Friday, April 19, 2019

Easter 2019

The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed...Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead'...."
(Matt 28:5-7a, The Message)

In the ancient world, the message was this: "Christos anesti; al├ęthos anesti."

In our modern language, the words are different, the message the same: "Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!"

Have a blessed Easter. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

My Day...

I was looking through the archives of this blog, and decided that perhaps you'd be interested in what I posted a year ago. As it turned out, I wrote about a typical day. It's changed a bit since 2018, but not a lot, I guess.

First, I've found that one of the changes with age has to do with sleeping in. As I'm fond of putting it, "When you reach the point where you can sleep late, you find that you can't sleep late." And that's true for me. Every day I wake up when the coffee starts to perk (I set it the night before...unless I forget). So, about 6 or at the latest 6:30 I'm up. My wife and I watch the news that we recorded the evening before, have our usual 10 minute discussion on what to have for breakfast (I'm the guilty party here--the idea of "whatever you want" just doesn't compute with me), then eat it while watching one of the shows we've recorded.

Much of my morning is spent at the computer, although there's very little writing done during that time. Instead, I look at the emails I've received, read through the blogs I follow, and sometimes compose one or more of my own blog posts. Mid-morning we have some of the energy drink we've come to like. Then I try to write a bit, while my wife does the 101 things necessary to keep the house going. (Bless her heart, I guess that for quite a while I just assumed elves came in during the night and cleaned the toilet and washed my dirty clothes).

My afternoons often consist of writing, editing, and marketing, while she does all the things she has on her plate. But sometimes (don't tell!!), I take a nap. Dinner usually is taken at home, although sometimes it involves eating out. If we're at home, we watch some of the recorded programs we've picked up on our TV. (Don't let my kids know that we eat in front of the TV set). We usually end up with one or more shows that give us their "take" on the news of the day. (I won't say which ones, but if you've followed my posts you probably have an idea about my political leanings).

That's a typical day for me. Exciting, isn't it? I guess I'm an aberration among published authors, since I often read on social media about my colleagues who seem to spend their entire day writing. But, in the end, I suppose I may be what Lawrence Block calls a "Sunday writer." Nevertheless, I manage to keep things going, and have never missed a deadline--even those I set for myself.

What did you think a writer's day was like? Were you surprised? 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Writing: Kindle Countdown

Note: the process outlined below didn't go as smoothly as I'd like, because the special offer wasn't up at the hour it was supposed to start,  but it wasn't long before it was moving along. Maybe I shouldn't have sent out the info in my newsletter so quickly.

One of the advantages of indie-publication is the ability to use the Kindle countdown. For those who like to read their e-books on Kindle, this is an opportunity to get them at a reduced price. In my case, in order to introduce individuals who might not have downloaded my novellas in the past, I've arranged to schedule Kindle countdowns for two of them. If you have already read these, but know someone who hasn't and who might enjoy them, please pass on this information. (These are Kindle prices, and don't affect the print or audio versions of the novellas).

Surgeon's Choice: 99 cents from April 11-13 (starting at 8 AM PDT)
                             $1.99 from April 14-17
                             back to regular price on April 18

The count-down for Doctor's Dilemma will start on April 25. Same format and prices.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

"It is not the critic who counts..."

On social media the other day, another writer posted a quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I thought was very appropriate--not only for authors who are rejected, but for everyone facing a difficult situation. I've heard it a couple of times on the TV show, Blue Bloods, because the man who said it was not only a President of the US, but also the first Police Commissioner of New York. And, lest you wonder why I chose the picture to the left, the Teddy Bear was named for him.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming... Who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

This, of course, is from Theodore Roosevelt. Whatever you think of his politics, the way he lived his life, this philosophy would serve all of us well. Failure is not trying to do something and failing. It's not trying at all.

What do you think?

Friday, April 05, 2019

Writing: Chekhov's Gun

Most writers are familiar with "Chekhov's gun." It's a principle that says that if a gun appears in act I, it should be fired in act II. If not, don't put it there.

Was Chekhov simply talking about a gun? Or does this principle apply to other things in the manuscript? What's the difference between a "red herring" that's inserted to lead the reader toward a false conclusion and a true "clue" that's dropped unobtrusively into the story that plays an important part in solving the mystery. Is one of these a Chekhov's gun?

Of course, all this primarily involves books that contain a mystery of some sort. Since what I write usually contains something that has to be determined--the identity of the antagonist, the reason for an action, etc.--I have to face this dilemma as I plot every book I write. 

