Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Doubt me? Let’s look at six pieces of advice for writers and dieters.

1. Set realistic priorities. You are more apt to attain small achievable goals (such as losing a pound a week or writing ten pages per week) than larger goals with artificial deadlines (for example losing fifty pounds before your class reunion or writing a three hundred page novel by Christmas).

2. Don’t procrastinate. Start working on your goals today, by skipping dessert at supper and writing at least one page for your next novel tonight.

3. Control problems and distractions. For writers, the distractions on the Internet are comparable to high fat, sugary foods to dieters. Perhaps this advice to Linda Almquist in the first chapter of Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight will help you sort through your clutter.

“There are three types of problems. A few problems are like wine; those situations improve if you delay decisions and let them age. Most problems are like waste paper. You can ignore them because they don’t matter. Unfortunately like waste paper, they tend to be messy when they pile up. And some problems are like manure. You must identify them quickly before they stink.”

4. Work at it every day. Most successful dieters have changed their lifestyle and eaten less and exercised more for months. If you want to write a novel a year, set aside time to “work on your book” every day.

5. Sweat the small stuff. Little bedtime snacks can undo our good behavior at meals or in the gym. Similarly grammar and spelling errors can ruin a novel with a great plot and characters.

6. Laugh at all those who give advice like this because you know it’s easier to give advice than follow it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

“My Writing Process” Blog Hop

1. Why do I write what I do?
I like realistic medical mysteries and thrillers that push the edge of modern science but don’t cross over into science fantasy. Books with action but with themes that make you think. For example:
  • Why do some individuals bounce back from physical and emotional pain, while others are warped into monsters?
  • When is the common good more important than the rights of an individual?
So I write books, like Robin Cook (author of Coma, Acceptable Risk, and many others) would if he were still alive. Maybe I’m complimenting myself by comparing my novels to those of Robin Cook. Why don’t you read my Ignore the Pain, Coming Flu, and Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight and see?

2. What am I working on?
I’m sending Sara Almquist, my epidemiologist heroine, to Cuba. When I visited Cuba last November, the tour guide bragged that Cuban researchers had recently patented a vaccine against lung cancer. I checked. She was right, so I built my next novel Malignancy around Sara’s assignment from the State Department to set up scientific exchanges between Cuba and the US. Two weeks ago, I read an article in Science announcing the US and Cuban governments were initiating scientific exchanges.

In Malignancy, Sara is also escaping past foes in New Mexico and looking for Xave, the “spook” who saved her in Bolivia in Ignore the Pain. I’m pleased to add I finished the first draft yesterday. Actually that’s not quite true, I revise previous chapters as I write new ones. So in some ways, yesterday I finished about the third edit of the book. I’m hoping Malignancy will be published in late fall 2014.

3. How does my writing process work?
I file interesting ideas from scientific journals, newspapers, and on-line search services as I find them. When I start thinking about a new novel, I sort through my files and pull articles that fit a common theme. Then I create a three to five-page outline of the novel. After that I let the characters take over. As I indicated above, I revise chapters as I write new ones.  Euphemistically, my outline is fluid.

4. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I include a scientific epilogue (about two pages) at the end of my novels. Interested readers can then check the facts themselves.

Thanks to Amy Reade for inviting me to participate in this blog hop. Her Secrets of Hallstead House, which sounds like a modern version of Jane Eyre, will be published in July 2014. I can’t wait to read it. For more on Amy, see

How many of you follow blog hops? Are they a good idea?
I’m not supposed to post this until June 8, but when I finally get a blog written I’m a kid with a new toy. My apologies to those organizing the blog hop for my childish behavior.