate this, mainly because it shows me they're reading the novels. But perhaps this is a good place to point out the difference in books published by a "traditional" publishing house and those that are indie-published.

I've published ten novels that were put out by Abingdon Press or Harper Collins Christian Fiction. My last two novels, as well as my four--soon to be five--novellas were indie (i.e., independently) published. In either case, the manuscripts completed by the author went through several edits, including a copy edit. But, despite this, errors slip through. What should a reader do if they find one of these slips?

The first thing, of course, is to look and see if the book was indie-published or came from a traditional publishing house. In the latter situation, the only way that error would be corrected would be for republication of the print book by the publisher--something that probably wouldn't take place. They could change the ebook version. That would be up to the publisher. But as a practical matter, that might not take place, either.

In the case of an indie-published book, any errors should be reported to the author. He (or she) will notify the entity responsible for publishing the book, in both print and ebook format. The correction might take a bit, but it's my understanding it will be done.

I've found errors in my books, and I've heard from readers about them as well. They happen. As I said, I like to hear from readers if for no other reason than that they have my books and are reading them. But as for getting corrections made, this brings up another difference between indie-publishing and a book put out by a traditional publisher.

Do you find errors in books? And what do you do about them?

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PS--If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a friend or relative who likes to listen to audio books, most of mine are available in this format--including the recent release of my novel, Guarded Prognosis. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Election Day

Today is the day to vote in the US (although many of us have taken the opportunity to cast our ballots early). Late tonight we should know the results.

If you've followed my FB posts, tweets, and this blog, you'll find that--although I may have dropped some hints along the way--I've tried to be neutral. That may be a mistake, influenced by the advice I received early in my writing "career." I was supposed to keep from alienating a group of my readers by posting material aimed at influencing them. But if you know me at all, you know I'm conservative. I won't get into a debate with you if your leaning is in the other direction. I'd just suggest that you vote your conscience. And don't forget to pray along with it.

My wife and I have voted. I hope that, if you haven't, you'll do so today--even if you have to wait in line to do it. It's important.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Writing: More Changes In The Publishing Landscape

I read lots of blogs to keep up with the changes in the publishing landscape, and recently I was made aware of a shake-up on sorts in the Christian Booksellers Association. I have asked for (and received) permission to reprint a blog post by agent Steve Laube that tells about this. Here it is:

"Last week, in “response to changes in the industry,” one of which I addressed in the post “Rumbles in CBA,” a new retail association has been formed.

"The Munce Group has long been a strong collection of Christian retailers who used their combined buying power to market and sell more products in their local stores. With the uncertainty of the ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) and the uncertainty of the Christian Booksellers Association, Bob Munce has announced the formation of the CRA (Christian Retail Association).

"In addition, they are restructuring and expanding their existing summer convention to include international opportunities. The CPE (Christian Product Expo) has been held for 17 years. This expansion will provide an alternative for publishers and stores and international publishers to come together. Especially if ICRS is no longer a viable option. The first newly named CPE International will be held Sunday to Tuesday, Aug. 25-27, 2019, at Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

"I attended the CPE in Murfreesboro in 2015. I was invited to talk to the stores about Enclave Publishing. The show was very well run; and the stores were enthusiastic and supportive, with nearly 100 attending the presentation.

"This is great news for the industry. There needs to be a place where retailers and publishers can interact on a larger scale. If editors and agents and authors also attend, it could become theplace to go each summer. As of now, this is so new we don’t know who will be attending from publishing houses other than sales people.

"There is more information found in this article by Christine Johnson (link here)."

I've attended the CPE in the past, and was disappointed. Maybe this is a transfusion the industry needs. Do you have other suggestions for the Christian publishing industry? The floor is yours.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New And Improved

When I was in the private practice of medicine, one of the columns I wrote was in the newsletter of our several-thousand-member professional organization. It was called "Miscellania Medica," and dealt with the advances in medical devices. I still recall one of the quotes I found when I wrote about the development of a "foolproof" electrocautery machine--"There's no such thing as 'foolproof,' because fools are so ingenious." I guess that's still true.

I have said on more than one occasion that "new" and "improved" are not necessarily synonymous.  That's true in whatever field of endeavor you're talking about and whatever circumstances you are discussing. Not just medicine, but also writing (which I'm learning about each day), the choice of toilet paper for the household (where you have to be careful to read the labels to see if the reason it's cheaper is that it's one-ply or the roll is narrower than the last one), or buying groceries (where suddenly a pound has been transformed to 12 or even 10 ounces). "New and improved" may be the merchandising slogan chosen by the purveyor or whatever mechanism or product they're pushing, but the wise consumer will ask what's different...and whether it's really better.

Are there areas where you see changes that don't necessarily benefit you? I'd like to hear from you. Go ahead, the mike is yours.

But before I turn it over to you, let me reiterate that my latest novella, Emergency Case, is available for pre-order at a discounted price for the Kindle format until November 27, at which time both the Kindle and print versions will be available. Also I soon hope to announce the availability of an audio version of my last novel, Guarded Prognosis. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Writing: Preparing To Launch

I've sent in the corrected galleys, the cover design is final, and I'm  ready to launch my next book, a novella titled Emergency Case. I plan the official release date for mid-November, and if you'll read through to the end of this post, you'll find a pre-order special price on the Kindle version.

I wondered if anyone was interested in the mechanics of getting a book off the pad and into space. I won't go into the details of getting the idea (tough sometimes), writing the manuscript (also tough), revising it several times (very tough), and paying someone to do the final edits (sometimes expensive, but worth it). Let's assume that the book is at the printers. Where do we go from here?

I'm speaking from my experience in agent-assisted publication (White Glove), and it will vary if the individual totally indie-publishes the work. While the final printing is taking place, the author must put a price tag on the finished product--both ebook and print versions. Does he/she want to offer a pre-publication price? What length of that special offer is good? (Some novels put out by traditional publishers are offered at a pre-publication discount for months--I think that's too long).

When is the best time to launch your work? For some reason, Tuesdays seem to work best. In the meantime, how are you going to get publicity? Should you arrange interviews and guest posts? Is it a good idea to give away books? (That seems to get people to the sites, but do they become long-term readers of your work?)

Should you have a launch party? A Facebook event? I had an actual launch party for my first novel at a book store, complete with cake. It was like pulling teeth to get people to come, but I thought it was successful. The people at the store told me they'd hosted a similar party for a well-known author the preceding month, and almost no one showed up. Go figure.

Don't forget that a book makes a nice Christmas present. Click here for Emergency Case, which is already up for pre-order. It will be available for a 99 cent pre-publication price for the Kindle version. Regular prices go into effect with the official release of both the Kindle and print versions on November 27. (Newsletter sign-up is in the right column of this post--they heard about this first).

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Nothing Wrong...Just Busy

It's been busy around here, and Tuesday has sneaked up on me. No, nothing is wrong. I just let the day slide by. Got up early because we had lots to do, and suddenly realized it's Tuesday.

Let him who had never done this cast the first stone. Meanwhile, talk among yourselves. I'll be back on Friday with a post about the writing life.

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.

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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.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2018


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


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 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?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018


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.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2018


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