In my very first published novel, Code Blue, I casually mention the presence of a mortar and pestle (instruments found in every early pharmacy) in a drug store. Later, this turns out to be an important clue in the solution of "whodunit." There's no gun involved, but I like to think this is an example of "Chekhov's gun." 

Look at the book you're reading (or writing). Does it have an example of Chekhov's gun in it? Should it? You tell me.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

What Happened To My Little Town?

My wife and I were commenting this weekend on how our suburban area has grown. We were going down one of the major thoroughfares and she commented that it used to be a two-lane, country road, but now it's a divided roadway. I was curious, so I decided to check and see exactly how this "little" north Texas community has grown over the last several years.

Its population was listed as about 35,000 as we began this century.  In less than 20 years, the population has grown to five times that. Part of this boom can be explained by the moving of headquarters of some large companies to this area, part probably followed the building of a work-out facility and headquarters for a major sports franchise, and a good bit of the change has to do with the general growth of the entire area.

I realize that nothing ever stays static, including the size of a suburb. We're not land-locked, and there's lots of room for expansion. I'd certainly rather see us get larger rather than smaller. But it's still something of a shock to visualize the changes going on around us.

As my hero, obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk, used to say, "I don't mind change. I just don't like to be around when it's happening."

What about you? Do you agree that change is inevitable? What changes have you seen? And are they good or bad?

Friday, March 29, 2019

Writing: Sick Of Your Book

Ah, yes. An author only has to work a few hours a day, and not every day if something appeals more. Just let those words flow from your brain to the keyboard, then sit back and collect royalties. And if you think that's what an author's life if like, let's talk about some ocean-front property in Arizona I'd like to sell you.

Authors, when asked, will tell you that they rarely re-read a book once it's written and published. Why? Read on and see.

With rare exceptions, authors don't write books in one draft. A writer goes through several revisions of a book, anywhere from a few to a bunch, and at some time they look at what they've written and think, "I'm sick of this."

For my next novella, Bitter Pill, coming out in another two or three months, I've used two editors. The first did a macro-edit, and I had to revise and rewrite several sections a number of times until she was satisfied. Then another editor did a line edit, which means going through the manuscript another time to accept or reject the changes (plus adding or subtracting a word here or there on looking once more at it). When I get the clean copy back, I'll look at it once more before sending it off for publication.

Since there is a small but significant minority who prefer to listen to these books rather than read them, I'll choose a narrator for the audio version. This means reading--and hearing--the book one more time. As I've said before, I choose to listen to every word the narrator speaks, making sure it's pronounced correctly. This may not be necessary for every writer, but in my case I think it's important that words like "adenocarcinoma" come out right.

The upshot of this? At some time or other, in going over a manuscript for what seems like the dozenth time, most of us say--either to ourselves or out loud--"I'm sick of this book." Then again, we hope you like the finished product. If you do, we forget our initial reaction to those words. It will be worth it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Spring Is Here

The "official" first day of spring has finally come. In Texas, weekends will find people putting their children among the roadside bluebonnets for pictures, many of which will go out on Easter.

The Dallas Arboretum will feature Dallas Blooms, a spectacle well worth taking in.

Spring training in baseball will give way to the opening day festivities. Until then, the Texas Rangers (and every other team) will be undefeated.

My golf partner and I will (hopefully) finally be able to get our golf clubs out and start  playing, no longer shut out by rain, cold, respiratory infections, and other factors.

It's spring. It's time to celebrate the world we've been given. What are you going to do about it?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Writing: What Genre Is Your Book?

The question keeps coming up: How would you classify your books? What's their genre? And, as the song goes, "Here I am, stuck in the middle."

What I write is medical mysteries with a heart--that is, a bit of romance...usually. I've looked at my novels and novellas and discovered one or two that don't fit that description, but by and large what I write does. Sometimes the medical aspect is prominent. Sometimes the romance is more evident. And once of twice I've had co-protagonists who are already married and the romance is pretty understated. So what's the genre?

I've wrestled with this before, and as I get more confident (with twelve novels and five--soon to be six--novellas under my belt) I've finally decided that people will either like or dislike my writing, no matter the genre it falls under. So I publish them and let the chips fall where they may. But, then again, I'm indie-publishing. It gets more difficult if you're trying to get a contract with a traditional publisher, because it's more important that your book can be placed in a specific category.

