Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Thoughts

One thing that this self-isolation does is give us time to think. Or, at least, it should. I find that, as Yogi Berra said, everything takes longer than it takes. At the end of the day, I find that I've done very little, yet the time has gone. But tomorrow is another day--and another chance to squander time.

Since my second profession is writing, I've thought a bit about that, including the effect the current pandemic will have on the way we do things. Have people gotten used to reading e-books, and when book stores open, will they have any customers? How long will we wear masks and practice social distancing? What will a modern romance novel look like if they have to include keeping six feet apart? Or will future novels be dystopian, or perhaps historical?

Then I think about my first profession, and there's a great deal of confusion there. I don't think I'd be able to do much via telemedicine (although, given my limited experience on the other end of that, perhaps my former colleagues are thinking the same thing).

My state is starting to slowly open up. We'll see how things go. In the meantime, what are some things you've been wondering about--given all the free time we have--and would like to share?

Friday, April 24, 2020

Writing: Make Your Book Stand Out

What's the competition like? The figures change, depending on your source and the time frame, but the one that sticks with me is that there are something like a million new books published every year. Of course, some of these are laughably amateurish offerings. Others are from well-recognized authors or excellent debut offerings, whether they are are put out by recognized publishers or self-published. So what can you do to make the average reader want to choose your book?

If you started reading this piece with the goal of finding that bit of advice that will make your book an instant success and get it on the best-seller list immediately, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. The best advice is, and always has been, to write the best possible book. That way, when someone sees your name on an offering, they will want to see if it lives up to the reputation you've already established. If so, they'll want to read it. But what if you're a debut author?

That's more difficult, because you don't have a following already. And that's why authors are constantly encouraged to establish a social media presence, even before their first book is ever published. That way, you've got a small (but hopefully vocal and/or influential) group of people ready to see what your new book looks like. And once it's out, you can start...writing the best possible book (again). In other words, word-of-mouth is the best advertising. It always has been, always will be. Anything else--giveaways, launch parties, skywriting, or what have you--is aimed at association in the minds of the reading public of your name and a good book. You never stop those efforts...at least, not if you want your public behind you.

What's your opinion?


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Technology is wonderful...

...when it works. When it doesn't, it's a source of frustration. We've gotten used to those three-shots and four-shots of people we're used to seeing together in the studio, doing their programs from their home or a remote location. But we've also seen situations where guests on various TV programs were doing their segment from elsewhere via Skype or some other program, and seeing that it doesn't always work. None of us were expecting this, of course, and some glitches were to be expected. But they don't seem to have gotten much better with time.

This past week I had to have a video visit with my primary care physician--not because of any problem, but in order to keep refilling the medication I've been on. Wanting to be ready, I went to the medical center's website (which I had to access by entering my user name and password). But when I attempted to get set up for my video visit, I found that my browser wasn't recognized. No problem, I thought. I've got another browser I can use. But it didn't work either. Thus, a call to their IT assistance number.

I ended up downloading a third browser, then two plug-ins, before I thought I was ready. Then I used the tab on the site that allowed me to check my hardware, but kept getting a message that there was a problem accessing my server. After about an hour of this, I gave up. When the call came through, I was able to hear my physician, but not see her. She, on the other hand, could both see and hear me. We got through all this, but after it was over I felt like I'd been through a wringer.

My wife was due to speak with her cardiologist last week via video, but they never could get things to work. We're still waiting for a call-back on that one.

Yes, technology is wonderful...when it works. We've been able to worship via long distance using our TV. Some of us have seen some great movies and plays. When it works well, we tend to take it for granted--although I won't in the future. How about you?

Friday, April 17, 2020

Writing: Giveaway?

A question that a writer must eventually answer is whether a giveaway of their work--novel, novella, poem, whatever--is worth it. Some authors talk about the ROI--the return on investment. That is, what do you get back from what you give away?

When you're under contract to a large publishing house, it's a bit easier to give away copies of your book. You have to get your name and brand "out there" in order to sell books, and the publishing house has probably figured in the cost of the books you'll give away to do this. But when you're independently published, although it's still important to do various blogs, interviews, and other activities culminating in your giving your book to a winner, you have to buy and send out those books. And in the back of your mind you keep thinking about ROI--what am I getting in return?

I'm not saying it's a bad deal, mind you. With each book I've published (including my latest, Critical Decision) I've arranged reviews, guest blog posts, interviews and other activities that tell the public about my new book. And giveaways are always a part of these. But I'm beginning to wonder about the ROI. Because of the stay-in-the-house rule most of us are working under, I've made three of my novellas free on Kindle. This had a two-fold purpose: to give people who are about to go stir-crazy something more to read and to give folks who might not be familiar with my work the opportunity to do this at no cost.

