Big Pharma, Friend or Enemy?

My "Big Pharma"

My “Big Pharma”

Everyday it seems we are subjected to yet another “new” study that insists we must do this or that to better our health. Sadly, so may accept these “announcements” as total truth without doing any background research on the subject. Being constantly bombarded by media, we tend to start believing everything we hear. Since it’s coming from the news, it has to be true. Does it? Really?

As I mentioned in my last post, most anyone can concoct a stunning web site and post most any information on it. And because it looks professional, it immediately gains credibility with the reader. Again, really?!!!

I too, have been fooled by snazzy sites and flashy reports that claim to have the “only” way to make my life better. A blog I follow, and have found to have mostly good information, recently came under attack for “selling” items and information on the site. The author responded with an apology, but said that was the only way he could afford to continue posting the info. It’s a shame that he has to do this, but certainly understandable. In today’s business models, profit is important, and even just generating enough to cover costs is necessary. A necessary evil we all live with.

But, I digress. I didn’t start this post to complain about business and the economy. Actually it is due to a recent article I saw on the web regarding cholesterol. As we age (and I’ve done my fair share of it!), we all get more and more concerned with the issue. Lately, I’ve read a number of articles slamming the mainstream cholesterol medications as being bad for us. And there are just as many out there preaching we must do (eat and take) all that the mainstream medical profession says we should.

We should all be aware of the fact that “Big Pharma” spends boat loads of money trying to influence the front line of health care providers to prescribe their drugs. Yes, there is very much a profit motive. But, at what cost, our health?

With new research and the spate of lawsuits regarding fairly recent drugs, (can you say Xarelto, Avandia, and many others?) those who are astute in following these developments have a very real reason to fear what might be forced on them by well meaning health care practitioners. Sadly, most people receiving health care don’t bother to read up on the drugs they are prescribed and many do not follow recent developments in the pharmaceutical industry.

Granted, there are many great drugs out there. And my heart goes to all front-line health care practitioners as they have a very difficult and stressful job. I believe they are following the guidelines given to them with the full intent of doing what is best for the patient. The trouble is, the Big Pharma companies don’t have the same goal. They are about money, and more money. And that is the conflict of it all.

In my book, Against Their Will, this mentality prevails. Scientists, hired in secret by the US Government, have discovered a new class of drugs that show serious potential to cure a lot of diseases. Even more importantly, they see how they can use their discoveries to make big money. It doesn’t matter to them the human life cost. They are immune. Their instructions are to produce the drug and multiply it at all costs.

When I first started writing this book, these assumptions were considered scandalous. Sadly, it is so much more believable today that it is downright frightening.

What can we do? Do we have any options? Or, do we have no choice but to comply? I believe it is up to each individual to determine this. However, there are things we can do.

We can find informative sources and research them to determine their credibility and therefore make our own decisions. We can search for and engage health care providers who understand our concerns and work with us to find solutions. And, we can say no. No to what is being prescribed. No to what is being strongly suggested we must take to save our lives. No, to those who don’t care about us and our health, but care more for their own pocketbook.

We need to open our eyes and decide for ourselves what is best for us and take advice from those we truly trust and know have our best interests in mind. Being responsible for our self in every way, especially our health, is the only hope we have.

Web Conspiracies Everywhere? –

Just because a building looks official or imposing, does that mean everyone it represents is honest and trustworthy?

Just because a building looks official or imposing, does that mean everyone it represents is honest and trustworthy?

If you’ve read my book, Against Their Will, you know I’m into conspiracy stories. When the first stirrings of ideas for the book formed in my brain, it was still a bit inconceivable that normal, everyday citizens should ever have to worry about any type of conspiracy, much less ones government induced.

Now after the advent of Edward Snowden, the NSA, WikiLeaks, Drone spying, claims that vaccines harm us and that Wal-Mart is closing stores in the Southwest to make room for Chinese troops to come train on US soil and more, it is much more conceivable that things might be going on that we don’t really want to know are going on.

Granted there are all sorts of ideas floating on the web about who did what to whom. I will admit, some make a lot of sense. Others are discredited almost immediately when I see a lack substantiation or proof as to what the writer is claiming. Merely “preaching an idea” does not necessarily make that idea true. Nor does a credible looking website that states something is true without facts or references to back it up really mean that what is said is true.

Jazzy web-designs, easily obtained today in numerous places, can make a site credible looking. Formats that appear to be news-worthy can draw in visitors quite easily, and if the content is presented in the right manner, can even deceive the reader into believing all that is said is true.