What should an author do if he/she produces a book that doesn't fit into one of the usual categories? If they're a newbie, trying to break in, I'd suggest that they see if their work comes closest to fitting into one of the usual genres, and put it there. If they have several books to their credit and want to branch out, then so be it. But that's just my opinion.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

To Whom Shall We Turn?

No, this isn't a political piece--although I have my ideas about the process and the people involved. It's about modern-day reporting, and it was triggered by these lines from a book I'm reading.

"Just what I read in the papers, and if you've ever been involved in anything the papers wrote up, you know better than to trust them."

I have been a lifelong subscriber to our local newspaper (although I now get it in e-newspaper form). I watch news on the major channels, both broadcast and cable. I stay abreast of events in the world, our nation's capital, and those in our state. And I make up my own mind, rather than letting the talking heads give me their interpretation of events. But it's getting more difficult each day to do that.

When I was young (read, "When the earth's crust was cooling..."), journalists were taught to independently verify their facts from two sources before reporting them. Somehow, this has fallen by the wayside. Reporting of facts has given way to opinion. Some of what we read--perhaps most of it --is either frank opinion or slanted in a particular way. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to draw one's own conclusions.

What do we do amidst all this confusing material? I lean on words written long ago, words recorded in John 6:68. I recommend these to all of us, especially now.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Writing: Changing Stories In Mid-Stream

When I published my last novella, Emergency Case, I "teased" my next novel at the end of it. It involved a doctor who came home at noon and heard a deliveryman leave a box on her front doorstep. Curious, she found a package there, brought it in, and eventually opened it. She encountered a cell phone that rang. An electronically altered voice addressed her by name and told her to follow instructions exactly or her husband would be killed. She called her husband, who was out of town, but no one answered his phone.

Good stuff, huh? But while I was working on it, I kept coming back to the opening line that's been stuck in my head for years--"Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled them up." I'd won a contest with that line, but had never done anything further. I had fiddled with the words, and little by little a story developed. So, finally, I put aside the novel I was working on and started writing on this novella. At first, my wife--my first reader--didn't think what I'd put together sounded like one of my books, but with her suggestions and my four or five revisions, I think the finished product will be a worthwhile read.

Dineen Miller designed a great cover, Barbara Scott is working her editorial magic as we speak, and eventually I hope you'll be able to read Bitter Pill for yourself. Hope you agree that it was worth changing stories in midstream. I guess that freedom is one of the benefits of indie-publishing. Think so?

NOTE: I'm happy to advise that Emergency Case is now available in audio format. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Emergency Case in Audible Format

I've just received word that my novella, Emergency Case, is available on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon in audio format. If you like listening to books and haven't read Emergency Case, this is your chance.

I have three keys good for a download of the book on Audible, and I'll give them to three people who meet the requirements above, and leave a comment in this blog post, including their name and email address (such as Dr R L Mabry at gmail dot com, to fool web crawlers).

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Importance of Speaking




I recently had what was probably my first episode of bronchitis in several years, and along with that I had a spell for several days when I was essentially unable to talk. Now if you've never considered how dependent we are on our voice, you probably won't think much about this. But believe me, I was glad when I finally "got my voice back." We never think about how important speaking is until we can't do it.

Have you ever considered how important our various senses are? How would you like to be unable to hear, or see, or speak? I'll confess that I've tended to take these for granted in the past. But I won't do that anymore.

How about you?

Friday, March 08, 2019

Writing: Audio Books

Before I decided to dip my toe (or my pen, if you really like metaphors) into the field of self-publication, I hadn't really thought of the audio format of my books. Most authors, even those of us who've been published several times, are more concerned with the print versions of our books than any other iteration. But it soon became apparent, both from queries I received from readers and my own observations, that not having a book available in an audio format was an error--one I hastened to correct for the books I self-published.

My first indie-published book was Cardiac Event, and I blush to say that I have not as yet gone back to make it available in an audio book. However, my next full-length novel, Guarded Prognosis, is available in both print and audio editions. The same holds true of all of my novellas (the latest one, Emergency Case, will be available shortly).

Some, but by no means all, of my ten novels published by a conventional publisher are available in audio format. This was a decision of the publisher, who chose the narrator and issued the books. When it became my responsibility to do the same, I determined to listen to every minute reecorded by the narrator. Was this overkill? Perhaps, but I feel it is incumbent on the indie-published author to do this, since the accuracy of each word (including the pronunciation) is his/her responsibility. I take this extra step, which costs me time and effort, but I think it's worth it.

