Friday, January 29, 2021

Writing: Publishing


It seems that publishing is not so simple anymore. Years ago, there were several ways to get your manuscript to a publisher--"over the transom," by meeting them at a venue and getting an invitation to submit, etc. Gradually (and I really don't recall when), agents became the gate-keepers for editors. First you acquired an agent, then he/she submitted it around to the various publishers who were deemed the best bets, etc. At some point, the option of "independent" publishing lost the reputation it had (with reason) acquired, and it became okay, even sometimes fashionable, to publish without benefit of a publishing house.

What is the current status of an agent or a publisher? No one really seems to know, but to me, having been on both sides of the equation, I think they have their points. For the author whose work has never been published, it will be helpful to have a publishing house behind you. Usually, the house signs supplicants (and I chose that word on purpose) to a contract for two or three books. If the books sell well, they may repeat the process, but with rare exceptions (and they exist), you're only as good as the sales record for your last few books.

I'd love to hear your opinion. Agent or not? Indie or publisher? Let me hear what you think.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Cut Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face

I've heard my mother and my aunt say this many times. And I guess, if I followed my initial inclination, that's probably what I'd end up doing. Unhappy with the current behavior of the technocrats--Amazon, Google, and their ilk--I wondered what effect my holding up the publishing of my indie-produced books and novellas would have on Amazon. The answer will probably surprise you. Or maybe it won't.

One agent postulated via a tweet that books made up only a small percentage of Amazon sales. I set out to find out if that was true, and immediately hit a stone wall. Amazon is pretty stingy with their information, and this is one of the things I couldn't find out, using the typical search engines to look into the situation. I did find lots of other information about Amazon, and if you're interested, you probably will, as well. 

It appears that Amazon has available about a million books for purchase. Mine represent an infinitesimal number of all those, and it probably wouldn't bankrupt the company if I withdrew from sales all the novels and novellas that I control. Besides, as has been pointed out, it's sort of nice to get that royalty check from them--even if it's smaller than I'd like.

What do you think? Whether published by a house of whatever size or self-published and sold on Amazon, even if you're a pre-published author or simply a reader, do you believe there's anything we can do to react to the actions of the tech giants? I'd be happy to hear.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

 I've spoken more times than I can count to groups, and I can always count on one question being asked. "Where do you get your ideas?" The answer, of course, is ideas are all around us. Admittedly, it takes a bit of imagination to flesh them  out, and there's a certain talent (or luck or whatever) to turn them into a story that will hold the reader's attention through the whole book.

When I walked into the parking garage of the med school one evening I had the thought that "this would be a great setting for a kidnapping." I turned that idea into one of my more successful books, Stress Test.

Ideas aren't the thing. What marks a real writer is the ability to take a single idea, flesh it out, add the things that keep the reader's interest through out the book, and give them a flash-bang finish--what Jim Bell calls a "knock-out ending" that will have them taking a deep breath when it was over and start them looking for another one of your books.

When you can do that, you'll have turned a simple idea into a book worth reading. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

"I Need A Disease..."

My hackles go up when one of my fellow writers posts on one of our writing loops a query that begins with, "I need a disease..." Sometimes it takes a different format. "I need a substance that will cause profound abdominal pain that goes away in a few hours," or "I'm looking for a way that my hero (or heroine) will require surgery that keeps him/her out of things for a week, but then lets them resume all activities." They have an idea, and are asking a bunch of others to chime in with whatever will make it work. And these people may not know any more than the questioner.

When I got into this writing thing, I finally settled on writing medical mysteries (with a dash of romance), because I "spoke the language." To me, this meant time spent in devising scenarios and getting answers to questions such as this. It just seemed wrong that my colleagues, instead of doing the looking and searching themselves, would trust others to do the work for them. I go through a lot of possibilities before I settle on one that works.

This doesn't mean that I resent an author asking if their scenario makes sense, or even if the skeleton of an idea works in the real world if they've done some preliminary work themselves. I get these requests from time to time, directed to me and sent after the writer has done some of the looking. They're wanting me, because I "speak the language," to fine tune the idea (or suggest an alternative that works). But people who want someone to do all their work for them are the same ones who pick up a golf ball that's two feet from the hole and give themselves a putt when the club championship is riding on it. There shouldn't be a "gimme" in that situation.

