Friday, February 25, 2022

Writing: Advice From Years Ago

In looking through my prior interviews, I saw that dates to years ago, and I wondered if my answers had changed. I don't think so. Do you?

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey? 


Many people may not know that I started on this road to writing to craft a book about my experiences following the death of my wife. After the publication of The Tender Scar, I struggled through four years/four novels/forty rejections before I gave up the idea of writing fiction. But through circumstances that only God could put in place, I received representation, got my first fiction contract, and got back to work.


 How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?


My books reflect my own relationship with God—sometimes my faith is weak, sometimes I stumble, but He’s always there to set my feet back on the path, to bear me up in tough times. I want people to realize that, although God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, He can use even the worst of them to strengthen our faith and our witness.


 Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?


My ideas come from two factors—the things I see around me and the question Alton Gansky taught me to ask: “What if?” For example, my current novel began when another doctor at the medical school and I were talking about a resident who faced down a gunman in the emergency room. Then I asked, “What if the gunman was a member of a drug cartel?” The plot grew from there.


I’ll start with an idea of what I want to convey. Then I populate the story with characters who sometimes surprise me because they don’t behave the way I think they should. Finally, I determine a beginning, a twist in the middle (and maybe a few others along the way), and an ending that, as Jim Bell puts it, is a “knockout. “


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Election Season (again)

Here in Texas, early voting has begun. We're deluged by candidate messages via mail, TV ads, and phone messages left (when the candidates  get through.) We've downloaded a sample ballot and have made our decisions, and we'll be voting soon. But, unfortunately, the candidate messages will continue until it's all settled. Then, this fall, they'll start up again.

Of course, every candidate wants our money. As I've said before, it seems that the candidate or party that raises "just another $10" will win--for now. Then they repeat the appeal. And apparently the right hand and left hand aren't communicating well, since we usually get pleas for money several times during the same day, and often from the same candidate or party.

With all those ads, how do we know who to vote for? Our plan is to observe what the candidates do, not when that they say. This means paying attention throughout the year, not just at election time. What is your solution? I'd like to hear. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Writing: What Will It Cost?

In the back of the minds of most authors, at some time or another, is the question of cost. If you're fortunate enough to sign with a recognized publisher, the amount of an advance payment will come up. In addition, be aware that the publisher has come up with a figure for publicity, as well as payment to the people who will help you produce as good a book as possible. After all, even a Christian publisher isn't in business to lose money.

The figure for an advance payment will probably (but not always) be smaller that the amount a larger, more established house may be prepared to pay. And, although the exact figure may not be mentioned, the amount budgeted for publicity will (or should be) part of the package. Don't hesitate to ask.

What about the person who, for one reason or another, decides to publish independently. Will they get more money? Not necessarily. The author who chooses to "go indie" may get a larger paycheck from their sales because they have no royalty split to consider, but they should (please, please, please) choose to spend the money for a professional editor and have the cover professionally done.As for marketing, the phrase I've heard for many years (and have found to be true) is that no one cares as much about sales of your book as much as you do. And don't forget that the cost of those copies for review and as give-aways come out of your pocket.

There are many reasons to write. But you need to be aware of the underlying economics of the situation. If   you go into it with your eyes wide open and with a firm understanding of the process, then go ahead and write. Many have said it, and I believe it to be true. An author writes because they can't NOT write. If you fall into this category, please write. If you are the only one who reads the words you put down, you may have fulfilled your purpose. Write on!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Random Jottings Before The Super Bowl

This is written before the Super Bowl--for a number of reasons. First, although my wife and I have determined who we'll pull for (since the Cowboys aren't playing today), by not picking a possible winner or loser, I've avoided alienating a good fraction of my audience (both of them). 

Actually, we'll watch the Super Bowl differently than we usually do. Our usual practice is to mute the sound and ignore the commercials, but this is our chance to see (and pass judgment) on them for a change. We saw one "preview" of one of the commercials yesterday, and if this sample is typical of all of them, I may end up watching a recorded episode of The Closer, one we've seen two or three times before.

I have to think back to the words of Duane Thomas, a running back for the Cowboys, who was interviewed before the game was played. He said that if the match-up was "the ultimate game," he wondered why they were going to play it again next year. Good question. Any one have an answer for that one? 