All this is to say that soon (depending on the response time of ACX, the company that issues these audio books), all six of my novellas will be available in audio format.

Do you listen to audio books? Is this wasted effort on my part, or a worthwhile investment of time? I'd like to hear your opinion.

Note: Tammy G. has won the signed proof copy of Surgeon's Choice, Thanks to all of you who entered.


Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Weather

Some of you (and you're in our thoughts and prayers) are suffering the consequences of the tornadoes that ravaged the southeast over the weekend. The temperature this morning is below freezing at our place. Parts of our nation are "in the ice-box" this morning, while others luxuriate in sunshine and moderate temperatures.

When the weather is cold (or for whatever reason),  and you prefer to be inside, what is your favorite activity. I'll freely admit that, although my "retirement occupation" is writing, cold weather--especially when combined with a weekend--tends to drive me toward the fire and the TV set, rather than to my computer to write. What about you?

Now for a couple of announcements: First, I found a proof copy of my novella, Surgeon's Choice, in my books, and would be happy to give it away (autographed). Leave a comment with your favorite "I'd rather be indoors" activity, as well as your email address, and I'll choose someone to receive it.

Second, although I don't know how long it will stay on sale (I'm not in charge of this), the Kindle version of my novel, Heart Failure, is available at a reduced price. If you haven't read it, you might try this one. I enjoyed writing it.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Writing: Stealing Your Idea

We don't hear it so much anymore, but one of the questions new writers used to ask is, "What if someone steals my idea?" I'm not going to address actual plagiarism, which is a low blow to a writer whose book is plagiarized. It's unfortunately no longer rare, what with the ready availability of computers and self-publishing. Rather, let's talk about a writer's ideas.

At one of the early writing courses I attended, I heard a writer of thrillers say there was only one plot, and everything else could be derived from it. "Two dogs, one bone." I learned that there really were other plots, but I always recalled that one...and tried to steer clear of it. But suppose we come up with an idea for a novel that we feel is unique. Further, suppose we ask three well-known fiction writers to develop that idea into a full-fledged novel. What you'd end up with would be three novels, each having the different touch that we call "voice" from three different authors. In other words, the idea itself isn't unique. The way a writer handles it is.

It's great to have ideas. One author of my acquaintance keeps them on three-by-five cards, and says he has enough to last a lifetime. Others, myself included, have ideas that are triggered by something they read or see or hear or...you get the picture.

So, bottom line, don't worry about ideas. That's the easy part. The hard part is turning the ideas into a novel.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Gone Fishing

"Gone fishing." For some reason, that was the expression that came to me as I discussed with my wife our need for rest the other day. I'm getting over a particularly tough respiratory infection, she has her own things to get through, and we decided that we needed a day when we have nothing planned. (Of course, that's subject to change, but you know what we mean.)

I have no idea why we should refer to such a day, to such freedom from tasks, as "gone fishing," since I have no desire to engage in that activity. Matter of fact, I guess the last time I engaged in fishing was while on vacation with the family on the Texas Gulf coast, and that was primarily because I thought my children would enjoy it. But you get the idea, anyway.

I'll be back with you in a few days, as scheduled...unless I decide to "keep on fishing."

Do you ever have those days when you want to turn off the phone, not answer the door, and hang up a mental sign, "Gone fishing?"

Friday, February 22, 2019

Writing: Networking

Writing is a lonely business. Some authors are introverts. Others may say they're extroverts, but I have a hunch what they do--as do I--is put on a "game face" when they're around other people. Given our druthers, I suspect that more authors would prefer sitting in a room in front of a computer screen than interacting with others. But that's not possible. It's not even healthy. As my wife reminds me, we need to be around other people and interact with them.

What does this have to do with writing? It's not cheap to attend a writers' conference, and when we do, it's a good thing to look at the benefits we'll reap by our attendance. Of course, there's the opportunity for learning more about our profession--and the successful author never stops learning. There's the possible interaction with agents and editors. Even for the author who is represented by an agent and feels secure in their current contract with a publisher, it's always a good idea to let others in the field put a face with your name and learn a bit more about you--there's a chance you may need to contact them in the future. Publishing is constantly changing.

Another major advantage in attending a writers' conference is the opportunity to network with one's peers. For example, I look back at my initial attendance at a well-known writer's conference. Of the myriads of people whose faces and names come back to me when I think about that time, most have gone on to be successful in publishing--as authors, editors, agents. And I knew them "when. Not only that, I stay in communication with them, and in some cases they're been endorsers (and vice-versa).

