Friday, June 28, 2019

Writing: Publication In Other Lands

Before I came (kicking and screaming and dragging my heels) into this business of writing and publishing non-medical books, I'd edited or co-authored a number of medical texts. Along the way, some of those books found their way into the hands of people who wanted to translate them and market the resultant volumes in their homelands. So publication in other languages and lands was nothing new to me when it dawned on me that I had gone from 'doctor' to 'author.'

What about translation of our novels? This is something that I've left up to my publisher for my earlier novels, and have yet to face since I've been on my own. As I recall, it was pretty much up to the publisher, and I didn't have a lot to do with it.

But what about marketing the book in lands other than the US? I came to think about this when I saw a recent detailing of the sales of my latest novella, Bitter Pill. It should not have been a total surprise to me that a number of my sales came from other English-speaking countries, such as Canada and Great Britain. But seeing it in black and white brought it home to me. Thank goodness that the woman assisting me in 'agent-assisted publication' listed the novella for sale in a number of English-speaking countries. Not just one. Would you think of this?

This is just another thing that the author has to bear the responsibility for in the world of independent publication. I'm finding out more and more that there are things we lean on the publisher for that are now our responsibility. And one of these is where the books is sold. Live and learn.

Questions about publishing? I may not be able to give the answers myself, but I'll bet I know someone who does. Try me.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Speaking Of Weather...

...we've had rain, high winds, lightning, and a few tornadoes every Sunday night for at least three straight weeks. We've also had enough rain on Wednesdays that my golf partner and I have been unable to play. We did get in some golf this past week, but played "cart path only" (which ranks right up there with a high colonic in my pantheon of pleasures).

Of course, in a few weeks we'll be longing for some of that rain as we look at our water bills and the grass on our lawns. We're never satisfied, are we?

It reminds me of what I've often been quoted as saying when I consider my age. "I'm not as young as I once was...and probably never was."'

The grass is always greener, isn't it? What's sending you looking over the fence at the grass on the other side today?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Writing: Starting With The Weather

Too many writers read various "rules," and try to make their writing conform to it. I'm thinking now of the "rules" of  Elmore Leonard, starting with this one: "Don't start a book with the weather." That may be good advice in most cases, but let me remind you that Madilyn L'Engle started her award-winning novel, A Wrinkle In Time, with the often-quoted line (frequently the subject of many jokes), "It was a dark and stormy night." I honestly don't know whether L'Engle just didn't care, or simply chose it because it worked. In either case, I have to say she came out ahead.

Would I start a novel with something about the weather? I might--if it worked into the plot and set the scene. But I'd try to make it something that would encourage the reader to keep going past the first paragraph or first page. Let me give you an example. Would you keep reading a novel that began in this way?

He switched the windshield wipers from intermittent to slow to fast as the rain grew steadily worse and sky darkened until his field of vision was confined to what was illuminated by his headlights. Parker strained to avoid missing his turn-off as he guided the car toward the Cutter mansion. He spared a glance at the dashboard clock. He was cutting it awfully thin, and he knew Cutter would be angry if he was late. Perhaps the weather was an omen of what was coming. But, good or bad, he needed to make the meeting. Whatever came after that... Well, he'd just see.

I not only started with the weather. I incorporated the rainstorm and darkening skies into the plot. We don't know what's around the bend, but it sounds bad.

So, what do you think?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Ever wonder what goes on behind your favorite author's work? Honestly, neither did I. Like most of you, when I'm not reading to gather facts, I read  in order to lose myself for a short time in the world crafted by a talented novelist. But I came on something recently that set me thinking about the person behind the words.

Like many of you, I've enjoyed the work of Agatha Christie. I still recall the time when I was alone in the BOQ of Lajes Field, waiting for the eventual arrival of my wife and small son, who were separated from me by an ocean. I decided to read a book to help pass the time, and ended up staying up all night to finish Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. Many of us have enjoyed her mysteries, but did you realize that she was often in the midst of depression, that she once disappeared for almost two weeks, and that her marriage was anything but happy? Neither did I.

Poe was said to be an addict. Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway, among others, committed suicide.  We never know what tortured lives are behind the words we enjoy. By the way, lest you worry about me (if you were going to), although I have the usual problems that beset all of us, I haven't reached the stage yet where you have to be concerned about me.

Would it help or hurt your enjoyment of books to know the circumstances of their authors?

Friday, June 14, 2019

Writing: A Writer's Oath?

