Friday, May 31, 2019

Writing: Releasing A New Book

As always seems to happen since I've started doing this "indie" (independent, as opposed to part of a contract with a traditional publisher), the process of releasing a new book didn't run totally smoothly. Oh, it wasn't all that bad--just a technical glitch with the cover size that slowed down the appearance of the print version of the novella, Bitter Pill, and by the time this post appears that should be taken care of. Then I'll have to go in and join the Kindle and print versions to give the readers a chance to get their desired format. But it's one more thing that authors who are publishing via a traditional publisher don't even worry about. On the other hand, I control the process from start to finish, and don't have to answer to anyone or anything. It's a trade-off, and it's worth it...sometimes.

When I released my first book, I was extremely nervous about it. I had a big party at a local bookstore (which has, incidentally, gone out of business now), and was sort of distraught when I didn't draw a crowd of hundreds. However, I relaxed a bit when a bookstore employee whispered to me that a famous author had a book release party there that drew even fewer people. Later, when I was privileged to assist one of our better-known Christian authors in a signing, I noticed that her crowd was also on the small side. So, lately I've just let a novel or novella release, thinking that it either would or would not be successful. After all, ultimately the effectiveness of the book isn't up to me. Do you agree?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Release Day

Tomorrow (or maybe today--Amazon sometimes does that) is the official release day for my novella, Bitter Pill. It may take a day or two for Amazon to link the Kindle and print versions, but I trust you'll eventually get it in whatever format you desire. This one has lived on my computer, in various forms, for several years. Finally, with lots of help along the way, I think it's reached a form you'll like. Let me know. And thanks.

If you need any encouragement, here's part of a long review from Carrie Schmidt (Reading Is My Superpower):
"Thoughtfully merging faith, suspense, and medicine in a plot that’s difficult to put down involving characters you’ll become emotionally invested in, Bitter Pill is exactly what we expect from this author."  (BTW, a randomly chosen commenter at that site will win a signed copy of the novella--and, as always, if the winner has already ordered one, I'll give an Amazon gift card).

Friday, May 24, 2019

Memorial Day, 2019

I know today is supposed to be about writing, but I think we need to recognize the forthcoming holiday. Monday is Memorial Day, an American holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It started out as Decoration Day, and originated in the years following the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Most people are ready for a long weekend. But there's a good deal of misinformation about Memorial Day. It is not a day for honoring those who previously served or are actively serving in our armed forces--there are other holidays for that, most typically Veterans' Day (formerly Armistice Day). And, although mattress and tire sales have seemed to come around on this three-day holiday, that's not what we celebrate. It's for honoring the gift given to all of us by those who didn't come home.

Take a moment and remember the men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice. And remember--Freedom isn't free. All gave some. Some gave all. 

NOTE: This will be your last opportunity to take advantage of the pre-publication price on the Kindle version of my new novella, Bitter Pill. If everything lines up just right, it will be available on Tuesday, May 29--but at the regular price. (Print version can be ordered then, as well as the Kindle). 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Because of circumstances, we stayed home this weekend. That meant that--with the exception of a few times when golf or baseball took over the TV--we watched a number of the various weekend "news" shows. And, I'll confess, I sometimes found myself voicing my opinions rather strongly, usually either to my long-suffering wife or to myself.

Now, authors are urged to post periodically in order to let their readers know a bit about them. But we're also warned not to directly post things that might be controversial, lest we offend potential readers. I've always felt free to share my opinions, and am reasonably tolerant of those who have divergent (ie, "wrong") viewpoints. Seriously, I have wonderful friends in both camps. But I note those who maintain a public persona via social media try to keep their opinions under wraps. And, to this point, I've tried to do the same. But it's tough, sometimes.

What's a fellow to do? Readers, what would you like posted by an author to let you learn more about them? Authors, what do you post that is "safe," and won't turn away readers. Or do you care? I'd like to hear.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Writing: Errors

Errors! No matter how hard we look, no matter how many sets of eyes go over the manuscript, errors creep in. We use one set of abbreviations in one place, and another elsewhere. The author decides to change a name, either a person or a place, and thinks it's done throughout the manuscript, but one slips by. To err is not only human, it's typical of an author.

What do you do after one is pointed out? The manuscript has gone through edits, a copy reader has checked it out, and the author has blessed it. It's accurate and free from error. And then someone emails you with the word that you used the wrong name or abbreviation or term or something on page X of your latest work. What can you do?

If you're traditionally published and the printed book is already out, you can notify the publisher who will change the error in the next edition of the book--if it goes to a second printing. If you're an independently published author, you can get it changed, but even then you're not totally in control of the time it will take. But in either case, what you can't do--absolutely can't--is get angry. Thank the person who points out the error. After all, we all make mistakes. (Or is it misteaks? Or perhaps misstakes? know.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Story Behind The Story

In today's Southern Writer's blog, Suite T, I tell the story of why I published my latest novella (available in Kindle format at a pre-order price). You might be interested.

Two more weeks until the "official" launch date.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Man Behind The Curtain...

In the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, when the dog, Toto, rips the curtain aside, the Wizard, realizing he's been found out, shouts over his loudspeaker, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

I sometimes think the average reader gets the impression that every author has a man behind the curtain, sometimes several, to handle the non-writing chores. Surely he/she doesn't take time from writing to do such mundane things as preparing blog posts, Facebook messages, and tweets. Who is in charge of scheduling the interviews and/or guest posts on various blogs to keep the author's name and their new book in front of the public? And there must be a person behind the curtain who mails out ARCs and sends the copies of the newly published books to the winners on various blogs. Surely there's such a curtain.