Besides, it's nice to be around a group that won't call the police if they hear you in an elevator talking about how to kill someone with an undetectable poison. Your spouse might understand, but someone who's not in the profession wouldn't.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

It's Winter---No, It's Summer--No...

Throughout the US, especially the northern part, there's been lots of winter weather, with snow, ice, and even some school closings. In the southern part of our nation, people are talking about sunshine, and approaching it in shorts and flip-flops.

Here in Texas, we've had the usual roller-coaster of cold, warm, cold, warm--but no snow, ice, or other souvenirs of winter. Matter of fact, although it's cold now (I haven't been able to play golf on Wednesday in what seems like forever), there's the promise of another warm-up on the way.

But for all of us, there's one harbinger of spring that always pops up at this time of year. Baseball spring training is about to begin. And I'm ready.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Writing: RUE

One of the rules of writing is "RUE"--"resist the urge to explain." That's good advice, and there's a valid reason behind it..

One of the best bits of advice I was given came from well-known author Gayle Roper, who conducted one of the first writing seminars I attended. At that one, we each had to read a segment from the novel we'd written, but once we'd read it we had to sit silently as the group dissected it. Imagine holding your tongue while a group of other writers questioned your work. Each of us was anxious to say,"But what I was trying to do..." and "You don't understand..." but we had to sit by and listen without speaking. Why? Because, as Gayle put it, "You aren't going to be able to stand next to the potential reader and explain what you meant." In other words, make it clear to begin with. Let it stand on its own.

I've encountered the same thing as I put together my stories. When my first reader says, "I don't understand this," my first inclination as a writer is to explain. But instead, my eventual reaction (after pouting and sober reflection) is to rewrite the line, or scene, or even the working title, to avoid this misunderstanding. I don't explain--I simply make explanation unnecessary.

Have you ever seen something in a novel that requires explanation? How would you rewrite it to make explanation unnecessary?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bored

What do you do on those long weekend afternoons, without a football game to occupy you? Personally, I've not had to work to find things to occupy my time--apparently people look on "being retired" as a synonym for "having nothing to do." I'm glad to help, but retirement isn't a long stretch of naps and watching TV. At least, not at our house.

What do we have to occupy us? For example, there's that stack of receipts and forms on the desk that have to be brought into some semblance of order as the tax deadline approaches. It seems as though there's always something to do. How about at your house?

Anyway, what do you do to avoid boredom on weekend afternoons? I think it would be interesting to hear.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Writing: How Did I Turn Into A Blogger?

I thought it might be interesting to turn back the pages over these past 13 years and see what my first blog post was about.

When I retired from medicine, I envisioned travel, golf, and lazy mornings drinking coffee while watching Good Morning America. An uncontrollable compulsion (some might say a commission) to write about my experiences after the death of my first wife, Cynthia, led me into the field of Christian writing. That book, by the way, is THE TENDER SCAR: LIFE AFTER THE DEATH OF A SPOUSE, and is available through online booksellers as well as book stores. 

Along the way, seeking direction and instruction, I attended a Christian Writers' Conference. That led to my meeting and becoming friends with some neat writers and editors. This, in turn, gave me the itch to write fiction. And so the story goes.

And, as for the question I asked in the title of this piece, once my non-fiction book was published, I discovered that the fun had just begun. An author, whom I once thought was cynical but now consider practical, told me that nobody was as interested in telling others about my book as I would be. And that's right. So I set up a web page--well, actually, my wife did (and did a nice job). You can check that out at www.rmabry.com. And from there, it's just a hop/skip/jump (actually, a feet-first dive with nose firmly pinched shut) into this thing called a blog. Not really a marketing tool, though. More a case of "all my writing friends have one, so why don't I?"

My fiction works continue to be under consideration--which is sort of like an actor saying he's "between engagements." But over the past thirty months or so, I've had quite an education about the field of writing and the publishing industry. Since everyone likes a good horror story, I thought I'd share some of those experiences from time to time with those of you who have nothing better to do than surf the internet. I hope you'll find them entertaining, educational, and occasionally inspirational.  

Well, that's how it started. We never know what God has in store around the corner for us. So I guess we'd better be ready. Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

To Save Time And Effort...

... at next year's Super Bowl, why doesn't the Patriot team's offense scrimmage against the defense, and just let everyone else stay home?

