A little vanity can be good

I had a stroke in January. I have been out of rehab for about two months. In rehab, I learned to walk with a quad cane. Once home, I got around the house mostly in my wheelchair but kept practicing with the cane. With my wife’s help, I made a few trips to the outside, such as visits to stores and to church. Eventually I got confident enough with the cane that we left the wheelchair at home and only took the cane.
Now the quad cane is a cane with four little feet on the bottom. While it is very stable, it is a little clumsy, little awkward looking and somewhat ugly.
Now I have a regular straight cane that I made about 30 years ago from a maple sapling with a natural bend in it. Not only does it look better than the black metal quad cane, but having made it I am understandably proud of it.
When my son called me in late May for my birthday, I was proud to tell him that I had been going to church supported only by my straight cane. He was surprised I was not using the quad cane, But I confessed that I thought I looked a little bit better using the straight cane. His response was,” a little bit of vanity isn’t all that bad.” The concept he was conveying is that a little bit of vanity had in someway inspires me to step out and accomplish something a little bit beyond my grasp such as walking with the straight cane.
Perhaps us writers need to exercise our vanity now and then. It is really easy for us to assume nobody will ever publish our work because it’s not good enough. Well perhaps, the only way we will get good enough is to practice writing. We need to keep writing whether we publish the work or not because it is good practice. Then we need to have enough bravery or perhaps vanity to now and then submit one of our works. That is the only way we will ever know if we are good enough to get published.
Keep on writing and submit a piece now and then.
 
Reynold Conger is an author who maintains a webpage@reynoldconger.com. Visit that website and see what he has written and published.
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Sick leave

People tend to think writers are invincible. Some writers are of the same opinion of themselves nothing can stop the writing. Of course, that is not the case. We get sick just like the rest of you.
In January, I thought I was one of the healthiest 75-year-old man around. On a Tuesday afternoon I ran 5 miles as was my custom. That night I started to shave in preparation of going to bed. Without any warning I suddenly felt weak and clutched at the sink for support, but like a melting scoop of ice cream I slumped down to the floor. Fortunately I did not fall because are so many hard surfaces in a bathroom I could easily have injured myself. I reached up to the doorknob hoping I could pull myself up right. In the living room, my wife heard the good racket of the door banging against the wall. She came and asked if I was all right. I tried to respond, but all that came out of my mouth was gibberish. My wife recognized that I was having a stroke. In fact, from my weakness and lack of speech I also recognize that I was having a stroke.
Fortunately the fire station and the barn for the ambulances are both about a mile down the hill from our house. Within minutes, EMTs and an ambulance were at the house. 20 minutes later, I was admitted to the emergency room of a hospital 40 miles away. I spent the next three days in ICU being treated for the stroke. Technically I am cured. The clot the block my artery is dissolved and the damage parts of my brain are being restored, but I am far from being restored to my previous health. I spent the next three months in rehabilitation. I went from being a blob of flesh that could not talk, and had very little strength in arms or legs show a weak body with the left arm that has little or no function and legs that can hold my weight just well enough to allow me to walk with a cane. Speech therapists have also brought my speech back close to normal.
This explains why I have not been able to add any post to my blog in the last four months. I apologize my readers and hope that they put my blog posts back on their theirreading lists. With the help of speech recognition software I am back on the job writing blogs and also writingFiction.
 
I am the author of several fictional works. Check out ReynoldConger.com for the names of my books and for information about the things I am writing.
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Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah

I wish everyone a merry Christmas and my Jewish friends a belated happy Hanukkah. We all enjoy the presents, the songs and the parties that make up the secular celebration of Christmas. They have become part of our culture even for many people who have no Christian faith. LIkewise there is a secular celebration of Hanukkah that Jews enjoy even those Jews who may have Jewish ancestors, but lack any religious faith.

The secular celebrations of both of these holidays is fun and glamorous. Merchants enjoy a boost in sales at this time of year as we throw parties and buy gifts. I wish that people would look deeper than the surface to the original meanings of both holidays.

Christmas is supposed to be a religious celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christ. In between the parties we should be finding time to attend church. We should be reading the Christmas story in Luke or in Matthew chapter 2 to our families on Christmas day. We should be praying prayers of thanksgiving that God came down at Christmas to live as man, and be prepared to die for our salvation at Easter.

I hope that Christmas and Easter inspire you to look more closely at your relationship to God and Jesus. We are called to repent of our sins. That means rid ourselves of the bad behavior. We are called to believe that Jesus is our redeemer, our Messiah. who came to save each of us on a personal level. He died for the sins of the world and then rose the third day to demonstrate that we can have life after death. Most of all, I hope you accept the Lord Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. You do this by yielding yourself to Jesus. Let him lead your life. I wish all  people would accept Jesus in this way.

