Friday, August 31, 2018

Labor Day 2018

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

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


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Sometimes You Have To Push Yourself"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 24, 2018

Writing: Tooting Your Own Horn

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Toe The Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 17, 2018

Writing: Light At The End Of The Tunnel

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Our Electronic Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

Writing: How Long?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The New Age

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 03, 2018

Writing: Facing Death (Of Some Kind)

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

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

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

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

Tweet with a single click. "Three types of death, and how the novelist uses them."