Maybe it's me, but other than the NFL commercial (with all the players at a dinner party), I can't recall a single one of the commercials--and those are usually the best part of the festivities.

Oh, well. Pitchers and catchers report to camp in just a few days.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Writing: Time Management

One reason I have an attitude of "I've got to participate but sometimes I don't like it" toward social media is that I'm frustrated when I read some of the posts of my fellow authors. And the phrase they use that makes me envy them sometimes is "under deadline."

As a writer who, after publication of ten novels by traditional publishers, has decided to publish via the "indie" route, I somehow miss one aspect of having a contract with a definite deadline. It's not so much approval of the cover design (I have a wonderful cover designer--it simply costs money) or the editing (again, I've found a good editor and am willing to pay for that function). It's not even arranging the publicity for the forthcoming book--I've always found that what I do works best for me.

No, I mainly miss the deadlines. Let me hasten to say that I've never missed a deadline imposed by an editor or publisher. Matter of fact, I almost always got my work in early. But in the indie-world of publication, it's up to me to set (and keep) deadlines. I have to decide when the book will be released and work backwards to get everything done. And there's always the temptation to put off the work that I know I need to do--from idea to rough draft to finished product plus all the things I've already mentioned.

That's where I am now. I started with the idea for a novel of medical suspense with a bit of romance--what I usually write--but in the middle of writing it my attention turned to a novella I've had on my computer for some time. It's a bit different, but I really like it and the message it has. I envy the authors who say they are always working on two or more novels. I'm used to being single-minded, going to work each day on one novel until it's done. So, like the donkey who starved to death between two hay bales, I feel stuck.

What am I going to do? Probably indie-publish the novella once I get the corners rounded off, then finish the full-length novel. What would you do? I'm anxious to read your suggestions.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The March Of Time

I was thinking the other day about changes in our lives. I grew up in a small town in Texas--population 2578 (and don't ask me why that's stuck in my mind) when I left. I went for my pre-med to a college that became a university while I was in attendance. It was in a larger town, but not huge. Not like Dallas, where I went to  see about financial help for my medical school attendance. While I was looking for my destination, I inadvertently turned and went the wrong way on a one-way street. I was able to get by without a ticket because the policeman believed me when I told him I'd never encountered one before--because I hadn't. Welcome to the big city.

When we moved from a suburban town, population 35,000, to a different suburban area, population about three times as large, it took some adjustment. But after we settled in, we discovered that almost anything we wanted to visit--restaurants, church, groceries, other stores--could be reached in about 15 minutes. It was about twice as long as we were used to, and three times as long as what I grew up with, but it was okay.

Then the population boom hit, and our particular suburb jumped to about 175,000 people over a 10 year period. Although it still only takes 15 minutes to get to most of the places that are important to us, we've been known to almost double that if we decide to go to a new restaurant or store...or if the traffic is too heavy.

People are moving north from our suburb to the next one and the one past that. They're looking for the simple life, the unencumbered existence, in a small town. But my prediction is that, as time marches on, they'll find the population increasing in their area. And so it goes.

The answer? I don't have one. But what we've done is accept that population shifts and growth spurts are going to happen. How about you? Have you noticed this going on in your neck of the woods? And how have you handled it? I'd love to know.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Writing: Getting Noticed

Bowker reports that about three million books were published in 2010. I'm certain that almost a decade later, that number is much larger--I don't know exactly how large, and I'm afraid that if I saw the exact number I'd probably take to my bed, the covers pulled firmly over my head. Amidst all this competition, how can a writer get noticed.

When I got into this writing game, I was told that I needed a website and a social media presence. This was long before I had anything in print (unless you counted the textbooks I'd edited or written, or the scientific papers I'd published). As expected, I  said, "Why?" and dragged my feet on getting started. But it was soon apparent that I needed to be noticed--and, mind you, this was in the days that independent publication of a novel was a dirty phrase. Now, when people are much more interested in who the author of a book is than who published it, that is even more important.

A web site? Yes, I'm afraid that one's a necessity. A blog? People are starting to debate that, but I think it's important. Facebook? I have both a personal site and a professional one. Twitter? Yes, although I don't use it as much as I should. But don't stop there. There's Pinterest, SnapChat, Goodreads, and many more. An author can spend all his or her time maintaining a social media presence.

