Monday, November 25, 2013

GIVING THANKS FOR MICHAEL PALMER


We lost a member of our ITW family on October 30 when medical thriller writer and human being extraordinaire Dr. Michael Palmer passed away. On this day of Thanksgiving, the staff of "The Thrill Begins" wants to express our gratitude for this amazing man and our appreciation of you, our readers, by sharing Michael’s wisdom and his encouragement to be fearless. 


We’re honored that Daniel Palmer, Michael's son and author of STOLEN, introduces not only his father's words, but the man behind those words. 

                                                             Wishing you all a HappyThanksgiving!
                                                                   The Staff of “The Thrill Begins” 

My father, Michael Palmer, derived endless pleasure from helping and mentoring new writers. When he was getting started in the business, many well-established writers gave him a blurb for his first novel, THE SISTERHOOD. He vowed never to refuse a blurb request from any up-and-coming author, and as a result, he often had little time to read books of his own choosing. During the days and weeks following his death, I received numerous emails and letters from fellow writers he had mentored who commended my father’s generous spirit. Each noted how my dad took a special interest in their work. How was it possible one man could give so freely of his time without diluting the results? He was constructive without being critical. He was patient because that was his nature. As busy as he was, my dad took the time to listen and help. He was truly a giving person, and for this so many others were thankful. Dad’s first passion (outside of his family) was medicine. And if anything, my father was a true healer. He could mend an arm with the same deft skill he could tackle a clunky piece of prose. I hope you’ll take the guiding principles about writing my father outlined in this previously published piece to heart. But also you should know that his outlook on life came down to four even more important guiding principles.  1) You can only do what you can do. 2) Live one day at a time. 3) Never go around comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides. 4) Being a good person supersedes everything else. 


By Michael Palmer
BE FEARLESS


Before I get started, let me explain the way I write when I am communicating with friends...

It’s like this—thoughts with no particular syntax or attention to punctuation...lots of ellipses...One of the reasons for doing this is that I can only type with 2 fingers...think of it—19 books with all the rewrites…20 if you count the one that has never been published in English (6 foreign translations, though) and all of it done with these two fingers...my first 2 books were done on a manual Olivetti, the third on an electric smith corona, and the next two on a Kay-Pro, the 30 pound “portable” 9” green screen so-called writer’s computer…After that it’s been Mac all the way…I go for easy… 

No wonder I needed to have a carpal tunnel release 2 years ago…great operation, by the way, for anyone who needs it…write me for the name of my doc at MGH… 

There is more than laziness to my blogging this way…this is how I write when I’m figuring things out or am trying to break my way out of creator’s block…writing is easy—making up what to write, not so easy…so I call it creator’s block, and writing like this is the way I handle it. 

So, here are some rambling thoughts for you as they pop into my head—thoughts accumulated over 34 years (I first tried my hand at this in November, 1978 and sold my first book as an 80-page outline in 1980 for what was at the time, the largest advance ever paid to a fiction writer who had never published a book -- $250,000… amazing) …for some of my writing story, check out the bio on www.michaelpalmerbooks.com) … 

My two guiding principles in this business are never to forget that (1) THIS IS HARD and (2) BE FEARLESS… 

It is so hard that I can never believe how many authors actually finish books—good or stinky, published or not…I don’t think I ever would have tried if I didn’t have a nice fall-back job behind me—namely: physician…talk about a safety net…my two biggest assets are my always wild imagination, and my discipline…

Wanna know if you have the discipline it takes to write a novel?—take organic chemistry…as for the second guiding principal, that’s what it’s all about—you (me) must get rid of the fear of sounding stupid and also of being rejected…write first, worry later…

And be careful about reading your stuff over when you are tired…not much of anything reads un-stupid when you’re exhausted…of course, we’re all always exhausted, so the state is relative…any questions, read your stuff out loud (I do that all the time, and when I’ve finished a book, I actually pay my son Daniel (a terrific writer, now finishing his 4th thriller, and doing well with STOLEN, his third) to read it out loud with me… 

I write almost every chance I get…usually I write six days a week with a goal of like three to five pages a day…

HOWEVER, perhaps the third guiding principle is never to be too hard on myself…if I do two hours and only one page and can’t do any more for whatever reason, then I walk away…

But remember what I wrote about discipline…discipline is doing it when you don’t want to…you must know yourself to know when it’s time to stop…I used to be driven to do another hour in organic by seeing other pre-meds sitting there in the library with their noses in that humongous to me…I just now put on some music for a while…anything to make it easier…I love the 150 or so tunes on my iTunes and know them so well, they are like white noise most of the time…at the moment it’s Richard Cory by S&G…what a great song…

Brings up my 4th guiding principle…never if you can help it, I mean NEVER go around comparing your insides (or writing) to other people’s outsides…it takes practice and reminders, but it will make a hell of a difference in your writing and your life…need reinforcement about this, get Richard Cory from the sounds of silence album and put it on your iTunes…