That's my opinion. What's yours?

Friday, January 15, 2021

Writing Amidst Chaos


Can you bring order out of the chaos that has surrounded us for so many months? That's what Fiona Art has done with the various colors pictured--bring order to what at first appears chaotic. But I can't really do that with words. And, from what I've seen and heard, I'm not alone among my colleagues.

A lot of it will depend on what's around us, and it varies from person to person and time to time. I have an idea for a work-in-progress with which I started many months ago. But every time I begin to work on it, another event or circumstance comes up that saps my desire to write. 

Maybe my situation is different. I won't say that I'm old, but I'm long past the age when AARP is sending me material. And it's not because I'm writing because sales are a necessity--I'm retired, and unless something changes in the future I'm not dependent on the income from my writing. Of course, my primary reason for putting the words together is because I felt a definite sense of a "call," which means that my efforts should reflect positively on my God. But that's hard to do in the present circumstance.

I don't know how long it will take me to complete the current work, but since I'll independently publish it, I can work to my own schedule. What do you do when you're called upon to bring order to chaos? Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 12, 2021



Some of us are old enough to recall our first phones--even the ones that featured "central" (operator-assisted calls) or low numbers (ours was 246). In my small town, I don't have any recollection of my parents using our phones for anything other than important calls--never "just to talk" or (heaven forbid) for "gossip."

I still recall the circumstances of my first cellular phone. My Dad was to have a procedure, and I was signed up to attend a conference in Chicago. I was ready to cancel, but he'd have none of it. As a compromise, I got one of the new phones that I could carry with me (or wear on my belt, (as I did this one).

During my first few years in practice, I carried a "beeper," and responded to it like a dog hearing whistle. Eventually, I exchanged the beeper for a phone which I carried in my pocket. After I retired I looked upon my phone as a lifeline for making outdoing calls, not for receiving them. That's just the feeling I had. And when texting became a "thing," I scoffed. "That will never take the place of an old-fashioned conversation."

Now people depend on their cell phones for everything. They use them for consulting the Internet, sending and receiving texts, even...calls. And just about the time we all get dependent on such Internet means of communication as Facebook and Twitter, the "powers that be" exercise their hold by taking down those accounts.

I don't know what folks will do to fill the hole. I'm sure that they, like I have, will turn to alternatives such as MeWe and CloutHub (Parler is temporarily down). But whatever we choose, the new method of communication will soon find a spot in our life. We might even come to depend on just calling. You never know.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Not Yet

At one time, I never gave a thought to when my publisher was going to release my next book (except to wish it could be sooner). However, one of the things "hybrid" or "indie" authors learn is that pretty much everything is up to them--writing, revising, publication, marketing, the whole bag. And that includes choosing a time for release of the work. 

We're always told to "wait until it's ready." But that's a hard lesson to learn. Like most authors, I felt that my first book (and those that followed) was ready for release as soon as it was written. But I finally learned that editing will improve the book--even though it takes time.

Not a Christmas novel or novella? I can live with that. Enjoy the fruits of my colleagues labors and celebrate the season. How about right after the new year? No, it's best to wait until at least mid-January, and maybe later. After twelve novels, seven novellas, and one non-fiction book, I've finally learned to wait. Maybe I've become smarter in my old age. Then again...

So, you'll see my next one when it's ready (I'm hoping for late spring or early summer). And in the meantime...wait.


Tuesday, January 05, 2021



Why do we write? Because I write Christian Fiction, I try to convey, in some way, a relationship to the Lord and how He affects all aspects of our lives.But over the past two or three weeks, as the news all around us demands our attention (if not direct action), it's been difficult for me to write. But I've discovered another benefit of the written word--escape.

I recently found a little-known Donald Westlake book (why do I read dead authors for pleasure?) that has allowed me to escape for a while into the life of another. Even though the author doesn't specifically say it, I know that, in the end, everything is going to turn out all right. And if not, I'll close this book and try another. 

I doubt that my writing carries the authority of the Scripture, but I'm trying, in my own way, to say that everything's going to be all right in the end. Or, as it says on the desk of one of my colleagues, "Everything is going to be all right in the end. And if it's not all right, it's not the end."

How about you. What's your escape?