Hanukkah is a celebration of God’s power and love for His people. During the time of the Maccabees,  Greek invaders took over Israel and defiled the temple. Judas Maccabee’s men recaptured Jerusalem. Then they cleansed and rededicated the temple. One of the central figures of temple worship was the menorah, a golden lampstand that was kept constantly burning, but when they lit it during the rededication, they discovered they had only enough olive oil for one day. Yet, the menorah kept burning for 8 days. The only explanation is that God supplied the fuel. God was demonstrating his power and his love for the Jews. By the end of the 8 days, a supply line was established so that the temple would never again run short of oil.

Devout Jews attend services and pray to God in thanks for this miracle, for His love, and for His lovingkindness. They also find time to enjoy the secular joys of the holiday, but as with Christians, these Jews seek to strengthen their relationship with the God of their fathers. My hope is that Jews who have little or no relationship with God will use this holiday to attend services and open a relationship with God. It is also a good time to strengthen what relationship they have.

Jews can learn about the Messiah by reading the Old Testament where prophets foretold about a Messiah, who will come to save His people and be King of Kings. Most Jews are still waiting for his arrival.

Christians and Messianic Jews recognize that this Messiah came during the reign of Herod the Great and is known by the name of Jesus or Emmanuel (God with us). To my Jewish friends who are still waiting for Jesus, may God bless you. At least you remain faithful to the eternal God of the universe, but I wish that you would look into the fact that Jesus, your Messiah has come and wants you to worship Him.

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Don’t Drink and Live

Yesterday we got a sad phone call from a dear friend. Her son, in his 40’s, is in the hospital with a prognosis of death very soon. The doctor has been honest with the family. There is nothing more than can be done short of a heart transplant. He is on the list for a heart transplant, but it is doubtful he will live long enough.

I am not aware of this man’s exact diagnosis, but his heart has been weakening for some time. His heart function is now 20% of capacity. This loss of pumping capacity compromises most body functions. Blood pressure falls. The lungs can not oxygenate the blood sufficiently, kidneys do not work efficiently. The limbs swell painfully from retained fluid.

A discussions of alcohol related heart diseases can be found on line. Please read this to see if you are at risk.

It is thought this patient’s main problem is that he has been a heavy drinker for years. His doctors have been warning him for years that he needs to stop drinking, but he has not. While alcohol does not directly damage everyone’s heart. Drinking more than small amounts of alcohol contributes to many heart diseases including strokes and heart attacks. In the case of alcoholic cardiomyopathy, alcohol abuse has been established as a cause. This article defines heavy drinking for men as in excess of 4 drinks per day or 14 drinks per week. For women it is in excess of 3 drinks per day or 7 per week. There is no cure.

Those who wish to drink alcoholic beverages are advised to drink only in moderation. Moderation is defined as two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.) Do not think that simply reducing consumption puts you into the moderation category.

We are praying for the son of our friend, because we know his death will break her heart.

As an author, I have just finished the rough draft of a novel about illegal human organ sales with a provisional title of Illicit Harvest. The focus of the story is a very rich man who has abused alcohol to the point of having alcoholic cardiomyopathy. His time has a very short time to live so he buys a new heart on the black market. My research has found that cardiomyopathy is a very serious disease. While it makes for an exciting medical thriller, I feel sad for anyone who suffers from this disease.

If you drink, please review your drinking habits. It may be time for you to reduce your consumption. If you can get close to or below the moderate level, you may save your health and save your relatives from suffering grief.

Reynold Conger is an author. It will probably be another 9 to 12 months before Illicit Harvest is released. In the meantime, visit ReynoldConger.com to learn about his other books. Books are available from common online book sellers. ReynoldConger.com has a book store through which you can order any of Reynold’s physical books. All books purchased from Reynold will be autographed.

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Why I Wrote Reducing Medical Costs (At the Cost of Health)

Obama proposed his Affordable Care Act amid an outburst of praise from his party and an uproar of criticism from his opponents. I was inspired to write my first, and probably last, novel intended as a commentary on politics. I hoped to catch some of the controversy over the bill. As it turned out, the book was a commercial flop. The Affordable Care Act was shoved through both houses of Congress with minimal debate, and few people complained before the bill was passed.

