Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Random Thoughts (While Keeping A 6 Foot Distance)

Sometimes I think that I'm the only doctor in this hemisphere who hasn't been interviewed as an "expert" on some channel or other during this viral crisis. Because I'm in the age group that's most vulnerable to infection, I'm glad that I'm retired. And, although I was proud to have served my country in the Air Force, I no longer have my reserve commission. Nevertheless, I have genuine gratitude for the younger "medics" who currently serve.

Self-quarantine for us isn't much different from our usual routine. The two of us are pretty much homebodies. When it's time to go to the grocery store, we go, and get by easily on what's available. We're eating at home pretty much all the time, although we try to support some of our favorite restaurants by ordering carry-out a few times a week. I'm ready for things to open up, but I don't have "cabin fever"--at least, not yet.

It's been like pulling teeth for me to write during this time, and based on what a few fellow authors tell me, I'm not alone. I've got about 3000 words written on my next novel. I have the characters in mind--I'm toying with two different endings--but I have rewritten those words several times without making any progress.  Guess I'll finish it...or not. Plan to see if others have that problem.

I promised I'd keep you posted on my guest appearances. I'm a guest today on Lena Dooley's blog, and those who register have a chance to win a copy of my latest novel, Critical Decision. Also, while we're cooped up, I've made the Kindle version of my novella, Surgeon's Choice, free for the next five days. Even if you've already read it, pass on the information to a friend who might not be familiar with my work.

Well, enough from me. How are you doing? Let me know.


Friday, March 27, 2020

Writing: Just The First Step

You've finished! You've actually written a book. Now all you have to do is wait for the royalties to roll in. Sorry, friend, but writing is just the first step on a long, long journey--if you intend to be successful with this publishing thing.

Did you sign a contract with an established publisher to market the book? Great, but that doesn't affect the truth I learned quite some time ago: No one is as interested in people buying your book as you are. The publisher's marketing and publicity people will do a good job, but you have to do an even better one. And if you've chosen--for whatever reason--to go "indie" with your book publication, it's all up to you. And you have to stay with it.

For my book, Critical Decision, I started several months ago to line up guest blog posts and giveaways. The latest is the blog at Seekerville (and if you're a writer or a reader, I recommend you begin following this one) which includes a post that talks about what comes after the idea and the subsequent writing. It also includes a chance to win a signed copy of the book. I arranged several of these, and I began long before I finished the novel. And you'll have to do the same thing, especially if your book is published independently.

Have I burst a bubble here, or did you already know about this? Let me know.

By the way--because we all are spending lots of time at home reading, I've arranged for the Kindle version of my novella, Emergency Case, to be available at no charge via Amazon--but hurry, since this offer will only last through tomorrow. Check my blog next Tuesday, when I plan to make another novella free.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Guest post

Today I'm visiting Seekerville, with a different slant on the question, "Where do you get your ideas?" And a chance to win my new novel, Critical Decision. Hope you'll drop by. (And, yes, I'll have my usual post tomorrow).

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Hunkering Down

About to get "cabin fever?" We don't have any kids in school, so it's just the two of us, and since we're retired, our days aren't so different now than they were before we were asked to stay at home unless going on an essential errand. Are we getting tired of the enforced self-quarantine? Not if it will help our country, and I believe it will. But it takes some adjustment.

I'm seeing examples daily of people who are offering to help others who are older or can't help themselves. Even though my wife and I don't look upon ourselves as "older," the calendar says otherwise, and we're getting offers every day from our son down the street, as well as from our neighbor. It's nice to get those, and they typify the spirit of our nation.

Authors, this should be a great time to work on our writing--but I'm finding it easy to put that activity off...especially since I just published my latest and I don't have any deadline facing me. Do you tend to put aside work and just enjoy the time away? I sort of like it.

I said I'd keep you posted on giveaways for my book. There are a couple, and I mentioned them in my last post--Carrie Schmidt ("Meez Carrie") on her blog, and Rel Mollett (Relz Reviewz) on hers. I'll have another coming up soon--consult my Friday post for that one.

