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.