When I received my MD degree, we didn't take the Hippocratic Oath. Even as far back as that time, we didn't  use that particular oath. We didn't swear by a number of pagan gods "not to cut for the stone" and similar things. Rather, what we took was a doctor's oath--one that bound us, for example, to "respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps we walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is ours with those who are to follow." There were other things that we committed ourselves to--things like putting the patient's welfare first, and being honest in our dealings. I daresay that none of us recalls the exact words of that oath, but all--at least most--of us tried to practice by those principles.

Should writers commit themselves to a similar oath? I was curious, so I did what most of us have learned to do: a Google search. And I found that Gail Carson Levine penned a simple oath for writers, one that I think bears passing on. Simply put, she commits to 1. writing as often and as much as possible, 2. respecting herself as a writer, and 3. nurturing the writing of others. That's it. In thinking the situation through, I'm not certain what--if anything--I'd add. What about you?

NOTE: Read this interview with Lena Dooley, leave a comment, and be entered for a chance to win a copy of Bitter Pill. As I recall, this is your last chance for a "freebie."

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Why Is A Celebrity An Expert?

I heard yesterday that one of the political candidates changed his stance on an issue, ostensibly because of an opinion voiced by a television celebrity. And that set me to thinking. No, this isn't going to be a political diatribe. Not that I don't have an opinion on this and similar subjects. Rather, it's because I happen to think that celebrities--sports figures, actors, musicians, even authors--don't have any more insight than I do about the things of the world. So why should the average American think that these opinions count more than Joe Six-Pack (or Jill Coke, if you prefer)?

If you think back to the last political campaign, you'll recall that movie and TV "stars" voiced their opinions--some rather loudly--about the issues and candidates. I don't recall why, but there was certainly no doubt which side of the fence they came down on. The next time you hear one of those famous voices calling for this or that, ask yourself one question. "What do they know that I don't?" If you find that for some reason they are  more knowledgeable than you, listen to what they have to say. Otherwise, think for yourself. I highly recommend it.

Feel free to leave your comments. I'm interested in your thoughts.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Writing: Punctuation For The Newbie

So you think you'll write a book. You're fluent in English. You know how to put the words together. And if you make a mistake, the editor will correct it for you. Right? Well, maybe, but it helps if you start off with an idea of what a manuscript should look like.

To begin with, double space the manuscript, using 12 point Times New Roman type. I've often wondered what would happen if you submitted something that's single-spaced, with justified margins (instead of the usual staggered ones) written in an unusual type face like Lucida. If your manuscript is the next Purpose Filled Life or The Shack, I suspect the agent or editor would overlook your failure to follow the rules. But, why take a chance?

How about that series of little dots that shows a trailing off of thought. These are called "ellipses," and there are three dots--not two or four. If you want to show the interruption of a thought or sentence, you'd use a series of dashes for that purpose. There are two of these--the "em dash" and "en dash." I can never remember which is which, and when they're used, but I know that if I hit the hyphen key twice, the result is a nice little dash (whichever one it is) and I can move on. So far, it's worked.

Wonder what a "pilcrow" is? It's the funny little symbol that is used to designate a paragraph. You'll probably never have to use the word, or even put in the symbol in your manuscript  (it's not typed, usually). But know what it is if someone like an editor adds it to your submission. Besides, think how cool it will be to slip the word "pilcrow" into your conversation. You'd really sound like a writer.

Of course, there are lots of other things a writer learns, but if you start out with your manuscript in the proper format and know some of the basics of things you'll use, you've got a leg up on the people who have no idea how to write a manuscript. Then, it becomes easier to say "I'm a writer," and mean it.


NOTE: I've posted at Seekerville yesterday and Suspense Sisters today. Drop over to read the blog post and interview, leaving a comment both places for a chance to win a copy of Bitter Pill.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Summer's Here

As I look down where our street dead-ends into the second green of a local golf course,  I see golfers coming out, like the swallows returning to Capistrano. When I watched the Memorial Tournament,  hosted by Jack Nicklaus, I remarked on how verdant the fairways and greens looked, how lush (and punishing) was the thicker grass that marked the areas where the shots of even the pros sometimes landed.

I watched the end of the baseball game Sunday afternoon and saw the Rangers win one. Who cares if they're quite a ways behind the Houston Astros? They're in second place and the season is well underway. Some folks are wanting their team to go to the Series, I am just happy with a team that's above .500.

The Dallas Cowboys are going through "organized team activities," which is a far cry from actual football. But exhibition football takes place in just a few months, and after that, the games actually count.

School's out. What does the summer hold for you all? For me, it means a chance to try out the "new" irons I've acquired--if only they came with a guarantee that they'd hit the ball longer and straighter. Let me know what you have planned. Have fun.