"Gee, You Write a Lot of Books!"

Yes, I do. I'm not Alexander McCall Smith, who writes a book every two months, but I do okay. Some people get all huffy if an author publishes more than one book a year, but there are some reasons why that's possible, even desirable. First, we might have written a lot before we got published. While a lot of early work is practice and  should never be seen by the eyes of the public, other bits are worthwhile. Maybe a good book idea got shifted to one side because of deadlines and never got finished or re-worked or ended (It's taken me years to figure out how the sequel to MACBETH'S NIECE is supposed to go. I think we're close.) Maybe an author's worked on it a bit at a time for years and it's finally ready to go into the queue. Second, some of us haven't got much else going. We're retired, so work isn't distracting us. We're past the age where a night of bowling or even a day of shopping tugs us away from the work.  We don't have a lo

At Death's Door: Wishing They'd Let Me In

That was yesterday: if I opened my eyes, the world spun at merry-go-round speed. My head felt like it was splitting open. And a bucket was my closest friend. Today is better, though I'm babying my stomach lest it grow nasty again. Experiences like that makes me wonder about people who have real problems. Not just a 24 hour bug, but serious pain, serious issues. When he was diagnosed with cancer, my dad said he was lucky to have lived a good life. My mother said she hoped doctors could learn something from her experience so they could save the next person. And my daughter often pointed out there were people worse off than she was, though I couldn't imagine who that would be. I hope I can continue the family tradition of bravely facing death when my time comes, but after yesterday I'm afraid I'll just beg them to open those pearly gates and let me in.

Asking Questions Correctly

Long years ago when I was teaching, I used to coach students on how to ask questions correctly. I would tell them: "Several times over the course of the school year, I will come here with visibly shorter hair. Try not to say something like,  "Did you get a haircut?", which is questioning the obvious, or worse, "What did you do to your hair?" which is vaguely insulting. Some of the kids had never considered how to phrase a question so it doesn't sound like an accusation, and some concluded I had deep-seated feelings of shame connected with my hair. They were hilariously careful about commenting on my haircuts every six weeks, but it was a good lesson in thinking before we speak. The world would run smoother if we learned to ask questions only when necessary and then considered how to ask for information without sounding nosy, judgmental, and insulting. Around the world, Americans are known for being intrusive, possibly because we have such an open cultu

Protagonists Who Are Difficult to Like

Now available in print, e-book, and audio                                                                                                                                                                             Killing Silence on Amazon There's been a lot of discussion on mystery readers' sites lately about books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Some pan them because the protagonists aren't very likeable; others claim they brilliantly reflect the realities of life. The fact that The Gold Finch won literature's highest reward indicates that reflecting reality is a big deal for the important voices in publishing and reading. I read The Girl on the Train last week, and I have to say it was well done. I was drawn into the woman's blurry world, and I guess I understand better now what it's like to be an alcoholic, promising yourself you'll do better tomorrow while you pour yourself another drink today. I never read Gone Girl , having heard th

Are You an Audiobook Person?

There are things we hear discussed among readers today, and one of them is electronic versus print books for reading. People say things like, "I want a book in my hand," or "E-books are so much more convenient." I'm okay with both. I like reading on my iPad when I travel, my Kindle at bedtime, and a "real" book anytime, anywhere. The other question is "Do you listen to books?" To that one I have to say no, or at least, not yet. I'm a fast reader, and I doubt I'd be happy with the slow pace of someone reading to me. I'm also a wool-gatherer, so I'd probably zone out when something interesting caught my eye. So I haven't done the audio thing yet. However-- I have to listen to my own books in order to okay them for release on, Amazon's audio book company. It's been an enjoyable experience, and it gave me a different perspective on the book, the story, and the protagonist. Most recent was the firs

Take Two Frog Stones & Call Me in the Morning

Being a student of history, I find myself wondering about what advice was like back in the day. We live in a world where everyone wants to tell us how to eat so we can live to be 100, what to wear so we appear cool and confident, and how to survive the next attack, the next storm, or the next epidemic. Advice from our parents' day now seems quaint and often wrong. The ads that told us real men smoke Marlboros. The Singer instruction manual that advised women to put on a clean dress and makeup and style their hair so they'd be "prepared" for sewing. The general view that a woman should not work once she became pregnant and should stay in bed for two weeks after the birth. Really? So I wonder, did the Tudors get advice from their doctors about how to live to be forty? Of course they did; people have always hoped some "wise" someone could tell them how to achieve good health and avoid early death. The "frog stones" in the title were ground up a

Self-Publishing: A Few Thoughts on How Not To

There was an article in the Sunday paper yesterday about a young man who'd chose self-publishing. He had a cute idea for a children's book, and after being rejected by traditional publishers, he went to work and got it together himself. And ordered 1000 copies of the book. I wish I'd met him before that point in his brand-new career. Here's my understanding of the scam some "helpful" publishers use to make money off earnest, unknowing writers: They "help" you publish your book, charging you every step of the way. They encourage you to buy a bunch of copies because "When this thing takes off, you're going to want them on hand!" They often charge the author full or nearly full price per book, so he gets no profit unless he jacks up the price, making dutiful friends and relatives shell out more than they should for a book in order to be supportive. Bookstores don't want them, because people don't want to pay big bucks for a b