Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Mea Culpa

I'll never forget the time I forgot about a patient. It was in the days when the person was admitted the evening before, had surgery the next day, and was discharged the day after that. Some of you can't remember that far back, but I can. I saw the man the evening before, did the surgery the next day, and promised to see and discharge him the morning after that. But I forgot. Of course, I discharged him the next afternoon, and he never complained.

I never forgot another obligation after that--until today. Sorry. I'm still dealing with some "stuff" and--as we say in Texas--"plumb forgot" to prepare a post. Here it is, later than I usually get them up, but better late than never.

I promise to have my regular post for you Friday--unless I forget.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Writing: When Life Intervenes

We've had a visit from all my children this past week, and it was good to see them. Just about the time they left, other family duties called to me. Meanwhile, I didn't write a single line all week. How do you handle this?

To begin with, you have to realize that I'm what Lawrence Block called a "Sunday writer." I don't depend on my writing as my sole means of support. I've decided that "retired" means, among other things, that there's no "have-to" in my writing. If you read my post last week, you'll know what I mean.

After you decide what your own writing represents--an annuity, a hobby, or an occupation--then you can decide how to handle a break from it. For me? Family always comes first.

I should be back next week, but in the meantime, feel free to discuss where you are on the spectrum I've referred to. I'll be interested to know.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Spinning Beachball of Death

I was first introduced to computers many years ago, when I discovered a small company in the mid-cities that manufactured the machines. I had no idea how to use one--still don't fully understand everything they do--but I bought one. That was when I was in solo private practice of medicine, so purchases were up to me, rather than having to "go through the system." I carried the box into my office and my assistant at the time says I dumped it on her desk and said, "Learn how to use this." I don't know if it went exactly that way, but the computer did become indispensable to me as time went on.

In retirement, when I've exchanged one profession for another, I've come to depend on my laptop as I write. I also use it for email. Other than those functions, plus sometimes checking out news stories or doing research, that little box on my desk remains terra incognito for me. But I do recognize what some people have called "the spinning beachball of death," the little emoticon that pops up when an app is somehow delayed. And I've begun to notice it occasionally.

As time has gone on, and I've gotten used to faster and faster responses from my computer, I dread the day when I need to replace my faithful laptop, which I purchased some years back. When I bought it, I got one with a memory amount that was high enough that I figured I'd never run out. Now I see that I'm using a large proportion of that memory I thought was enough. Times change (but I'm not thrilled about it).

I'm not asking for tips on what to do. I'm well aware of all of them. Rather, I'd like to know if you've become dependent on your computer, as have I. What is your reaction to seeing that "spinning beachball of death?" Dread? A sense of impending doom? Or another day at the office? Let me know.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Writing: Annuity, Hobby, or Occupation?

My agent (yes, I still have one, despite now self-publishing) tells me that I'm doing very well publishing my own books. For those keeping score, I've self-published (actually, agent-assisted published) six novellas and two full-length novels. I've also had my work published by traditional publishers (ten novels). So I guess I'm able to comment on both types of publication. Which is better? And the answer, of course, is "it depends."

One of the better posts about income from writing is this one, although it's almost ten years old. That one cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but qualifies their figure by saying that novelists' income varies widely. The post has a fairly thorough discussion of  indie-writing, and I highly recommend it. They pretty much get it right.

In a nutshell, here are the positives and negatives of each type of writing, as I've observed them.

Traditional published: First, it's hard (and getting harder) to land a publishing contract. Publishing is a for-profit industry, and a publisher has lots of costs that aren't obvious to the writer. For instance, they have to project how many copies of the book they'll sell, look at their expenses, consult their editorial board about whether this writer will be a success, offer an advance, and cross their fingers. Sometimes they win, but at times they lose. I signed a three-book contract with a major publisher, who paid a nice advance but decided to pass on further books. Those novels earned out the advance, and I still get royalties from them. But the figures weren't good enough to keep me. It's a business decision.

Indie published: I learned early on the importance of using a professional editor, as well as having my cover design done by a good designer--all at my expense. Whereas I was used to getting a box of free books, and thought nothing of asking my publisher to send a book to various sites and sources, I could do that myself but had to buy the books to do it. Admittedly, they were at a discounted price, but they weren't free. As for doing blog posts and interviews, it was up to me to line them up, as well as providing the books for a give-away. The person who made the decisions was me--which was both good and bad.

