Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Busy Week

Don't know about your week, but mine looks pretty busy. I have a couple of routine appointments in the next few days, then -- well, who knows. I've gone through my next novel for the fourth or fifth time, and will soon be starting on the next phase of getting it published. 

There's always something else coming up, but that's what keeps me going. What about you? What's at the top of your "To Be Done" list--and what are the chances that it won't change in the next few days? 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Writing: Leaving Behind

I'm currently re-reading (as I often do) the books left behind by a number of deceased authors: Robert B. Parker, Dr. Michael Palmer, Ross Thomas, Donald Westlake. The list goes on. I intersperse it with inspirational (or, if you're as old-fashioned as I am, "Christian") fiction by living authors. But I'm often reminded as I read their words that a lot of what authors leave behind is encompassed in these printed words. That especially hit me as I re-read the last novel Parker wrote. He was found dead at his computer. But his novels live on.

It's at times like those that I turn to the little card fellow author, the late B. J. Hoff. sent me years ago. It pretty much encompasses what I'd like people to think about me after I'm gone, and the reason for my writing.

"It matters not if the world has heard, or approves, or understands...
The only applause we're meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands."

What about you? What would you like to be remembered for?


Thursday, August 26, 2021

What Are You Feeling?

 This morning, two apparent suicide bombers were responsible for explosions at or near the HK International Airport, killing (so far) 11 US Marines and a Navy Corpsman, plus killing or injuring a large number of Afghanis. I've now heard that, to effect safe passage to the airport, the US Government has passed to the Taliban names, addresses, and other information about US Citizens and Afghan allies. What have we heard from the white house? If things go as advertised, he will speak about seven hours after the attack. 

What are you feeling? My emotions are too complex to tell. How about you?

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Life As A Football Game

I watched a recorded program from the Big Bang series last evening. In it, Sheldon (the protagonist who has absolutely no common sense but lots of intelligence) is depressed because a theory that he has developed has been disproven. Through a series of misadventures, he watches a tape he made in childhood--for his "adult" self--and ends up seeing his father give a locker room speech to his losing high school team. Sheldon takes from this that, while he thought it was all over, "it's just halftime."

Right now, things look bad for those of us who watch with dismay the events in the Middle East. But, as Sheldon pointed out to me (and others watching), the game isn't over. And if we are fortunate, a different group of players will be elected and we can recover what our nation has lost. And even if that doesn't occur, we still have great Coach, urging us to play well, even if we're behind, because sometimes our reward comes after the game is over.

The game isn't over yet. Don't give up.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Writing: So What?


Sorry, Friday sneaked up on me. It's getting harder to remember to post, between watching the political theatre nowadays and doing all the things I have to do as a retired person and grandfather, the time got away.

I thought, when I was reading my first reader's comments about the initial draft of my next novella, about the most important lesson I ever learned about writing. I was at a well-known Christian writer's conference, early in my career, and was telling an individual about the idea for my latest novel. And he frustrated--actually angered--me by repeatedly saying, "So what?" I finally got the idea, though. There has to be something--plot, character, or circumstance--that gets the reader invested in what you're writing. Otherwise, it's just "blah."

So, writers--So what? Let me know.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Our Absentee Person In The White House

 We are approaching what I will always consider an important anniversary for our country--the time when we saw a breach in our security such as we had never seen before. Our nation came together to heal and grow stronger after the attacks of 9/11/01, and perhaps we will do it again. I hope so. But it will start by having a steady hand at the helm--one which is not present.

God bless America--and set her on the right path again.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Writing: Order Of Words

There are lots of things I had to learn (and few I needed to unlearn) when I began to write for publication. I had been the author of about 100 articles in refereed scientific publications, I had written or been editor of perhaps another half-dozen textbooks in my area of medicine, but still needed to realize that scientific writing was nothing like the non-scientific variety.

One thing I had to be reminded of was the proper order of adjectives in a sentence. Theoretically, more than three adjectives makes for "clunky" writing, and many people stop at two. I don't recall where I first saw it, but I thought then--as I do now--that it doesn't make much difference. It's just another rule/suggestion that is promulgated to those who want to write. Fortunately, most people who speak English well sort of automatically do this. And if we don't--well, I guess it depends on how picky your editor is.

Have a bright, productive new day. (Arrange the adjectives to suit yourself--that's how they came out naturally).

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Getting On

When folks here in Texas say that someone is "getting on," they need to use some sort of qualifier. It could be that he (or she) is working toward accomplishing something. It might be that the person speaking is talking about "nearly" something--as "it's getting on to supper time." Or it might be that someone is nearing the end of their life-span. 

Unless you're thinking about it, most of us don't consider that we're "getting on in years." I sometimes feel my age, but at other times I think I've achieved a level of maturity that I certainly didn't have in younger years. Being a grandfather is one way of feeling your age (try keeping up with the younger generation). Then again, it's nice to pass on some of the things we've learned when asked by someone who is willing to learn from our decades of experience.

When I was interviewing potential residents at our med school, I usually made them stop and think a moment with this question--What would you like written on your tombstone? When it's all said and done, what kind of legacy do you want to leave? A great scientific discovery? 

One of my senior residents once told me that when you think you're irreplaceable, put your hand in water and see what kind of hole it leaves when you pull it out. Remember that--but also remember that passing on what you've learned is irreplaceable. That's the kind of legacy we need to be thinking of leaving. 

Friday, August 06, 2021

Writing: Weasel Words

I don't know where I first heard the term. Many authors use it, especially when teaching, and I've done it myself. It's a list of words that should be avoided in your writing. Some of them are passive, some are unnecessary (such as "very"--if it's necessary to tack an adverb onto an adjective, so something else to punch it up instead). Anyway, here's the bunch of "weasel words" that I try to avoid:


just then

began to








started to


Any questions? Then, as Jim Bell says, Carpe typem. And good luck.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

They Need To...

My reaction to any sentence that begins with the three words above is "Who is this 'they' and how are they supposed to do it?" I just saw a comment on Facebook that suggests that the incident recounted be incorporated into a book. My reaction is the same as any other author. It takes more than a few paragraphs to make a book. We all have ideas--many authors keep a file of them--but one idea does not make a book. It sounds easy to make the suggestion, but it's hard to carry it to completion.

Of course, writing isn't the only thing that brings out this response in me. When someone suggests that thus-and-such needs to come about, I'm tempted to say that it requires a law to that effect, plus enforcement of that law by the appropriate agency. I may agree that changes need to be made, but I think in terms of what it would require for those changes to occur. In other words, I don't deal with the concept, but rather with what it would take to get it done. 

When you find yourself asking why something wasn't done or saying that something should occur, think beyond the desired concept and see where action by you will be required. You may find--as I do quite often--that there seems to be nothing you could do to accomplish this. But that's changing. We saw recently a book that describes things that can be done by the average citizen, for instance, to affect what's going on in our schools. You may be surprised--I was.

I'm not suggesting that you stop saying that changes need to be made. I'd suggest that you look to see what you can do about it.