An important announcement (and one I hope you'll pass along to your friends who'd like a taste of my writing) is that I've made the Kindle edition of my novella, Emergency Case, free for five days. Come back next week, as I plan to do this again with another novella.

I'm writing this on the weekend, and will soon be watching my pastor speak via electronic means. I hope you'll do the same.

Meanwhile, here's a reminder of what we need to do, as often as possible--wash your hands.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Writing: Advice

I was looking through blogs recently when I discovered a site that has lots of good writing advice. The person behind this is Suzannah Windsor Freeman, and as best I can tell, nothing has been posted there for a couple of years. Despite the age of the posts, the writing advice that's given is about the same as we've all received, and it's always good. How about these?

·     Show, don’t tell. Eliminate adverbs. Don’t use clich├ęs. Use "said" as a dialogue tag whenever possible. Avoid long passages of description. Describe things using all your senses.

     These are all good suggestions, but I'd hope that the experienced writer does not look on them as iron-clad "rules."  On too many occasions I've seen someone rewrite a perfectly good sentence to make it conform to one of these suggestions, rather than breaking the "rule." The above are not the keys to publication. They aren't any kind of magic formula.

     This brings me to critique groups. Those groups can be great, so long as one realizes the source of the critique. I'd tend to listen more to someone who has proven good ideas. The best suggestions are those that are couched in terms like, "What about doing it this way?" or "Have you thought about such-and-such?" These are more helpful than the persons who either try to rewrite your story (the editorial-wanna be) or those who say it's wonderful just the way it is (the mother-father-spouse viewpoint). Consider the source, as well as the critique.

     I'd encourage the authors among you (both published and unpublished) to add your comments about "rules" and "suggestions." I'd love to hear them.

Note: If you want to get in on the give-away for a copy of Critical Decision (and read a review while you're there), go to the blog of Carrie Schmidt--but hurry. That contest closes March 24. And check out RelzReviewz for another chance to win my novel.



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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ten Years Ago

I've been looking over my blogs, and thought it might be fun to see what I was doing ten years ago. As it turned out, I was holding a copy of my first novel. I even had a cake for the "grand opening." Wow. Time has flown, so this must have been fun.
When I held a copy of my first novel, I figured I'd been given a blessing greater than I deserved--first a career as a doctor, and then a published novelist. Now I look at the shelf above my computer and see 22 books--20 novels and novellas and two editions of the book that started it all, my non-fiction book The Tender Scar, written after the death of my first wife.

Cynthia's death was the worst thing that ever happened to me, yet God used it to give me a second career that's lasted for more than a decade. I guess it's true. His plans are better than mine--always.

Have you ever come out of something you considered terrible, only to find that God has blessed you through it? I'd like to hear.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Writing: Describing Faces

Writers, how would you describe the face shown here? Would you talk about the hair color, its style? Would you comment on the eye color. How about its shape, the complexion? In the case of a man, would his beard figure in your description? How about the presence or absence of glasses?

Every writer has his or her style, and my suggestion is to follow the adage of "whatever works." I've talked before about the late Ross Thomas. He was a newspaper writer before he turned his hand to writing novels, and I've noticed that he describes his characters much more fully than I. Here's an example:

"The sea was in her eyes, the somber, chill grey-blue of the winter Adriatic. But if you looked more deeply, there was also the promise of next summer's golden warmth." The words of Chekov are often quoted: "Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." I think you'll have to agree that Thomas did this.

There are other ways to describe a character, of course. I prefer to give the hair and eye color, but leave some of the details for the reader to fill in from their imagination. Other authors picture an actor (I don't know enough about most of them) and model their character on them. Again, my philosophy is, "Whatever works." But be consistent, not only within the book but from novel to novel. Your reader will soon come to expect it.

What works for you? I'd like to hear.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

We Have Nothing To Fear...

...but fear itself. We're familiar with those words, spoken by President Franklin Roosevelt quite some time ago. But they seem extremely appropriate again. We're afraid of the CoVid19 virus because we don't know enough about it. When you look at it carefully, it's similar to influenza. Sure, it's dangerous. But we can be smart and minimize its effect.

Has this ever happened before? I looked through my previous writings in preparation for this posting, and found some interesting information. See if this sounds familiar.

