Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Writing Advice from Oscar Wilde

 What can you learn about writing from Oscar Wilde - the famous Irish author and wit?

Humor is important.
Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.
Know your audience.
The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.
Experiment with new ideas and approaches.
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
The best fiction has the ring of truth.
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. 
I think writing fiction is a type of mask. Often the “truth” is more apparent in fiction than nonfiction.
Advertise your writing.
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Now I’m taking Oscar’s advice and am promoting my newest medical mystery,
MURDER…A WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT, by participating in a GoodReads Giveaway. You can win a FREE copy by signing up by June 4 at: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/188425-murder-a-way-to-lose-weight.

One more piece of advice from Oscar.
If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

I think you’ll find Murder… A Way to Lose Weight can be read on several levels (and hence several times). It’s a mystery. It’s got lots weird science tidbits (and references at the end), which will make you think and spark your conversation at boring parties. It addresses real problems in medical schools—scientific misconduct and hazing of junior staff and women. These problems can affect the safety of drugs you depend on. 

Here’s the blurb: Dieting is hard. So is fitting into a new job where you aren’t wanted. In MURDER…A WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT, Dr. Linda Almquist is trying to do both as she investigates two diet doctors who are endangering the lives of obese participants in their current clinical trail. When she finds one diet doctor dead, the police suspect the other diet doctor. Then the threats against Linda begin.

Also available at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENPSPR2

Monday, May 23, 2016

Garage Sale Your Writing

I’m not talking about selling your books at ridiculously low prices. I’m talking about editing your writing.
1. Get rid of what isn’t useful. The first step to a garage sale is recognizing you don’t need and will never use many of the treasures you’ve stashed in your house, garage, and/or storage unit. They’re just clutter and prevent your enjoyment of useful items.

Similarly, an author needs to read a draft of his/her writing and think. Does this sentence or section advance the plot, develop characters, or establish the location? If not, perhaps the sentence/section should be deleted.

If you really love a section of writing but know it adds nothing to your current story or novel, create a file of deleted sections, which you hope will be useful in the future. These are the items I put a high price tag on at a garage sale and don’t mind if they don’t sell because I can put them out at the next garage sale.

2. Organize your material. I find shoppers are more apt to buy items in a garage sale if the objects are arranged logically and attractively. For example, at my last garage sale I was trying to sell necklaces. (My mother had a fetish for beads of all colors and “heart” necklaces and had bought hundred of them over fifty years. None were of much value individually.) I hung the necklaces from an old wooden clothes dryer rack so that shoppers could examine the wares without tangling or breaking the chains. I sold about a hundred.

Creativity is the key to good writing, BUT many readers today prefer organized material that is easy to read. Paragraphs with more than ten sentences and sentences with three or more commas generally slow the reading process. This is one reason why many readers report they like dialog. The paragraphs and sentences tend to be short. Readers can peruse pages of dialog quickly. 

3. Never call your material junk. A positive attitude is important in any activity. If you don’t value what you’re selling or writing, why should anyone else?

4. Work hard. Successful garage sales and editing are hard work. You may enjoy the work (or maybe not), but you’ll be proud of the final result—a neater house or an improved novel.

5. Laugh at yourself and learn from your mistakes.

So are you ready to garage sale your writing and step up your editing efforts?

Maybe you’d like to examine tow of my editing efforts in the last year.
In Murder...A Way to Lose Weight, two ambitious diet doctors are testing a new way to lose weight. One doctor is killed after she develops a conscious and admits they took “short cuts,” which are endangering the lives of their obese patients. As the police turn up clues, the readers learn a bit about weird poisons and the social mores of a medical school. 

In I Saw You in Beirut, a woman uses memories of her student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and of her career as a globetrotting epidemiologist to provide clues for the identification and extraction of a nuclear scientist, known only as F, from Iran. But memories are often biased or incomplete, and she travels to the sites of her memories to gather new evidence.

Amazon sells both the paperback and Kindle versions of Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1610092392) and I Saw You in Beirut (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1610092201).

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mixing facts into a thriller helps to develop characters and plot

 Major characters in novels need backstories. Instead of fantasizing histories for all the characters in my novels, I like to plant several into real situations.

Here are the facts: In the early 1960s, scientists identified zinc deficiency in Iran. At that time, 2-3% of the villagers in some regions of Iran didn't pass the physical for the army because of stunted growth. The head of the research team Dr. James Halstead, Sr., was married to President’s Roosevelt’s daughter, Anna.

I used these facts to explain how certain characters in I Saw You in Beirut became involved in espionage in Iran. Isn’t that a lot more believable than the backstory for James Bond?

Facts are often stranger than fiction. When I wanted to show, not tell, the readers about another fiery character in I Saw You in Beirut, I used a real incident from my research lab.

Summary of the real incident: On a fall Saturday in 1979 or 1980, one of my foreign female graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison became so annoyed with a fellow student that she threatened him with the knife, which she was using to cut a birthday cake.

Science headlines can advance plots. The development of a nuclear “industry” in Iran has long been a source of headlines. I enhanced common fears to create the plot for I Saw You in Beirut. Then I included a map with major cities and important sites for the nuclear industry at the front to the novel to add authenticity.

Plot summary: A mysterious source of leaks on the Iranian nuclear industry, known only as F, sends an email from Tabriz: Help. Contact Almquist. Intelligence sources determine the message refers to Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist, and seek her help to extract F from Iran. As Sara tries to identify F by dredging up memories about her student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her work in Lebanon and the Emirates, groups ostensibly wanting to prevent F’s escape attack her repeatedly. She begins to suspect her current friendship with Sanders, a secretive State Department official, is the real reason she’s being attacked.

I Saw You in Beirut (Kindle & paperback) is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1610092201.