Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day, 2021

Today is Memorial Day, an American holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It started out as Decoration Day, and originated in the years following the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

It is not a day for honoring those who previously served or are actively serving in our armed forces--there are other holidays for that, most typically Veterans' Day (formerly Armistice Day). And, although mattress and tire sales have seemed to come around on this three-day holiday, that's not what we celebrate. It's for honoring the gift given to all of us by those who didn't come home. 

All gave some. Some gave all. Let's honor them.

NOTE: I'm going to take off for the month of June. See you back in July. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Cynthia Ann Surovik Mabry

 Although God has gifted me once more with the love of a wonderful woman, your influence was greater than you could ever imagine, and lives on even today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


I had occasion to have dinner a few days ago with a person who is retired, and, as it always does, the question came up of how we ever managed to do everything on our plate while holding down a full-time job. The answer, of course, is that we, little by little, add time for the things we've always wanted to do but never had the time for. 

For example, just for the past few weeks, my wife and I have enjoyed our "retired" status enough to take a couple of hours out of our day to watch recorded episodes of a program we watched only sporadically earlier in our life. Matter of fact, we sort of resent things that come up to make us change our routine. After all, "we're retired."

As a writer, and before that, as a physician, I lived my life by other people's schedules--whether meeting a deadline of a publisher or answering an after-hours call. It was a happy day indeed when I no longer had to live my life according to the dictates of a beeper or a deadline set by someone else. But, little by little, my "have-tos" have been replaced by "if I decide to." And it's wonderful.

Eventually, you'll "retire" from whatever keeps you captive to someone else's schedule. How have you begun to replace those "have-tos" in your own life? I'd like to know.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Writing: Choose Your Audience

When an author is pitching a work of theirs, one of the questions they are asked is, "What is the audience for your book?" No fair saying that it will appeal to all ages and both sexes--you really should figure out your audience and aim it at them.  Some writers go so far as to aim their writing at a particular person, feeling that "if he/she likes it, I'll be okay." If it helps to have a mythical reader in Dubuque, Iowa, go for it. But your book should be aimed at some segment. There is no such thing as a universal specific, either in writing or in medicine. If there were, we'd all be using it.

After that, my suggestion is to look back when you've reached an area in the book where its message is clear (and if it hasn't become clear by that point, why not?) and see if you need to fine-tune your work. Then do the same after you've finished the book and see if you've accomplished what you set out to say.

In summary, when writing a book, decide what audience you're setting out to reach, then decide what the message of the book is to be, and finally, see if the finished product meets your goals. Sounds simple, but it's not. 

Think back to the last book you've read. Did the author accomplish their goal? If not, where did they fall short? It will help you be a better writer and reader in future. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Back Writing

I normally don't post here about my writing (that's for Fridays), but I guess I should say something.

I've received sort of a "kick in the pants" to start writing again. Actually, I've been reminded that there are still things to do, and sitting around, enjoying my "retirement" isn't among them. So, to start things off, I've offered a couple of my early novellas to reintroduce people to my writing. Last week, I offered the Kindle version of my early novella, Emergency Case, free. 

Now I've reduced the price on another novella, Doctor's Dilemma, to 99 cents for the Kindle version. That offer starts today and runs through May 20 at Amazon. After that--who knows?

Meanwhile, I'm back working on my next novel? Why? Because it's time. Stay tuned. 

Authors, have you let the pandemic slow down your writing? I'd like to hear how you avoided it.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Writing: Suggestions

I copied these from someone (sorry, I can't give attribution)--they're pretty much the things that most writers learn by the time they had their first or second critique. But they're worth repeating. (And is there anyone out there who's been caught in the situation pictured here? I prepare, and add a spare roll when the one in use get low. How about you?)


-Don't overwrite. We've all heard it--never use a dollar word when a dime one will do.

-Don't use too may adjectives and adverbs. I was initially told to use none of these, but you have to use some

-Write tight. Or, take unnecessary words out with your first edit.

-Don't use cliches, platitudes, and other similar words. 

-Vary sentence length. No run-on sentences.

-Avoid passive verbs and passive construction. 

-Show, don't tell. (This, plus the above, are the first lessons a writer learns--and they're important).

There are more, but that's enough for now. What others can you think of.

NOTE: If you go to Amazon before midnight (Pacific time) tonight, you can download the Kindle version of my first novella, EMERGENCY CASE, free. The URL is below:

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Thoughts On The Family Structure

Looking at the various blogs and posts about the holiday just past (and I absolutely refuse to use the term "birthing person" no matter how hard the liberals try to change our vocabulary--but that's another column), it's apparent that the days of the "nuclear family" are changing.

I grew up in an era that, sort of like "Father Knows Best," featured a mother, father, and two or three children. But second marriages, although unheard of or spoken about in hushed tones in earlier days, have now become common. They may be, as is my own case, because of the death of a spouse and remarriage of the survivor. It may be that two people, having taken the wedding vows, have discovered that they were wrong, then or now, and chose to dissolve them...some for very good reasons. But however it comes about, the family unit, more often than not, now includes two or more fathers and/or mothers, and the offspring of two or more unions. Which makes for a complex (and at times insoluble) problem when it comes to who spends what holiday with whom.

Things change, whether we want them to or not. I don't have the answer, and I suspect that none of the readers of this blog do, either. But when we approach the situation with understanding, we're one step closer. 

How about you? 

Friday, May 07, 2021

Writing: Can Writing Be Taught?

One of my mentors (James Scott Bell--yes, Jim, you have to accept your responsibility for getting me going) says that writing can be taught. Matter of fact, he's written books, a number of which I refer to periodically, that teach it and do it well. But is there some ability within the true writer which helps them tell their story in a way that keeps the reader coming back? 

To begin with, I believe there are certain admonitions (I hate to call them rules) which are basic. Show, don't tell, is a famous one. It's best typified by Chekov, who said not to tell him the moon is shining, but to show the effect. There are many others, things that we learn early on, and they're all valuable--but they can and should be broken if they get in the way of telling your story. I note that, although I learned early in school that one should never end a sentence with a preposition, now it may be acceptable at times. No rule is inviolable.

I'm rereading some of the early novels by Robert B. Parker, and when his protagonist speaks of learning to paint, she says something that is applicable to writers as well. "Other (writers) could sometimes tell me things not to do, but they didn't even know how or exactly why they did what they did." In writing, we call it your "voice," and it's hard--maybe impossible--to explain.

What to do you think?

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

What Is Retirement?

 When I was younger, I had it all planned out: work until I was in my 60's, then retire, probably die at 65 or maybe even 70. But the further along the road I got, the more that goal kept shifting. Before I retired from the practice of my specialty, my wife of 40 years passed on. Later, he gifted me with the love of another wonderful woman, and about that time I got started on my second career, that of writing. 

Even though I've kept up my CME and paid the fee to keep my medical license, I doubt that I'll ever practice again. After the publication of about 20 books (starting with the non-fiction book, The Tender Scar, that I wrote after the death of my first wife), I've found it hard to write any more. So what's next?

As He always does, God will direct my paths. I have about 20,000 words written on my next novel. As I said before, I doubt that I'll practice medicine again, but I've followed with interest the viral pandemic we've all gone through and the actual science published about it. And, in one way or another, I've managed to keep busy.

So what's next? I guess the admonition is "stay tuned." Meanwhile, how are you doing?  Have your ideas about retirement changed?