Tuesday, March 31, 2015

April Fool...Or Not

March has rushed by, and tomorrow is the first day of a new month. Some of you realize it's April Fools Day, others haven't given it a thought. I'd like to think I've outgrown the practice of tricks and pranks on that day, but I have to say I've enjoyed reading about some of the hoaxes perpetrated on April 1.

I won't list all the ones I've found--they might give some of you ideas. My question to you is this: Tomorrow do you plan to pull some sort of "trick" or do you think it's too juvenile? I'll be interested in reading your comments on this.

Come back Friday for a more serious post, this one about the writing life.

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Image courtesy of taesmileland at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, March 27, 2015

Writing: Right Place, Right Time

Getting a book published, whether fiction or non-fiction, demands a combination of a great product and...let's face it...the right circumstances. My manuscript for The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse hit editor Dennis Hillman's desk at Kregel Publications at the right time and under the right circumstances, and he accepted it for publication. Dennis could identify with my situation in the death of a spouse. He'd gone to a seminary in the city where I lived and when we spoke we discovered that connection. I got a contract, but that was nothing but God's timing (or coincidence, if you prefer to look at it that way).

I gained representation from my agent the same way. I'd come to know Rachelle Gardner when she was an editor (and turned down my submission--rightly so, by the way). After she became an agent, I followed her blog. I'd already given up any hope of being a writer, but through a series of events that could only be "a God thing" (as my friend, Rupert Robbins would say) she read some of my work, liked it, and thus began a relationship that has lasted for years (and ten novels either published or under contract).

How do we increase our chances of such good fortune? Of course, we have to produce the best book we can. That's the sine qua non of seeking publication. After that, we keep trying, all the while remembering our reason for doing so. If we're in it for the money or fame, we're probably in the wrong profession anyway. I agree with what I've read so many times: A writer is someone who "can't not write." And a Christian writer has a very specific reason for writing. Let's not forget it.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Occupies Your Time?

I've been retired from the active practice of medicine for over ten years now, although I still stay current with the field. "Oh, you're retired," my friends say (or think). "You must have a lot of free time."

We'll now pause briefly for readers who have not yet retired to heave a jealous sigh and the retired folks to smother a laugh. I used to smile when I'd hear someone say, "I'm so busy after retirement that I don't know how I did anything while I was working." Now, it's more like pausing to nod sadly. It's true.

My plans were that, upon retirement, I'd play golf, read, and do some traveling. That changed, of course, when Cynthia, my wife of forty years, passed away about the time we'd both planned to retire. That eventually led me to write my book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, which in turn resulted in my trying my hand at writing novels. Fatal Trauma, which releases on May 19, will be my eighth novel of medical suspense. Oh, and my self-published novella, Rx Murder, will be available on Amazon any day now (watch this space for more news on that).

I try to get in a round of golf with a long-time friend once a week if the weather cooperates (which it hasn't recently). As for travel, I'll quote Nolan Ryan. "The problem with using those frequent flyer miles is that to do it you've got to get on another airplane." So, mainly, I write.

What does a writer do? Here's a picture that has appeared numerous times on Facebook--if I knew the source I'd give attribution--that explains the writing process better than anything I could.


Now, what occupies your time? Let me know when you leave a comment.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Writing: Improving Our Craft

One of my readers, Lauri, asks if I enjoy working to improve my craft, or if I look upon it as a distasteful chore. That's a great question, and the answer is, "yes--to both parts." I like it when someone says my current novel is better than any of my others. But I don't particularly enjoy sitting in a class or reading a book on technique to improve what I do. I don't relish rewriting large chunks of the novel on which I've worked long hours. Be that as it may, it's part of the process.

Look at it this way. I enjoy golf. But if I'm to take the boomerang out of the trajectory of my drives or hit putts that don't scoot ten feet past the hole, I'm going to have to spend some time on the driving range and putting green, making adjustments to my stroke to achieve what I want. The same goes for writing.

Every writer knows that first and foremost we must produce the best possible work. That means polishing, revising, sometimes cutting and replacing large chunks of our work-in-progress until we're satisfied. Before we get to this point, we have to master the fundamentals of character development, point of view, vocabulary, and many other things. Once we have those down so they're second nature, we're ready to proceed. Unfortunately, some writers don't go very far down this path.

Most of us want to get better with each book, and that's why we never feel as though we've "arrived." Although no writer ever achieves perfection, we should always seek to improve our craft. We may not like it, any more than I like going to the practice range for golf, but it goes with the territory. There are some writers--best-selling writers--who seem content to stay right where they are, churning out work that corresponds to an established template. They don't appear to have any real motivation to get even better at their craft. But they're in the minority.

So, Lauri, I don't necessarily enjoy continually working to improve my craft, but I do it because that is part of what being a writer means.

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Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St Patrick's Day

Not sure about how they do it where you live, but in the Dallas area St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on the Saturday closest to March 17 by a huge parade (I mean huuuuge). There's a good bit of alcohol consumed, lots of food and games, and inhibitions seem to be thrown to the wind. This past Saturday was no exception.

Originally, the day was set aside to commemorate Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating the culture and heritage of the Irish in general. I won't get into the green vs. orange (Catholic vs. Protestant) thing, except to say that wearing green on this day is traditional to recognize the proud traditions of the Irish. Since my great grandmother's name was Tinney O'Quinn, I'm happy to acknowledge my Irish heritage...even if I don't celebrate the day with alcohol.

Today I'm guest blogging with writer Chris Henderson. I hope you'll click here to read that interview.

Now to unfinished business: A week ago I suggested that readers of this blog try their hand at writing a clerihew. For those too lazy to click the link, I'll remind you that a clerihew is a whimsical four-line poem, the first line of which includes the name of a person.

I had three responses! In one, Linda laughed (hopefully with me, not at my own clerihew), Patricia joined in (but forgot to include her name in the first line), and Ben (whose comment showed up in my 'in' box but never made it to the blog) wrote a true clerihew, tortured though it might be : ).

I guess Ben is the winner, and I'll contact him about the prize. Meanwhile, I hope to see you back here Friday, when we talk more about the writing life and I answer a reader question.