Tuesday, March 30, 2021

"To Protect and Serve"

After consulting several of the writers' groups of which I am a member, I would venture a guess that the phrase, "Life begins after coffee" would serve as a motto for most of us. And for those non-coffee drinkers in the group, perhaps something that involves chocolate, tea, or a caffeinated soft drink would be better. I, although I head (slowly) toward the coffee pot first thing in the morning, have been thinking about another motto--To protect and serve.

Admittedly, my reading lately has moved toward detective stories of various types so I have encountered it a lot, but that motto has come to mean more to me as I apply it to my own life, as well as those whom I know.

Is it our duty as authors to protect those with whom we come in contact? I think that after listening to us or reading what we put into writing (whatever the format) the listener should have no doubt that the ideas we put forth are the result of reasoned logic, not what someone else says, whether it be on the Internet or in conversation. We've all seen examples of The Big Lie, that if told often enough, may be accepted as truth. Let us be spreaders of The Big Truth.

What about serving? Like it or not, we are all setting an example of service--either positive or negative. My wife puts me to shame when she includes in her prayers those in our circle who need God's special touch--for healing, for resolution of circumstances, for help in any way. We can't always serve in a physical way, but when we can, let's not be like those in the parable of the Good Samaritan and "pass by on the other side."

Admittedly, to protect and serve may not be the most popular motto around, but I think it is applicable not only to others, but to ourselves. What do you think?

Friday, March 26, 2021

Writing: Every Word Is Important

 I don't know how you read through a manuscript before subjecting it to print. Some folks read their work aloud. Some go over it, word by word, backwards (I guess if it's in Hebrew you go over it in the other direction). A few simply leave it alone, thinking that autocorrect will straighten everything out. 

I've had something like 17 or 18 novels and novellas published (I don't want to go back and count--that's close enough). Some have been self-published. Others have been published by various publishing houses. All have been subjected to proof-reading to a great or lesser degrees. And there have been errors in almost all of them, errors that slipped by the author and various people whose job was to catch errors.

Don't think that's true? I was just re-reading one of the published works of a novelist whose name would be familiar to many of you, a novel that was published by a reputable publisher and which (I'm sure) was proofread. And I came upon this sentence: "He had back hair that was slicked back upon his head..."  I think the correct wording included BLACK hair--can't see back hair going all the way up on the person's head. But if you leave it to autocorrect to clean up your errors, this will slip by, because "black" and "back" are both accepted words.

So what is an author to do? My suggestion is to accept the fact that sometimes a word slips by that makes a good example on a blog post. What about you?

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Age Is Just A Number

I've made the comment more than once: age is like a roll of toilet paper--the closer to the end, the faster it seems to go.

Yesterday, a blog that I follow talked about "age is just a number." I sagely nodded my head (yesterday, I could node sagely), and found this comment at the end: "... inspired by a comment on our agency’s blog in 2012 by accomplished author Dr. Richard Mabry who stated, “Age is just a number.” Thank you for the inspiration, Doc." Wow. I didn't recall making the comment, but I've said the same thing lots of time...age is just a number.

 I've done lots of things in my life, both in my first profession (medicine) and my second (writing). I've sometimes wondered how I'll be remembered. And I've always come up with this: I'd like to be remembered, as was my father, as a man whose word was good, who never let up on giving his best. If that was how I was remembered (and I hope it's a long way off), I'll be satisfied.

How about you?

Friday, March 19, 2021

Writing: Hard Work, Perseverance, and A Bit Of Luck

I'm a published author! It's hard to realize, sometimes. Of course, it  may not mean as much to me as to some others. I wrote or edited a number of textbooks as well as over 100 articles in refereed journals before retiring from medicine. I still recall when I started my practice that it would be kind of neat to be invited to speak before my county medical society. When I retired from medicine, I had been invited to speak all over the world, written the textbooks and articles I already mentioned, was considered an expert in my area of practice, and in general had gone well beyond the hopes and aspirations I had when I started out. However--I've said this before, and I'll stick by it--the biggest thrill I had during all those years was seeing the expression on the face of a patient I'd helped back to normalcy.

My transition to writing began with the death of my wife, Cynthia. I read just about everything I could get my hands on about then, but couldn't find anything that captured my emotions adequately and gave me hope for the future. So I wrote The Tender Scar, which is at present in its second printing and has helped many others going through what I did. While I was trying to get that published, several people suggested I try my hand at writing fiction. I took up the challenge, and thought after four attempts that gained forty rejections that I'd failed. But then an agent and an editor decided I was worth their efforts, and that was the beginning of my writing "career."

Was it the result of hard work and perseverance? Certainly these played a major role. Several times along the way, I was ready to quit, but God had other plans. Eventually, these came to fruition.

So should you read? Definitely. Study the craft? Certainly. Write, write, write? Every day. Follow the BIC, FOK mantra? Yes, put your behind in your chair, fingers on the keyboard, and keep at it. But do you need to be at the right place in the right time? Yes--and only God knows where and when that is. Meanwhile, if you feel that you have a book inside you, by all means let it come out. The rest really isn't up to you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

What's Next?