This just emphasizes the ease with which a modern day web-surfer can be misled or down-right lied to. Fiction belongs in a book that is labeled as fiction and not pushed on the public in ways that deceive the reader into believing they are true, or fact.

Have I been stung by truthful-looking web-sites? Maybe. . . But, despite what I think about what I read on the web, I will say, there is an abundance of material out there that churns up a pot-full of ideas for plotting my next novel. No doubt, there is probably enough truth mixed in with the screaming headlines and provocative intros that even those ideas that are not true, may certainly seem true.

What’s good about all this? Well, this makes the beauty of fiction writing all the more alluring. It doesn’t matter! A fiction writer can craft just about any story, and given a few exceptions, never have to prove its merit or truthfulness!

But, as with all things, moderation is key. It all depends on the story being told and the audience to which it is pitched. Still, the internet makes for one huge world of interest just waiting to be manipulated into a best-seller. Thriller style!

Are Your Bad Guys Bad Enough?

Most people don’t like bad guys. After all, they spend their real or fictional lives antagonizing others or themselves!

The epitome of a "bad guy" stage!

The epitome of a “bad guy” stage!

Bad guys make us sit on the edges of our seats, get sweaty palms, or even raise our heart rates. But are they really necessary for a good story?

YES! It’s been stated many times that conflict makes a story engaging or engrossing. What better way to create conflict than to have a bad guy antagonizing our hero. The greatest thrillers use this model and even dramatic stories successfully incorporate the bad guys into the plot line.

I’m a fan of Diana Galbadon (The Outlander Series and Starz Network Show). She has successfully created a number of bad guys that really set my teeth on edge and make my fingernails grow a couple of inches; all the better to claw their eyes out with! I hate the bad guys. I want them dead, gone, kaput! But, if they left the scene right away, what consequences would ensue? Sure, the protagonist would be “okay” but, would the story be as interesting if there was nothing to fear or be angry about? Would the reader really want to continue reading?

Not all stories use human characters to facilitate the bad guy persona. While many do, many authors are quite adept at using events and inanimate objects to antagonize the protagonists. A hurricane, health scare or disease outbreak, or financial crisis are just a few situations that are “bad” and can do much to facilitate character development and story interest. Situations a reader can relate to also help to grow interest and empathy from a reader. An author is not limited to human, breathing bad guys, but objects and events can be drafted to do the job.

I must admit I love “pulling the chains” of my “bad” characters. It is fulfilling, at times, to inflict emotional and/or physical distress on them. No, I’m not a sadist! But, writing in this manner is a great release of frustrations in my own life. I find it very cathartic and liberating. However, it is also rewarding to let some bad guys find redemption and become someone who is forgiven, loved, or even a savior of the protagonist. Either scenario, letting the bad guy stay bad and resolve the issues encountered with tragedy or letting him or her change and resolve the story in a more positive note make for writing that is captivating.

And if it makes for a best seller, all the better!

Until next time . . .

Memorable Characters?

I love books, tv shows, and movies that develop characters that I can relate to one way or another.

Even characters from different centuries have the same basic needs as we do. Use that to make relatable characters.

Even characters from different centuries have the same basic needs as we do. Use that to make relatable characters.

As humans we love knowing we’re not alone. Seeing someone in a situation similar to one we’ve experienced, or in one that we’re glad not to be experiencing, helps us to develop empathy for the character. When we connect in such a manner, then most anything that happens in the story becomes interesting as we become eager to see how that character responds, or even survives.

In Against Their Will, I tried to make the characters human as we all are while instilling thrills, suspense and even some dreams into the equation. Who wouldn’t want to have success in Hollywood and garner fame and fortune from doing something one is driven and loves to do? Who wouldn’t want to have a charming and attractive hunk seek us out and devote his resources to saving (us) our female character?

So, I wrote about the things I like in a story! Fast paced, suspenseful, a little romance tossed in and the fear and rapid heart-beat of not knowing who or what is after our protagonists.

Lynn McCane is a strong-willed but beaten up reporter who has had more than her fair share of hard knocks tossed her way. She’s fighting to survive in more ways than one. Don’t we all? Matt Grayson is riding the rocket to blazing stardom and yet, he’s most concerned with the more important things in life, family, legacy and ultimately love.

Oh, I know a lot of this is wishful thinking; to have these things in life. But, I believe the human condition is made up of hope and looking for better things, and by giving these to the characters while putting them through the ringer is a way of capturing readers’ attention.