Everyone wants to be an overnight wonder in this business…I never even thought about that and damn if I didn’t luck out with The Sisterhood…but life and the book business was different then…it was more personal and less crowded, it moved slower and there were amazingly talented and imaginative people in the publishing world whose job it was to make me a success…there are still such people, but the industry can’t pay enough to keep them…

Now I watch what son Daniel is going through and I ache for him…he’s good—really good, actually…but there are just so many people writing, and so many publishers throwing books up against the wall searching for the next girl with the dragon tattoo, and then deserting the author when the book doesn’t immediately make it…computer-generated sales figures are the enemy in that regard…

There are e-books flooding the market, and amazon, and nook, and blogs and conferences and speaking opportunities from organizations looking for “free” entertainment and program fillers…you can’t imagine how many ARCs I get every month searching for blurbs…believe it or not, Daniel’s older brother Matthew just got a great 6-figure, 2-book deal from Putnam…he’s got a great “fall-back” job as I did…so I don’t ache for what he’s in for as much as I do for the full-time writers who have no other source of income… 

That brings me to the last thought I want to blog about here…publicity and marketing…new writers often ask me: okay, my book is coming out next march, now what can I do to get people to read it?? …they never like my answer, which is that the most effective thing they can do is to write another book…

It wasn’t like that in the old days…I was on good morning America and today and Larry King (several times) and many other shows…I had reviews in tons of newspapers (some of those papers still exist and some of those actually still review books—but a continuously shrinking number) …I did dozens and dozens of my favorite media—talk radio, and dozens of shows like good morning Cleveland and good morning Pittsburgh, many of which if not most have gone the way of the dodo bird…

So what’s left? …here’s sort of an amalgam of what I’ve learned from my experience and Daniel’s and others and what I will be passing on to Matthew (who is too busy working for the state department to go out and hock his book anyway) …

First of all, get a web site and keep it up…get lots of business cards made that are eye-catching and list your site (www.VISTAprint.com)…..give one to whoever will take it…make it informative and imaginative…people love the writers’ tips on my web site, even though I don’t have time to update them…TV and radio appearances probably help…TV lots…newspaper ads—who knows? …no one really seems to know about ads, even big ones like the full pagers I have had in the NY Times…

Social media may actually help, but only if you really work at it…contests, frequent postings, Facebook ads to increase numbers on your “fan page” …what about hiring a pro?? I REALLY DON’T KNOW…

I would go social media pro rather than media unless you have a real hook that would appeal to TV or Glenn Beck or someone…Daniel does social media himself, but he spends time on it, and of course when you’re doing anything that isn’t writing, you’re not writing…make that guiding principal #6 or whatever number I’m on… 

Speaking of which, even though this is fun and relaxing and easy for me, as well as being gratifying because I love to help new writers, while I’m doing it, I’m not working on my new book, RESISTANT … so… 

POLITICAL SUICIDE:
Dr. Lou Welcome, from Palmer's bestselling Oath of Office, is back. A desperate phone call embroils Lou in scandal and murder involving Dr. Gary McHugh, known around the Capital as the “society doc.” Lou has been supervising McHugh, formerly a black-out drinker, through his work with the Physician Wellness Office.  McHugh has been very cavalier about his recovery, barely attending AA and refusing a sponsor. But Lou sees progress, and the two men are becoming friends. Now, McHugh has been found unconscious in his wrecked car after visiting a patient of his, the powerful Congressman Elias Colston, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Soon after McHugh awakens in the hospital ER, Colston's wife returns home to find her husband shot dead in their garage. She then admits to the police that she had just broken off a long-standing affair with McHugh. Something about McHugh's story has Lou believing he is telling the truth, that the Congressman was dead when he arrived and before he blacked out. Lou agrees to look into matters, but when he encounters motive, method and opportunity he is hard pressed to believe in his friend—that is until a deadly high-level conspiracy begins to unravel, and Lou acquires information that makes him the next target.




BIO:  Michael Palmer was the author of nineteen novels of medical suspense, all international bestsellers, and an associate director of the Massachusetts Medical Society Physical Health Services, devoted to helping physicians sidelined by mental illness, physical illness, behavioral issues, and chemical dependency. His books have been translated into thirty-five languages. His twentieth novel, Resistant, will be released in May, 2014. You may read more about Michael at www.michaelpalmerbooks.com.

5 comments:

jenny milchman said...

These fearless words preserved here are worth giving thanks for. Every time I hear from or about Michael Palmer, I learn what a gift his life was to so many. I'm proud to see him here on The Thrill Begins, and hear from his son, Daniel.

earlwstaggs said...


Good down to earth, common sense,advice here, Jenny. Thanks for sharing this. I wish I could have met him.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Wow! Outstanding advice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thank you thank you thank you... dear Micael, we miss you. And Daniel--you are such a joy.

Terry said...

Thanks for posting, Daniel. Your dad is a treasure and will continue to inspire the hearts of writers and fire the mind of readers for decades to come!