The best advice I've received: choose two or three Social Media venues in which to be active. Interact with those who comment there. But also spend your time writing the best novel possible. Because word-of-mouth is still the most effective means of advertising--getting noticed, if you will--that any author can have.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Neighbors

I was thinking a few days ago about neighbors. I grew up in a smaller town in North Texas. I can picture our street, and still recall the names (and, in most cases, the faces) of everyone who lived for about a half-mile or more in every direction from our house. Although pick-up trucks weren't as common then as they are now (at least in Texas), it seemed that everyone who drove any kind of a vehicle carried both a tow rope or chain and a set of jumper cables. And, not only did they know how to use them, they were willing to unlimber them to help out neighbors.

I tried to put names to our neighbors here, but beyond those who are immediately on either side of our house or across the street, I couldn't do it. Oh, I know the faces of almost everyone on our block--I see them when I walk or go to the mailbox--but I don't know the names. Some have moved to be replaced by others whose names I don't know. Some keep to themselves. It's a different society now.

People are not "neighborly" like folks used to be. We don't have a tow rope or chain in our cars. We could put our hands on some jumper cables if necessary, but it would take a bit of time before we recalled exactly how to use them. We'd rather call AAA.

I don't know if it's a function of living in a larger city or the evolution of our society, but things have changed. I sort of miss those earlier days. How about you?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Writing: More Things An Author Needs To Know

Here are a few more of the things an author needs to avoid--call them rules, call them suggestions, but they're important if you want to be successful in writing.

1. Using passive words and construction: Active verbs tend to involve the reader. Writing in the passive voice is generally to be avoided.

2. Generalization: Avoid "things" and similar words. Be specific and concrete. If you can't think of a word, use a thesaurus or dictionary. Don't make your reader guess.

3. Telling instead of showing: The classic example is Chekhov, who said not to tell him the moon was shining, but to show the glitter on the water. (He also said that if a gun is mentioned early on, it later should be fired).

4. Neglecting transitions: Avoid jerkiness. One paragraph should flow seamlessly into the next.

5. Not reading your work aloud: This not only helps see whether the work needs further editing, but is especially helpful in determining whether what you're writing would do well in an audio version.

6. Overuse of dialogue tags: "Said" is a perfectly good word. The use of "...interjected" or "...exclaimed" or "...whispered" calls to mind rule #3. Let your words show emotion, rather than describing them.

7. Not inviting or accepting criticism: Some authors don't let anyone read their work until it's finished. Others use beta-readers or critique groups. But, even though writing is a lonely business, get another set of eyes (maybe several) on your work...and then listen to it. This varies with the expertise of the person giving the critique, but if two or three experienced readers say it should be changed, then change it.

What do you think? Have you seen writers flaunt these suggestions? Did they get away with it?

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Being A Hero

I'm not a hero, and by no means am I a superhero.  I don't drive a Batmobile or search the night sky for the Bat-Signal indicating that I'm needed. I don't wear a big red "S" on my chest, nor fear Kryptonite. I'm simply a guy who tries his best (often failing at it along the way).

You may have heard the saying: "No man is a hero to his valet." There is a difference of opinion as to the original author of this, but the meaning is pretty clear. Some of us see only the public personna, the person who sees us most of the time, often at our most vulnerable, gets the best view of the real "us." And it sometimes scares us that, wish as we might, we're not a hero.

One reason I don't always like social media was probably best-voiced by Pastor Steven Furtick. "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." Some people look at our public image and think we're doing well, that everything is going smoothly. But to our husband or wife, our family, our close friends, we're just a person, one with faults. Sure, we try to correct them, but we know more are coming.

It's not that we're a hero. It's that we keep trying. And those closest to us love us...warts and all.

NOTE: Have one ARC (advanced reading copy) of my latest novella, Emergency Case. I'll give it, signed, to a randomly chosen commenter (must leave an email address for me to contact them). Contest ends Jan 20th.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Writing: Things An Author Needs To Know

One of the debates among neophyte writers is whether or not there are "rules." I think they're suggestions, and following them won't get you published. But you need to know them and keep them in mind as you write. I've said that Picasso can put lips and ears wherever he wants to, although I'll bet he knows where they should be and why he goes against convention.

I don't know the source of these (sorry), but they've been hanging above my computer since early on. There are 15, and I read them frequently. Here are some things to avoid, with my comments.

1. Overwriting: Mark Twain said, "Never use a dollar word when a fifty-cent one will do." My first reader always cautions me to omit things that slow the reader down. One of those is having to look up the meaning of a word. Don't use fancy or long words to show how smart you are.