Not everyone likes this kind of story. I get that. But, the process of building characters so they can be related to, appreciated, sympathized with, and even hated, draws the readers’ emotions into the process and an emotional tie is hard to break.

My challenge to you, and to myself, is this; think hard and long about how you can make your characters relatable to your target audience. Not every audience will relate to your characters and we all like and are attracted to different personality types. So if one person doesn’t like your characters, it’s not the end of their world or yours. It just means that person does not represent the target audience you want to write for. And that is okay!

What can Book Clubs do for you?

Books of every genre can be promoted at a book club.

Books of every genre can be promoted at a book club.

Many of you may belong to book clubs, others may have utilized their exposure to boost name recognition and sales.

I recently made myself available to book clubs as a speaker and guest. It remains to be seen how profitable this will be (not just in sales made, but in gaining more exposure to future readers), but regardless, I think it will produce some helpful insight in how readers look for books, how they digest them and what they are looking for in a book.

I know, I know, we’re creative types, but business intrudes into our fantasy world, especially if we want to keep creating those fantasies for others to read. So, I feel this is a viable tool to help us research hot topics, see what is “happening” with readers as well as get a little much needed recognition.

Most of all, I would love to hear from others about his or her experiences in dealing with book clubs. Do you feel it is worth the time or effort? What did you find to be the best or the worst experiences?

Thanks for your insight!

Happy reading and writing!
http://bookclubreading.com/against-their-will/

 

Books waiting to be autographed.

Books waiting to be autographed.

Winter’s cold or Frigid air with swirls of frosty breath that left ice crystals on his beard that soon became icicles – Huh?

As I write this, it is spitting out the first winter precipitation for our area (North Carolina Piedmont). We tend to get overly excited over just one flake or ice pellet. The bread flies off the grocery store shelves with just a hint of winter in the forecast. Milk is equally in high demand. We all learned that lesson several years ago when we had a whopper snow that kept all of us in our homes for ten days.

A rare event in NC - enough to clear grocery store shelves!

A rare event in NC – enough to clear grocery store shelves!

Okay, I know all of you who live in colder climates are laughing at us. And believe me, even we who are snow starved cried in sympathy with the folks in Buffalo over the excess snow they had earlier this season. Too much of anything is bad, just as is too little. Which brings me to my point; what does this have to do with writing?

I recently read an excellent blog about the proper amount of description to use when developing a story, characters, or setting. There were points made on both sides of the issue; all of them valid.

For me, less is more. I believe in the reader’s ability to fill in the details according to their take on the written word. Now, I’m not talking basics here. We all need to know the character’s sex, age, location setting, and basic personality traits. But beyond that, what is needed?

There is a very prolific author whose stories I enjoy. But, I’ve noticed that in more recent books, some of the descriptions are overkill; way too many words to describe a relatively unimportant action, or trait. And that is when I start skipping pages to get on to the meat of the story.

There is another prolific author that I also enjoy reading and this person has a skill I truly admire; that of minimal description. With one or two words, this author paints a complete picture that I can not only see in my head, but feel as if I know the character or scene in question.

So, which way should an author go to be successful in writing? My preference is obvious. But, what about yours? Next time I will discuss some ideas about developing one’s descriptive skills. Meanwhile, I hope each and every one of you has the best Christmas holiday ever and a New Year filled with the best of the best of God’s blessings!

Distorted Words

Distorted thinking. Most people hear this term and think some type of mental dysfunction is at play. But in reality, we all are affected by distortion in our lives.

These windows distort the light, so images cannot appear true when viewed through this distorted lens.

These windows distort the light, so images cannot appear true when viewed through this distorted lens.

We get so used to it, however, that after a while, we don’t see it or even notice it.

So, what does this have to do with writing? First of all, when writing, it is very easy to “get lost” in the story, the characters or even the setting. We see our work as “complete” when in reality it may be missing key pieces, such as words, punctuation, or even information that was intended to be included but left out.

Writing distortion can happen to anyone. You don’t have to be a new writer to suffer from it. In fact, seasoned writers may be more prone to distortion since they have developed a routine of writing that causes the brain to develop a picture of what is perceived and therefore makes it harder to detach from that picture and actually see missing words or words that are out of place.

It is frustrating to read works that are well thought out, executed and meaningful only to see the word that should have been deleted, or is the wrong tense, or uses the wrong “two” instead of the correct “too” glaring at you. It’s like an email you get that tells you “your” going to love whatever it is they are selling. Instead, most likely “you’re” going to by-pass that message, dismissing it because of the glaring mis-use of a word. I could just scream!

