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


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 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.