PS--just watched the Super Bowl. Football game got good toward the end. Kept TV on mute through the half-time show. Commercials? "The mountain labored and gave forth a mouse." Won't plan to do that again!

Friday, February 11, 2022

Writing: Is "Should" A Bad Word?

Don't recognize the picture? I wouldn't worry, unless you're into psychiatry. Karen Horney first wrote about the "tyrannical shoulds" years ago. I don't expect those who follow this blog to remember, but about 5 or 6 years ago, I wrote about them here as well. 

I'd like to resurrect the subject again, and talk about how it affects authors. We try to be supportive when fellow authors launch a new work--or, at least we should. We read in some of our specialized sites about how much in royalties is coming their way, and we're happy--or at least, we should be. We try our best to be supportive, and be happy about our colleague's success--because we think it's the way we should behave. But it's hard. And, based on my experience, it's getting harder. 

One of the things I enjoyed about Christian writing was the tendency of the authors who wrote in this genre to be helpful to others struggling along the same road. But it seems to me that it's harder than it used to be. 

Maybe I'm jaded. Perhaps it's a function of the current state of our world and the society in which we live. It's possible that I'm just having a bad day. Or maybe the "tyrannical shoulds" have gotten to me. What is your opinion? 

Tuesday, February 08, 2022


Rant follows. Skip it if you aren't up to thinking about it this morning.

Although I tend to read mainly the writers of one particular race, it's mainly a function of familiarity with their work, rather than their color or any other factor. I choose books mainly on a sampling of them if I am unfamiliar with the person doing the writing. We want to read their work, not judge them any other way. And that goes for others, not just authors or football coaches.

Many of us think it was a mistake on the part of the man occupying the white house to say that he will nominate a person for a lifetime position on the highest court of the land based on the color of their skin or their sex. Personally, I would feel more comfortable if the person nominated were given the opportunity based on their legal knowledge and expertise, not because giving them the nod came from checking certain boxes. I will be following the confirmation process closely (and would emphasize that the function of the senate was to give advice and consent, not just to rubber stamp the nominee of the chief executive).

Maybe I just read the wrong columns this morning--or perhaps others feel this way, too. We'll see.

Friday, February 04, 2022

Writing: The Story Behind The Story

Well, it's out there. I've put the words together, edited until I can't stand it anymore, and my novella has been published for the world to read. Although it's relatively simple to comment on someone else's blog, even to write a short pose of our own, it doesn't really hit anyone who is an "author" until the deed is done and they realize that their words are now and forever on public view to be read, commented on, and attributed to them for all time. (And this includes the errors--and there are always errors).

 I thought, when the "pandemic" hit, that this was a good time to stop writing. Conversations with other authors returned two very different feelings. One group felt that being shut away, relatively isolated, was perfect for them to write. The other, which was where I fell, decided that, since we didn't feel much like writing under these circumstances, it was a good time to take an extended (in my case, permanent) hiatus.

But my wife had other ideas. She hinted at plots that I might explore. One of them was about an ER nurse who used her experiences as the basis for a novel. I couldn't get anywhere with this, but as I turned it over I found myself interested in the situation of that nurse and the widowed family doctor caring for her mother. Before long, I had written what amounted to a novella. My original title was Medical Mystery, and as I sought for a different one, I realized that I had, within the novella, a means of carrying out a murder that was almost undetectable...almost, that is. So I kept the title.

So, that's the reason for my current novella. I hope you enjoy it. 

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Tax Time (Again)

 Every year about this time, most of us turn our attention to Form 1099s and our taxes for the past year. Every year, I studiously keep all the data I'll need in folders labelled "income" and "writing  expenses" and such, and every year I have problems putting the figures in the right place, assuming my figures are correct (which isn't always the easiest thing to do). We're supposed to have all the forms and data we need by the end of January, but there always seems to be something we need that comes straggling in sometime in early February.

Now that I am retired (and I thought I had written my last novel and was through with my second career--but that's another story for another time), my taxes should be simple. But, of course, in their infinite wisdom, the Internal Revenue Service has changed the forms just enough to confuse me...again. 

Are there tricks you have learned over the years? Taxes apparently are like the weather--everyone talks about them but we don't really do anything about it. I'd be interested in your responses.