2. Using unnecessary words: Write long, and then take out the unnecessary words...or even scenes. If it doesn't move the action forward or convey emotion, why include it? As has been said, fiction is everyday stuff with the hum-drum removed. Elmore Leonard indicated he tried to take out what most people skip. My question--why put it in?

3. Using cliches, platitudes, qualifiers, jargon and overdone words: One of the first things my agent called to my attention was the use of cliches. This led me to remove them and substitute better words--which, I suppose, might someday become cliches, but they'd be mine. Seriously, keep your reader on their feet, don't put them to sleep.

4. Using long, run-on sentences: I'll admit that I'm fond of compound sentences--two parts, joined by "and" or "but," but I try not to make them too long. (See what I did there?) If your paragraph is really just a long sentence, break it up.

5. Using too many adjectives and adverbs: Go to Elements of Style and you'll read that nouns and verbs should do the heavy lifting. Keep the use of their assistants down in order to give punchy sentences that carry your thoughts. Don't say he ran swiftly. Say that he sprinted. And indicate that he was breathless with the effort.

6. Not varying sentence length: If sentences are all the same length, they eventually put the reader to sleep. (That's my justification for throwing in a compound sentences every once in a while). This is a great reason to read your work aloud. Vary the rhythm.

7. Not explaining your terms: Since I write medical fiction, I have to explain many of the terms I use. However, you get tired of reading (and writing), "By this, he meant..." The author has to be creative, but the end result will be better. Readers aren't stupid...but they hate to read with a dictionary or thesaurus by their side.

That's about half of these "rules" or "suggestions." Do you think they're self-evident? Or have you encountered instances where the author should have followed them more?

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Posting Elsewhere Today

It almost sneaked up on us. I was going to do a guest post on Seekerville, but the hostess and I decided that "after the holidays" was the best time. Then she sent me a message toward the end of last week, reminding me that it was now "after the holidays." So I did a post, which you should be able to read (sometime today) here. It has to do with new year's resolutions. If you leave a comment there (not here--sorry, those don't count), you'll be in the running for a print or Kindle version of my latest novella, Emergency Case.

Hope you'll come back on Friday, when I'll talk about all the things a writer (either traditionally or indie published) needs to learn.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Writing: Changing Genres

Most folks feel, I guess, that once a writer is picked up by a publishing house, they have it made. A look at my own publishing history shows that this doesn't always work out. As in sports, the business world, and just about anything else, the key phrase is, "What have you done for me lately?"

Even if a writer has a certain amount of success (I have twelve novels and five novellas to my credit), there's always the trepidation that comes by changing genres. An author has built up a following by writing the same type of novels over the years, but there's that itch every once in a while to do something a bit different. If you do it, will your fans stick with you, or will this turn them off? Even if you--as I have--decide to break away from traditional publishing houses and publish independently, you worry about this phenomenon.

Some of you may recall the story of how I was signed by my agent, Rachelle Gardner. That first line with which I won her contest has lived on my computer for many years now. I've developed a story around it, and the more I refined it, the better I liked it. But I kept hearing the caution, "This doesn't read like a Richard Mabry story." I've rejected publishing it under a pseudonym--if I'm going to fail, let me fail under my own name. It's still medical, there's still an element of mystery, but there's no romance. Instead, it deals with three people (a female physician, a doctor who's entered the pastorate, and a man who heals people at his services) and how their lives change and become intertwined.

So what's your opinion? Which is more important--the author or the genre? Is an author taking too big a chance when he/she goes a bit outside the genre they're identified with? I'd truly like to know.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2019

A New Year

We've made it through the holidays, and now it's time to look ahead to 2019. (It's hard to get used to that number). This is the time of year when everyone looks at the extra few pounds they've put on and decides to do something about it--join a health club, start walking regularly, avoid the scales. Whatever.

One thing I am considering doing was brought home to me by the myriad of people who sent me (and probably everyone else on their FB friends list) a message, especially those with attached images. I don't open those (I've been told they sometimes contain viruses) but it's made me look carefully at my "friends" list. Unfortunately, when I click those names, I often end up wondering, "Who are these folks?"

Yes, authors are encouraged to maintain a social media presence, but sometimes I wonder why. So I'm looking more carefully at the requests I get. This is a nice chance to connect with some people that I've let slip by me, but it's hard to accept the friendship of someone whose major connection is  two mutual friends with me, neither of whom I know.

What about you? Are you going to clean up your FB friends list as we start this year? Why or why not? Let me know.