All this has been on my mind as I prepare for the release of my sixth novella, making a total of eighteen novels and novellas I've been fortunate enough to publish. Allow me to give you a glimpse of the man behind the curtain: me.

And now, back to my non-writing duties. Oh, lest you think all this will detract from my time spent writing, be assured that I plan to publish my thirteenth full-length novel, working title Doctor's Decision, sometime after the first of next year.

Meanwhile, are you surprised that I don't have a "man behind the curtain" to do these things for me? Some authors employ a virtual assistant to help them with these duties. I don't, but there's nothing wrong with that. What do you think?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Writing: Series or Freestanding?

"I've been thinking about writing a book." What's your reaction when you hear someone say that? Mine is usually silent (no need to get into an argument), but I begin thinking of all the things I've learned along this road to writing. I literally didn't know all I didn't know, and I learned it slowly and painfully. The ready availability of self-publication (something that was anathema when I started out) means that there are now a bunch of books introduced each year, which means that yours must really stand out. I want to tell the speaker all that, but I've learned to hold my tongue.

But as my friend, the late Dr. John Thompson used to say, "But I digress." Assuming you really want to sit down and write a book, one of the things you'll have to decide is whether it will be the first in a series, or a freestanding novel. The decision was essentially made for me by my first publisher's editorial committee, which said that freestanding novels were the way to go. Maybe they were at the time. Personally, I'm not certain whether this was because they figured I might not be around for numbers two and three or the first novel might crater so badly that future ones wouldn't happen. But be that as it may, I started writing freestanding novels.

By the time I decided to publish independently (with the help of my agent), I was pretty well committed to freestanding novels that could be read in any order, and I haven't changed. But there are pitfalls along the way. For instance, in rereading the work of some of my favorite authors, I've noticed a problem that I encounter when going through their work. For example, although no one could write adventure novels better than the late Ross Thomas, I noticed that he used the same name for a law-enforcement officer in two different books, but set him in totally different circumstances and with a somewhat different character. He also used the name of a woman who was killed off, only to bring her (or her twin, with the same name) back in a different context in another book. Either he really liked those names, or he just didn't care. I'm trying to avoid that error.

In going through the novels recently of one of my favorite authors, the late Robert B. Parker, I note that in an early novel he made a character a "bad guy," but with very little transition he mentions him in subsequent novels as first a questionable character and later as a "helper" for his protagonist. Again, a series error. Maybe he didn't have an idea that this person would show up again and again, but a slower (and believable) transition in his character would be nice.

In freestanding novels, I have to invent new names for each new character. I'm careful to avoid using the same names in more than one novel (which means I'll run out of names at some point). The exception is when I use the same character in another novel, which I've done once or twice, but when that happens, I try to remain true to the original personality I've given the person in question. Consistency or a reason for any change is necessary, in my estimation.

This is just one of the pitfalls to writing. What have you noticed in series or freestanding novels? Do you like one as opposed to the other? Is there a tendency for errors to creep in? Let me know in the comments.

PS--In case you haven't yet received the word, the Kindle version of my latest novella, Bitter Pill, is available at a pre-publication discount. The novella, both the Kindle and print version, will be released on May 29. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Role of Social Media

We've all heard the admonition, "Don't put your eggs in one basket." By this, we're told not to rely on one source, one thing, one event. But when the choices are legion, where does the prudent person put his/her eggs?

Authors are told that we should have a social media presence. That's the reason I have a website, post on this blog twice a week, maintain another "author" page on which I post things of interest to both authors and readers daily, have a presence on Twitter, occasionally visit Goodreads, and so on. But which basket is the best one? Where do you go for social interaction? Do you like to learn more about your favorite authors? Do you visit their blogs, their Facebook pages, their Twitter sayings, their other sites regularly? Which ones, and how often?

Why do I ask this? Because I'd really like to know. Leave your comments--I promise to read them.

PS--In case you haven't heard, I was featured on the cover of the latest issue of Southern Writers Magazine, with an interview inside that spells out some interesting aspects of my life. You may wish to check it out.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Writing: My Latest Novella

Over a decade ago, after I'd grown so weary of rejections that I decided to chuck my writing, I decided to enter a contest of Rachelle Gardner's for the best first line of a potential story. I thought about it for a few minutes, then submitted this one: "Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled them up."

Much to my surprise, I won with that line. The prize Rachelle was offering was a free edit of the first chapter of an unpublished novel. Well, since I had never had any of my four novels published, instead garnering forty rejections over a four year period, I simply sent the first chapter of my latest (unpublished) novel. And Rachelle's reply was, "Send me something that needs editing."

To make a long story short (and as my kids would say, "Too late"), Rachelle and I corresponded, she offered to represent me, I eventually got a contract for that novel (which became Code Blue) and others from Abingdon Fiction, and the rest--as they say--is history. Seventeen novels and novellas later, I'l still writing. But that novel, the one that began with the line I'd pulled out of the air, continued to grow, at first in my mind and then on my computer. I wanted to publish it, but was hesitant. Maybe it was "too Christian."

I showed the final version to my wife, who is my first reader, and she had lots of suggested changes, which I made. Then I sent the first few pages to some people who'd been influencers for my recent novels, and they were unanimous in their approval. After editing by my wife, I had it professionally edited by someone familiar with my work, and got the report that this was perhaps some of my best writing. So I submitted the novella for publication.

It's now available for pre-order on Amazon, with a special pre-order price for the Kindle version. It should be released on May 29, at which time both the Kindle and print versions will be available. I hope you like it.