"There are at least 100 identified types of rhinovirus that cause upper respiratory infections (and probably a few that we haven’t yet typed). Right now, though, attention is focusing on this one. This virus isn’t new—its cousins have been around for over five decades—but it’s rarely seen in epidemic proportions. This year is different, and the questions have started to fly. Is it a super-bug? Can doctors treat it? Is there a vaccine to prevent it?"

That post is from 2014. It's about enterovirus, and the "panic" was similar to the one we're now experiencing. It was called a "super-bug" and caused quite a furor. In that case, the symptoms started out like a common cold, but sometimes spread. The  treatment was supportive--both then and now. There was a vulnerable population--in that case, young children. We were afraid of it right then, just as we're afraid of CoVid19 now, but after an initial panic we have  classed it with similar viruses and moved on.

There's a vaccine on the horizon for CoVid19, as well as a possible treatment, but meanwhile we're encouraged to simply employ common sense measures and seek medical attention when "it's more than a cold." Those common sense measures include hand-washing (with soap and water for 20 seconds), avoidance of sick folks, disinfecting surfaces that might have the virus on them, etc.

We've had the flu shot (which doesn't protect against CoVid19. I don't want to hear your stories about why you do or don't take yours, but if you didn't, don't complain if you get the flu). My wife and I are both in the population that are most vulnerable from CoVid19, and we'll take the usual precautions. But we're not going to "borrow trouble," as my father used to say. 

Avoiding purely political comments (which I'll delete if you get into them), what do you think about what I've posted? How are you handing things? I'd like to hear.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Writing: Now What?

Well, you've done it. You've finished your novel, typed "the end" (or, as I do, entered ###), and you're ready for the next step. After making the changes "suggested" by the editor, after several revisions, after a few sleepless nights and episodes of tearing out your hair, it's ready for publication. Now what?

Of course, there's always the "next novel," but let's assume that you're willing to put that project off for a week or two. Do you simply sit back and wait for the royalties to pour in? Not unless you've learned nothing about the publishing industry. The best advice I was given, when I got into this writing business, was this: "No one is as interested in promotion of your book as you are."

You may have fulfilled a contract with a traditional publisher, at which point there's a temptation to sit back and let the marketing and publicity folks take over. Or you may be independently publishing this one yourself. If you're in for former category, you'll soon find out that the advice I was given holds true, even in this situation--your publisher may help out (and the illustration is in fun--really), but it behooves you to line up or be sure of the guest blog appearances and book give-aways that will get your book noticed. I've always done it, and I'm glad. If you're indie-publishing this one, you soon find out (if you haven't already) that marketing is another of the hats that you wear. In other words, since there are over a million books published every year (both by traditional publishers and independents), it's up to you to get this one noticed.

I recently published my twentieth work of fiction--some via a publisher, some independently produced--but my efforts involving Critical Decision aren't through yet. I have at least five guest appearances scheduled that include giveaways--I'll try to let you know about all of them as they come up. (Today I'm at the suspense sisters blog, with a chance to win a copy of my novel). And, as with other books, if you win a copy but have already purchased one, I'll send you an Amazon gift card instead. Anyway, the fun's just beginning.

Meanwhile, I'm going to draw a deep breath. Best wishes for a good weekend, and if you read Critical Decision, I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Release Day

I guess I should have scheduled this release for a Friday, since that's when I post all my "writing" stuff. Anyway, Critical Decision is supposed to be available today--definitely in Kindle, and possibly also ready in print form (I've just been advised it's also up--the two versions will be linked in a couple of days). I'm making arrangements for it to be available as an audio book, but that will come a couple of months down the road.

I don't sound very happy? Counting both the works published by a conventional publisher and my indie-publication, this is number twenty, if I calculate correctly. For my first novel, I went all-out--had a cake, gathered people at a bookstore for a reading, but in general I was disappointed. I later heard from one of the bookstore employees that a former first lady of the US had done a reading there, and gathered an even smaller crowd. That helped me set my expectations a bit lower, and for the last several books I've made very little fuss about it. So, here's Critical Decision. I hope you enjoy it. Meanwhile, I plan to draw a few deep breaths, then plunge into writing another one.