The Affordable Care Act was conceived with good intent, but in its final version was deeply flawed. Nevertheless, it was law before most people realized what it contained. My opinion is that the bill was far too long and was pushed through congress without giving critics the opportunity to amend it. While that may have been good strategy for getting it passed, it prevented congressmen from finding and correcting by amendment some of the flaws that plague it even today. There have been 70 revisions of the program since passage in attempts to correct flaws. Had the bill been properly debated and exposed to the amendment process, some of these flaws could have been corrected by amendments to the bill.

So the book was my mistake, but I had a lot of fun writing it. I just could not capitalize on the short lived controversy. The readers I have heard from enjoyed the book. Instead of political commentary it should simply be considered entertainment. One reader liked it enough to give me the idea for the plot of a sequel. I am currently close to finishing the first draft of a medical thriller with the provisional title of Illicit Harvest. Some of the same characters are busy investigating a shadowy group who sell human organs for organ transplants.

For Reducing Medical Costs (At the Cost of Health), I created a family all of whom practiced one or another of the medical arts. The exception is the protagonist who was a retired school teacher. I lent the protagonist my home and located most of the rest of the extended family in the Albuquerque area. While hiking in the mountains near my home, I had discovered a shallow mine shaft that the protagonist and his brother use for shelter when they are forced to run for their lives. At the time of this book, Medicare is running out of money. Expensive patients seem to be dying in unusually large numbers.

As relatives start to die, this family of medical professionals becomes detectives.

Read more about these books at ReynoldConger.com.

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Why I Wrote MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR

My second book is a post-Vietnam era romance. In college George Stivers was one of my best friends. He received his BS in Civil Engineering at the same graduation where my wife and I received our degrees. We were shocked nine months later to read in the alumni news, “In memory of, 2nd Lt. George Stivers.” He had died in the Vietnam War.

I chose to honor him by enabling him to live on in literature. I wrote a book in which he survived the war, but lost an ear. Post war, he practiced his chosen profession, civil engineering. I arranged for him to encounter the girl he loved in college, and. . .well this book is a romance.

The title the book is My Knight in Shining Armor.


I enjoyed recreating George with his sense of humor. I also enjoyed creating a love interest for him by combining two of the girls he dated.

Read more about this book at ReynoldConger.com.

This book was published by Page Publishing, a small press that has gone out of business. Amazon and other on-line sellers still have it listed, but I do not know how much stock they have. I have copies in my personal inventory. There is a bookstore attached to ReynoldConger.com. If you buy it directly from me, I will send you a signed copy.

 

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YOUNG AUTHORS BEWARE

No matter our age at the time, all authors were young and aspiring at one time. Of those who read this, some fall into this category. In my case, I became a “young author” at age 49. The topic of this blog is to warn “young authors” of the snares and pitfalls related to the craft.

How often has someone said, “Oh, you should write a book about that.” Writing is a demanding craft. Just because a person has an interesting experience or has a story to tell, does not mean that person has skill in writing. There are sites on-line that will accept almost anything an aspiring author submits. Yes, it is good exposure. Some of the stories posted are good and interesting, but a most are simply atrocious. One short story lacked a good plot, was poorly presented and had a dialogue based primarily on profanity and disrespect. If this website is representative of many aspiring writers, it is no wonder editorial assistants dread having to sort through the “slush pile”. There are so few exceptional manuscripts in the slush pile and so many manuscripts that are simply trash.

If you really do believe you have a story, start writing. Keep in mind that the standards of the publishing world are high. Plots and story lines are expected to be attractive to the readers. Spelling and grammar are expected to be near perfect. Writers spend time revising and proofreading. Perhaps you have finished your first manuscript. Do not rush it off to a publisher expecting it to turn into a bestseller. Your mother may like the story, but it is unlikely it will be accepted. Very few first short works are worthy of publication. Most of us need to hone the craft. That means practice, practice, practice. Most of us have many “drawer manuscripts”. These are the manuscripts that never were accepted for publication.

Some aspiring writers say, “Of course my first book will be published, or else would I have wasted my time writing the manuscript?” I am pleased to hear such confidence, but while sending out queries on your first manuscript, start the second. All of these “drawer manuscripts” you produce are valuable practice. Keep writing.

Be aware that as an unknown author, it is very difficult to get your manuscript past the dragons at the gates of traditional publishing houses. No matter how good, your manuscript is simply one of many in the “slush pile”.

A better option is to seek a literary agent to present your work to the traditional publishers. Unfortunately literary agents are in the same position of having overflowing “slush piles”. Remember most of the “slush pile” is substandard manuscripts, and only a few are worthy of the literary agent’s time to represent them. Your manuscript must stand out among the dross.