I recently read an excellent, fast-paced, and thrilling novel. It was truly one that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The problem? I lost count after finding thirty-five “distortions” (words missing or unnecessary, ones that made no sense, or had the wrong spelling) in the first chapter alone. I enjoyed the book but let the author know that a good and thorough copy edit was needed.

And this brings up the whole point of editing. We all need it! We need someone other than ourselves to carefully read through and check for these types of mistakes. In this day and age of computers, spell checks and even predictive text, it is easier than ever to overlook these distorted words.  It happens to every writer.

Yeah, I know. Not every writer can afford a professional edit. But the truth is, even if you get picked up by a traditional publisher, most authors, unless already well known, are responsible for the edit. So, how does a writer deal with such things?

Get a friend to read your manuscript. Be open to any suggestions made. If you have a friend who teaches or is a big reader; especially of the genre you are writing, even better. Again, it may not be the high priced edit, but it will help you get your work to the place you want it to be.

Another option is to put your manuscript in a drawer or somewhere that it won’t constantly remind you of its presence. This only works if deadlines are not in play! After your work has aged appropriately, pull it out and savor your words. Look at each one slowly and without haste. Judge it as if it is a fine wine that only gets better with time. Imperfections will show up easier and you won’t be as likely to overlook them. Even with this route, it is still a great idea to have another person read it, preferably someone who did not read it earlier.

None of us is perfect and that will never change. We can work to be the best we can be, with each attempt improving us and our talent. Even though we all know we won’t achieve perfection, we can reach for this goal and that makes for work that is worth attention, good, positive attention. We want to be noticed, but for all the right reasons.

Go grab that glass of wine. Swirl it about your glass. Notice the fine details. Consider how the meniscus marks the side of the glass. Study the clarity of the liquid. Inhale the vapors and savor the aroma. Don’t be afraid of age, both in the wine and in your work. Both can produce an even better product. Cheers!

How Not to Write a Book

Off chasing yet another tangent

Off chasing yet another tangent

From time to time I am asked where did I get the inspiration for and how did I plot Against Their Will. The answer is one that often surprises people, especially those who are preparing to write their own books. I simply started with a couple of people I could visualize, adapted a real life event in my own life and inserted them into it. After that event concluded, I had no idea where the book was going next or where it would end up. I just had two characters who had experienced a cataclysmic event in their lives. For those organized and perhaps anal writers, this is not the way to start! But, I will admit, I am a free-thinker, and being creative, I don’t want to be “boxed in” by parameters, especially those set by others. My husband often accuses me of deliberately doing the opposite of what I am told to do, just because I can. And, I do! It drives him crazy, but I’m happy.

When I started on my first novel (long since buried in the trash can), I wrote what I liked to read. I still do. Reading a variety of other works, and a good dose of those that fall into the same genre as what I am writing in, helps me to develop my own voice and style. This initially didn’t help me with the plotting conundrum, but as I have learned to step back and analyze my work, what I learn from other writers makes a big contribution to my own development. I’m not advocating any kind of plagiarism, but rather the studying the styles and methods of successful writers is a way, especially for new writers but also more experienced ones, to see the types of things that work and those that don’t work. .

Because I love thrillers and suspense novels and those are the books I want to write, I asked myself what could I do next to surprise the reader. Nineteen chapters and one prologue later, my novel was born.

Despite the challenge and fun of creating a story in this manner, I would never suggest to another author to use this method. Using an outline as a skeleton and then adding “meat” to it would be my preferred method. However, I am the kind of author that gets “lost” in the created world I am developing and it is just more fun to let the tangents rule and follow their trails in unknown directions. A pre-defined story map is often limiting to those of us who let their creative sides trump the more structured side of their writing minds.

One big set-back to the tangent writing style is the fact that it can get complicated keeping the story straight. This caused a lot of re-writes and edits in my case. It also necessitated a content edit to be sure all the dangling events were tied together and resolved.

Although I still utilize the Tangent Style of writing in my other books, I have incorporated a new method to help me focus. That is, I write the ending just as soon as I have the opening scene completed. This gives me a “finish line” or goal to achieve and helps to keep my wandering ways in check. It also helps when I get “stuck” or blocked. I re-read the ending and visualize what the characters would have had to do to get to that point. Soon after, the creative juices get flowing again and my fingers are tapping away on the keyboard.