I made two novellas--Emergency Case and Surgeon's Choice--available on two separate weeks. This week I'm just finishing making Rx: Murder free on Kindle. The first two resulted in 659 and 944 free downloads respectively. We'll see what the third produces. There hasn't been a huge increase in sales for my other books thus far, but we'll see what happens. The jury's still out.

What's your opinion? Does a book giveaway or a free download of an ebook tempt you? I'd like to know.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Random Thoughts

I subscribe to a number of author blogs, and I've noticed one thing about them: the writers don't really know what to post. Well, neither do I. You've noticed (if you follow this blog) that it's difficult to focus on such things as telling a story during this time. Our creativity--at least, mine--just won't function. Eventually, it will resolve, of course. Whether our ability to write comes with it remains to be seen.

There's all kinds of political stuff to post about, of course. I have my views--strongly held ones--but I've tried thus far to be neutral in my posting. If things continue, though, I may have to let some of them out. And I'll warn you--it may not be pretty.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful, meaningful (although different) Easter. This, too, shall pass. Meanwhile, we'll have some great stories to share with others.

How about you? What's consumed your thoughts and actions as we enter into this next week of enforced "captivity"? I'd really like to know.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter

The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed...Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead'...."
(Matt 28:5-7a, The Message)

In the ancient world, the message was this: "Christos anesti; al├ęthos anesti."

In our modern language, the words are different, the message the same: "Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!"

Have a blessed Easter. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

What's Good About It?

We're in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. Some of you are getting "cabin fever." We'd love to know when we'll be able to get back to normal. Is there going to be a "new normal" for us?

Think how the followers of Christ must have felt. The man they hailed with palm branches and cries of "save now" was castigated, arrested, and sentenced to die on a cross--the most ignominious of deaths. Think how they felt.

I think of a saying I first heard years ago. It's all going to be okay in the end. And if it's not okay, it's not the end. We're not assured that bad times won't come--they will. We're assured that God has not forgotten us. It's not the end. Not yet.

Easter is coming. Easter is coming.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

"They Also Serve..."

I thought the other day about the lines from Milton's sonnet on his blindness, about "They also serve who only stand and wait." Since there was time,  I went to the Internet to learn more about them. What brought it to mind was the fact that, although I am a doctor and also have military experience, I'm in the "more mature" group that's apparently most vulnerable to Covid19 infection. So despite occasional desires to volunteer my service, I have to be content with "standing and waiting."

According to Wikipedia, the last line of the sonnet (usually identified by its first line: When I consider how my light is spent...) is sometimes quoted out of context. It has to do with him using his talent, as we're all supposed to do according to Matt. 25:14-40. Milton says that surely God does not expect day-labor effort from those whose talents are diminished as his was by his blindness (which was probably from glaucoma). He finished by saying, "They also serve who only stand and wait."

Perhaps nowadays we should say we serve by washing our hands and by staying at home as much as possible. If we have other talents, we should use them. But if we only "stand and wait," then do it gracefully. What do you think?

Note: I'm making my novellas available during this time of enforced inactivity. For the next five days, Rx:Murder is free on Kindle via Amazon. Even if you've read it, let others who might be unfamiliar with my work know about this. Thanks.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Writing: Even If We Don't Want To

I've had difficulty "getting going" lately--one would think that enforced isolation would be the ideal time for a writer to get things done. But, although I have a good idea about my next novel, I've revised and revised the first two or three thousand words, but haven't gotten beyond those.

I decided to ask some of my colleagues if they had a similar problem. I sent out queries to eight authors whom I knew fairly well, and in the next three days I got three back--either the other five were busy writing or were afflicted by the same malady I'm experiencing. Maybe that's an answer in itself.

Jim Rubart lives in what I consider semi-isolation anyway, and says he's not particularly affected by the quarantine. The person who gets most of the blame/credit for my entering into the writing field, Jim Bell, says that writing always includes some degree of isolation. He  says he's also taking advantage of the time to watch old movies, catch up on his reading, and go riding around with his wife, enjoying the wide-open streets of LA. Jim handles deadlines, which are mainly self-imposed, by marking off days on a calendar.  Robin Hatcher sends a well-thought-out reply that says isolation doesn't affect her very much (since that's sometime her routine when on deadline), but she's had to cut down her news watching because of the almost constant coverage. As for deadlines, whether imposed by herself or an editor, Robin feels she has been training for these for three decades.

Many writers believe they should write something every day (even if it's awful, as Robin puts it), and it dawns on me that I've continued doing that--blog posts, ideas, various "stuff." Meanwhile, I think I'll ignore the TV and get on with my life...including writing. How about you?