Do you get rich from writing? Not unless you're one of those authors who do it full-time. Honestly, I am retired from the practice of medicine, and (Jim Bell, cover your ears) some day I don't write at all. Is it satisfying as "second profession?" For me, it is. Would it be for you? I'd be glad to hear.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Cell Phones

I enjoy--perhaps more than most--the social media video that shows people watching their cell phones while they walk into lamp posts, make their way into fountains, even narrowly avoid being hit by autos. If you are familiar with my blog, you know that I maintain a love/hate relationship with social media. And cell phones are high on my list of devices I keep around but don't particularly like--at least the way they seem to have taken over our lives.

Maybe it comes from decades of being "on call" and available, being dependent on pagers, cell phones, and other devices. My wife, bless her, uses her cell phone for email, as a small, portable computer, takes pictures with it, as well as making and receiving calls. I, on the other hand, carry mine almost unwillingly, receiving and occasionally initiating calls.

It also seems to me that text messages (with or without emojis) have almost replaced phone calls. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but what happened to simply calling? The person on the other end will either answer or they won't. And if they don't, we can leave a voicemail. You remember voicemail, don't you?

James Scott Bell recently posted about the time he left his cell phone behind, and what he discovered. I have to agree with him that perhaps our dependence on those devices, and our constantly checking them, has robbed us (especially the authors among us) of our usual powers of observation.

I  know I've come off as sort of a curmudgeon. Maybe I'm just anti-progress. As my hero, OC Detective Adrian Monk used to say, "I'm not against progress. I just don't like to be around when it happens."

What do you think?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Writing: Am I Too Old To Start?

I celebrated a birthday a few days ago. How many, you ask? Let's just say that I've been getting mail offers from AARP for more then a couple of decades. (I'm now getting them from Retirement Communities, which sort of upsets me). How long have I been writing? My first book, which was written after the death of my first wife, Cynthia, was published in 2006, and I'm proud to say that The Tender Scar is in its second edition and continues to help thousands who have suffered a similar loss. But I started writing it shortly after her death, in 1999. Was I too old to write? I never considered it.

Almost against my will,  I began writing fiction. I acquired first an agent and then a publishing contract. My first novel, Code Blue, was published in 2010. Since then I've published a total of 12 novels and 6 novellas, the latest of which is Bitter Pill. That's eighteen books in the past nine years. No wonder I'm tired. And I still don't consider myself an accomplished writer.

All this is to say, "You're never too old to write." Will you be published? Maybe, maybe not. Will your writing affect others? It will always affect at least one person--you. Is the effort worth it? I think so. Not only does it, as my uncle used to say, "keep me off the streets and out of pool halls," but it paints a picture of how God impacts the lives of everyone--the faithful, the fallen, the seekers. And if it does that, it's served a great purpose.

How about you? Is there something you'd like to do but you haven't started because you're too old? Or have you started something despite your age? Let me know.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

What Did You Do?

We stayed home for the 4th of July. Watched some great programs, including the parade, the President's speech, and the fireworks that capped off A Capital Fourth. I know of some who went to the lake, others who worked around the house, etc. What did you do for the fourth?

At almost 40K on the first draft of my next book. Slow but (I hope) sure. After I finish it, there'll be several more revisions

Maybe by the end of this week, I'll be ready to blog. Meanwhile, talk among yourselves.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Independence Day, 2019

Thursday of this week is July 4, the day we celebrate the independence of this great nation. Some people will take off for a varying length of time. Others will work. Some will head for sales. Others will go to the lake. But whatever we do, let's understand the meaning of the holiday.

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies marked the signing of the Declaration of Independence, declaring themselves free from the British Empire.The framers of our documents of freedom--the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution--didn't all agree. And sometimes, their discourse wasn't very civil. But as Benjamin Franklin put it, "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." Remember that these people put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors on the line to help give us the independence we celebrate.  This Independence Day, may we reflect on all that has gone before. What we now have is too precious to lose.

God Bless America.

I'll see you next week. Enjoy the holiday--but recall why we celebrate it.