Friday, October 29, 2021

Writing: Advice

 Wow. I looked at the publication date of my first published novel, and remembered the years (yes, years) that preceded it. As you know, if you've followed along, I got into this writing thing after the death of my first wife, and before I got my first novel's contract, I had a non-fiction book, The Tender Scar, published by an equity publisher--and it's still going, through its second edition now. Since then, I've had a number of novels and novellas appear in print. And along the road, I've received a lot of advice. Some of it was helpful, some not. 

For example, many people have said, "I've got an idea for a book," or "You should write a book about..." Although I've tried to behave toward those people like my Sunday School teacher would like, what I'd really like to tell them is that an author has lots of ideas. The trick is to turn them into a full-fledged novel. Try that sometime.

Which led me to ask you this: What is the best (or worst) advice you have been given, or (if you don't want to play that game) what advice would you like to give an author? I can hardly wait for your responses.  

PS--for those who've been waiting, I just finished the re-re-re-editing process for my next novel (well, a novella) and sent it off. I'll let you know as the drama unfolds. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021


We've done some decorating for fall, although (with the air conditioner running some afternoons) it doesn't feel like it. Around our neighborhood, there's some question as to whether the trick-or-treating is going to happen on Saturday or Sunday. (Yes, we're about to reach the end of October already). Actually, I don't know when to expect it, if at all. For instance, many churches, neighborhoods, and other groups are holding "trunk or treat" at various times this month.

Then, there's also the big question. What if the doorbell rings at a critical point in the Cowboy game, which is scheduled for that Sunday evening? I'll be interested to hear how you plan to handle it. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Writing: character names

As authors, we're encouraged to either use a fresh set of characters in our next story, or if we insist in using the same names in our next book, using copious notes to avoid tripping ourselves up along the way.

Ross Thomas gives a police chief an excellent name (Oscar Ploughman) but then sets a man with the same name in the same character in a different book with a totally different background. I'm willing to forgive these missteps, mainly because of the writing that Thomas does, but they show how he ignores the "rules" that authors are given. It shows me that rules aren't a guarantee of success in a book--good writing overcomes slavishly following the rules. Every time.

I know of one best-selling author who admits to hating research, and his lack of medical knowledge (or even that gleaned from a simple Internet search) shows it. Yet I forgive him because his books are so good. Have you found errors and ignoring rules in the works of some authors?  And are you willing to give those breaches because the writing is so good?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


 When you're as old as I am, maybe you'll recall the column in the Ft. Worth Press (long gone now) written by Blackie Sherrod. Sometimes when he had a few lines he wanted to pass along to his readers, he entitled his column, "Scattershooting, While Wondering..." Sometimes the end of the title was worthwhile, sometimes not, but it was always worth the effort to read his musings.

Don't know whether it was really a function of my wife wanting me to write some more, or her desire to have me doing something between breakfast and lunch, but I've done it. I've written it, edited it (several times), given heed to editorial suggestions made about it, done one final edit, and now I'm getting ready to pull the trigger. More info as the process continues.

Hate to admit it, but now that the Dallas Cowboys are 5 and 1, I have to think that maybe they're for real. We'll see as things progress.

We're fully vaccinated and eligible to get a booster shot if we wish. Meanwhile, we're going to go get our flu shots. Hope you all stay healthy this fall and winter.

More about writing and publishing on Friday. Let me know if there's something you're really wanting to know. Otherwise, I may have to do another "scatter shooting" column, and we don't want that, do we?

Friday, October 15, 2021

Writing: The Importance of a Cover

I'm not only awaiting the final, final, final edits on my novella, Medical Mystery,  but I'm also awaiting the cover art. Since I've been indie-publishing my novels and novellas, I've depended on Dineen Miller to do the covers for the published versions, the Kindle versions, and the audio versions. (Her cover for my last novel is shown to the left). I know there are cheaper ways to go, but remember that I'm in sort of a special category--I'm what Larry Block refers to as a "Sunday writer," and I'm not under the same type of time pressure to write as those who consider this their primary source of income.

How important is the cover? Well, I'll ask my readers to chime in here. Do you think the cover is very important, sort of important, or not very important in choosing books that you look at? I'll be interested to know.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Just To Keep My Hand In

Having nothing better to do while I await the Cowboy game on Sunday, I decided to go through my hard disk and see what's there. In my Personal folder, I found the manuscript of a talk I gave to the North and South Carolina ENT Association not long after the death of my first wife. I recall that the person issuing the invitation had experienced a loss similar to mine, so I said, "Yes." The topic I chose was Navigating the Speed Bumps of Life, and the talk (which was copied into my Personal folder) had what I thought was some good stuff in it--so I decided to post it for anyone who needed my thoughts on the subject.

Long story short (and it's too late for that), I found that it was too long for a post but made a nice little Amazon Kindle booklet. So, in case any of you are interested in reading my thoughts, you can find it here. Just wanted to keep my hand in, while awaiting the final, final, final edits of my latest novella. 

See you Friday, with some words about writing.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Writing: Don't Hurry

 One of the hardest lessons for me its the admonition that I first hear from my agent years ago--don't be in a hurry to publish your manuscript. Whether it's indie-published or submitted to an agent or publisher, the reflex in all of us is to hurry it along for submission. I don't know when it soaked in--maybe it never has--but the lesson is really true. I used to grind my teeth when I'd hear someone recommend that we leave a manuscript for several days or several weeks, look at it again, perhaps rewrite (yet again) it, before submitting it. It's done. Let's get on with it!

But eventually, we learn. How many authors have we heard express that they wish they had done thus-and-such in their manuscript before submission? All of us know the drudgery of reading and correcting galleys. And if you are involved in an audio version, you may have to hear it again. We're all tired of hearing/seeing our words, but maybe it would be good to make those corrections while the book is still in the pre-publication form.

What's the couplet? "Backward, turn backward, oh time in thy flight. I thought of the words that fled from me last night."

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Stupid Is As Stupid Does


As you've seen in my FB page, a US senator was teaching a class at the Univ of Arizona when a female (?student) followed her into the rest room, and despite her closing the stall door, stood outside it and delivered a harangue about "pathway to citizenship," while a bystander filmed it on their phone.

I don't know what bothers me most--the lack of logic shown by the person who delivered the diatribe telling how her grandparents were removed from the US (they were illegal, for goodness sake), the lack of common sense that someone would deliver such a harangue in the rest room, or the fact that an individual would include in their arguments "we got you elected, and we can take you down."

Yes, the proper venue for expressing your opinion to an elected official is via your vote, and if you can influence others to vote the same way, then power to you. But this way is ridiculous.

I hope every one will vote their conscience in a bit over a year, and that they'll go about electioneering the right way before then. But not this way! What do you think?

Friday, October 01, 2021

Writing: Tne First Draft

There's a magnet on my refrigerator that tells me first drafts don't have to be good--they just have to be written. That's true. I thought, since the pandemic was in full swing last year, and given my age, my days of writing were behind me. But my dear, sweet wife subtly encouraged me to try just one more time. I don't know if it was to give me something to do or what her reason was. Whatever it was, I eventually turned out the first draft of a novel. She made some suggestions, then another person read it and made even more. The end result, after numerous drafts and more recently a complete rewriting, turned out pretty good.

But it all started with a first draft. Once the words are down, it somehow seems easier to revise them, change them, even rewrite them. It may take a lot of drafts to do it--but it starts with that first draft.

What do you think?