Literary agents work under a set of ethics that prohibit them from charging a fee, including a reading fee. Agents expect to make their living from a commission of 10 or 15 % of the royalties you receive. The exception is that some literary agents ask you to also reimburse them for copy costs and postage. If you ever have a literary agent offer to represent your book for a fee rather than a commission, drop that agent. He or she is a fraud. Also ignore agents who charge reading fees.

The third option is to query a small press. They are more willing to take chances on manuscripts that are only good without being exceptional. A first time author may also find it difficult to penetrate even the small presses, but authors with one or more published books will have better success there. Most small presses only accept manuscripts they think will sell. Most charge no fee from the author. A few will charge a nominal fee.

Your last option is self publishing. In the past two decades, the number of companies who call themselves self-publisher has grown. A self-publisher will accept almost any manuscript because you are paying them all the costs to produce and market your book. If you simply want to produce a quantity of books to give to a small group of people, it is ideal. It is less ideal for selling books to the masses. Nevertheless, small-publishers can get your book out in the market place. After having numerous editors and literary agents reject my manuscripts with notes saying, “Your manuscript looks good, but it does not meet my interests at the moment.” I finally paid to have my first book published. No it was not a success, but it did get my foot in the door with several small presses that have published my other novels.

There are a few good and ethical self-publishers. They are, essentially, heirs to the vanity presses of the 20th century, but with modern technology they can produce your book more effectively than the old vanity presses. They care less about marketing the book. Their first priority is to collect a fee to cover the publication of the book and the cost of the “free” copies they will ship you. Of course, the more of your books they sell, the better for them. If your book later gets picked up by a traditional publisher, they get more remuneration.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with a businessman who charges for a service or product. Your financial risks occur when they start offering additional services, usually for publicity, websites or marketing. They may ask you to spend thousands of dollars on advertising, promotions or a presentation to movie producers. The deals I have been offered generally are little more than speculative ventures. Sure, I may sell more copies of the book, but how many will I have to sell to pay for the cost of the advertising campaign? They can not guarantee results nor give you an accurate projection of sales. If you need help with publicity, advertising or marketing, look for an established group who are dedicated to that field. Then do your research. Work with a professional whose goal is making you successful.

Do not worry about a publisher or literary agent stealing your manuscript. US copyright law protects you the moment you produce an original work. You can sue anyone who publishes your work without permission. Furthermore, editors, publishers and literary agents are professionals with reputations to protect. They can make more money by representing your book or publishing your book than they can by stealing your manuscript and publishing it as their own. If caught, the results to their career will be disastrous.

You may write on anything original “Copyright 2018 by (your name)”, and you are protected. The hitch is that you must be able to prove it is yours and that you wrote it before anyone else. For that reason, the Library of Congress offers Copyright registration for a small fee. This gives you definitive proof. Of course there are other means of proof. Some writers send a copy of the manuscript to themselves by registered mail. the manuscript is then stored in the sealed envelope until a court of law requires proof of the date when you produced it.

Beware of pickpockets. Many people and organizations are simply looking for your money. They may sell you a product or service without providing what they promised. The self-publisher of my first novel, did a wonderful job producing the book, but I paid a hefty fee. Part of the contract was that they were supposed to help me market my book. After shipping me a crate of beautiful books, they then started charging me for their marketing efforts. In general, I never felt I got good value for the fees I paid.

Publicity agents, marketing consultants and similar people or organizations who promise to increase you sale should be suspect. Also suspect are those who push you for quick decisions and who pester you with frequent phone calls.

I have received a lot of phone calls and e-mails that promised me the moon but at too high a cost with far too little expectation of return. Be very careful to chose those who serve you in a professional way.

Having published 4 novels, I now consider myself a “middle age author”. I still aspire to publish through one of traditional publishers, which means I will have to get a literary agent willing to represent my manuscript. I would like to think my writing has improved enough that my current work in progress will impress someone. In the mean time, I will continue to practice writing. Practice may not make us perfect, but it can improve our skills.

I encourage “young authors” to keep writing. Try some marketing  by querying magazines for your articles. Don’t waste a lot of time and money on marketing until you start getting positive responses. Once you have a book length you are proud of, query a few literary agents and small presses. Again, do not invest a lot of time or money, but try several. Often you will get a few sentences of feedback along with the rejection letter. Such feedback is of great value.

Very few authors even get anyone to look at their first manuscript, but keep writing anyway. Persistence pays off.

~Reynold Conger

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist and teacher who writes fiction as a retirement career. To learn about him and his writing, go to ReynoldConger.com. Just to make the website more fun, Reynold has a page with pictures and articles about his bees.

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