 First it was going to be fifteen days to stop the spread of the virus. That morphed into a longer period, but there was hope on the horizon. By my calendar, it's been about a year since we started all this. A number of governors (including the one of my state, Texas) have lifted the restrictions, although many of us, even those who like us are a couple of weeks past getting our immunizations and thus not infectious, will continue to wear masks in stores--mainly for the benefit of those around us. As we transition into normalcy (or what passes for it, anyway), where do you go from here?

I've had a problem writing during all this, and I have found that I'm not alone among my colleagues. But it's time to get back on that horse (figuratively, of course--it's been too many years since I was actually on a horse). Then again, since I'm retired from my first career, medicine, it may be that I should also pack it in for my second career, writing. I guess only time will tell.

Have you decided what you'll be doing as we're freed up from some of our restrictions? Go back to your regular way of life, or start something new? I'd like to hear it.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Writing: Will Your Book Be Next?

It's tough enough to string together a bunch of words, have it make sense, and get people to like it. Now there are people who are looking at the printed words to find some that are unacceptable and might harm impressionable minds--words such as those penned by Dr. Theodore Geisel (you may know him as Dr. Seuss) and images such as Tom & Jerry (which are supposed to stimulate violence) and Pepe Le Pew (which fosters rape, so the "experts" say).  Cancel culture isn't coming--it's here.

Are you cleaning out your bookshelves to remove some of these books? Have you considered that your words might cause sensitive folks to say they're filled with hidden messages? Authors, have you changed your work-in-progress to make sure what you're writing doesn't send readers to their safe space, never to open one of your books again?

I'm wondering if the writers of Christian fiction will be held to this standard. How about some of the secular books that are filled with questionable language and obscene actions? Where does it begin? And where does it end? What do you think?


Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Give What's Needed, Not Just What You Have

 We took a look at the "phone booth" we'd been showering in and decided it was time to update our facilities in the master bathroom. We'd been using what was there since we moved in over ten years ago, and besides the fact that it was not (and never was) up to code because the shower door was too small, we really wanted more room.

We listened to a couple of salesmen, compared prices, and were about to settle on one of the "replace your shower with our model" ones when I got a call from the third one on our list--he was in our neighborhood and wanted to know if it would be okay to drop by and look at what we had. Then, when he looked at our current facility, he blew me away with this--he paid attention to what we wanted, not just trying to fit what he had to sell into our space. And his bid was actually lower than the others.

We've now showered in our new space (the glass doors have been added since I took the picture), and it feels much better--not just because we gained almost a foot of space by going with the newly designed space, but because it was what we wanted. It wasn't just what would fit into to the space we already had.

Does this lesson speak to you? It does to me. When you're trying to "sell" something, listen to the customer. Try to match what they want with what you have to sell--not vice-versa. I wrote my non-fiction book, The Tender Scar, after the death of my wife because nothing else spoke to me and my needs. That brings to mind the old admonition to write the book you want to read. Make sense?

Friday, March 05, 2021

Writing: The Two Hardest Things

I found this from several years back, and it has quite a meaning for me. Maybe it will help you, as well.

 I am not a runner. To me, the only reason to run is if you're being chased. But there are runners who read this blog, even some of you who run the 26+ miles of a marathon. Power to you, but as for me, no thanks.

I'm rereading (for the umpteenth time) the books written by the late Robert B. Parker, and I came across this bit of dialogue that hit home. Spenser, the protagonist, is going for a run with his girl-friend, Susan, who only wants to do a couple of miles.

"You realize you're running the two hardest miles," he says, referring to the first and last mile of a run.

"Maybe," she replies. "But if I didn't run those, I probably wouldn't run any."

If you think about that, the same applies to a task we don't look forward to. The first mile corresponds to getting started, something we put off as long as possible. Then, when we get started, we always encounter other stuff we need to do along the way. I know both Kay and I have that feeling sometime. And that brings us to the last mile--completing the task we set for ourselves. That is, the finishing touches (including editing and rewriting).

So, are we running the two hardest miles? I know I feel that way sometimes, and I suspect you do as well. Want to tell me about it? I'd like to hear.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

"I Know What I Like"

How many times have we said that? "I know what I like." Despite what the critics may say, regardless of what others say and do, how many of us refuse to be lemmings and follow the leader, even though we're secretly thinking, "But..."

I still recall attending a play at a theatre in another town, a theatre that I supported both with attendance and financially--and leaving at intermission because I wasn't being entertained. I knew the man in charge of the theatre, and was aware that he chose the plays. I had the temerity of telling him not only that we had left at intermission, but why. His response has been hard to forget. "Anything by *****, even a flawed one, is worth watching." (I won't say who the playwright was--you fill in the blanks.)  My reply should have been, "But I know what I like...and this isn't it." Instead, I left it alone. Now that I'm older, I realize that his mentality was that he knew what was good for me, even if I didn't. And to my mind, that's wrong.

As an author, I have always advocated reading widely. Read the good stuff so you know what is good. Read the bad stuff so you know what to avoid. But never, ever, ever try to make everyone happy. Some people will like what we write, others won't. They have their own likes and dislikes. And that's fine. That's how it should be. Free choice. 

What do you think? Is my attitude the wrong one, or the right one? Let me know what you think.