Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ask a general surgeon!

If anyone has a question for a general surgeon (relating to surgery), now's your chance!

Rules: Confidentiality has to be preserved. No names (of patients) allowed.

I have general surgery experience in North America and in Africa. No surgery question is off limits, but I reserve the right to say, "I don't know."

Just ask your question in the comment section below.

Dr. Kraus

Monday, September 27, 2010

How much of you is in your characters?

I'm often asked this question about my protagonists. How much of you is in this character?

Hmmm. I have never modeled a character after myself, but a few similarities do exist.

Many of my protagonists are surgeons. I'm a surgeon, so when I'm thinking of stories, it is natural for me to think about cutters.

I find my characters drinking coffee. Often, they let the first cup drip straight into the mug they are holding. This is definitely a Kraus thing. In living in East Africa, I fell in love with Kenya's coffee beans. They are the best in the world. In my humble opinion, coffee should be enjoyed fresh after grinding the beans themselves and free of cream and sugar which disguise the taste (although if I was forced to drink lesser American brands, I might need something to help the tastebuds).

My characters love food. Hmmm. I do too.

Often my characters mirror my age. Not exactly, but I've noticed that as I've aged, so have my protagonists.

Sometimes my male protagonists exercise. But more likely my female protagonists do and I'd say that in this aspect, they reflect my better half, Kris, running-enthusiast that she is.

Often the settings I choose reflect where I live. When I wrote the Claire McCall series (beginning with the novel, Could I Have this Dance? I was living in the small town of Dayton, Virginia. I made up a small fictitious town that in my mind at least, was Dayton. In some of my more recent novels, I've chosen real locations that I know well, such as Richmond (The Six-Liter Club), Charlottesville (Perfect) or the Eastern Shore of Virginia (Salty Like Blood) where I spent a month as a med student. And of course, more and more, Africa is creeping into my writing and provided the framework for the backstory in my most recent release: The Six-Liter Club.

Concerning my protagonist's experiences, the rigors of my surgical residency provides many ideas that I slip into my books as the details that flavor my books with authenticity.

A tagline of my fiction is "grace from the cutting edge." God's grace is something that I've learned a lot about in the last decade and is to me the most precious of God's attributes. Because I am passionate about grace, I want all my protagonists to experience it too.

But concerning the conflicts, hard times, sin, and trouble....well, you have to realize that the conflict we don't want in our personal lives is the engine that drives good fiction.

If I ever write about a fifty year old, white-haired, balding, coffee-lovin', water-ski buff/ surgeon who is enamored by grace, I'll just have to call it an autobiography.

Harry Lee

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Turning 50

It's almost official. I'm turning fifty tomorrow. Nope, I'm not going to hide it. In fact, I kind of like it. They say fifty is the new forty. Sounds like something someone who hates getting older would say. What I say is that it arrived too fast and that it kind of just snuck up on me and whereas fifty used to sound ancient, now that I'm here, it doesn't really sound that old at all.

Evidently Hugh Grant (British actor) and I share the same birthday. He's turning 50 tomorrow too. Hope he's having the life he envisioned. I know my real life is much better than the one I imagined.
There are a few things about fifty that I don't enjoy, but I'll get to that later. For now, being an optimist, I'll dwell first on the positives.
Things that are great about fifty:
1. Experience in life. As a Christian, a father, husband, surgeon (and in almost any other category I can think of) the old adage, "Been there, done that" means I don't get scared much anymore. Advice for those of you seeking out a surgeon: pick one with some gray hair. I'm not sure how many times I've been asked to come into the O.R. by a surgeon of lesser age and experience to ask what I think. Just because the young buck has been recently trained doesn't mean you should trust your life to him or her. In surgery the hand is tipped in favor of the experienced. It's rare that I encounter something entirely new; almost always there is a few cases under my belt where I can pull helpful experience.
2. More stability from years of fiscal responsibility. I'm not rich by any means (the missionary life has certainly not paid off in dollars, huh?) but I've never been too lavish and that has made it easier to do things I think are of real value such as medical outreach in Africa.
3. My sons are getting older, taking care of more things themselves. What a joy to see them taking on more responsibility and becoming Christlike in servanthood and leadership. I still have one at home, but not for many more years and then I'll have even more freedom to travel.
4. I used to struggle with obsessive compulsive disease. As I've gotten older, I understand myself better, recognizing junk thoughts as just that and I don't freak out about them. Seems like the old OCD tends to burn out as we age.
5. Since many of my life's education goals have long been met, I can concentrate on a few other pursuits such as writing.
6. In the last decade, I've come to understand the divine concept of Grace a lot more. That makes life more enjoyable. I still struggle and mess up, but hopefully I don't stay down on myself as long as I used to.
7. Life experiences can be mined for lessons learned and illustrations that can help others along the way. I love to tell stories from life that can help others along the path. The older I get, the more I collect. This is where a not-so-perfect life comes in handy. If I goof up, hopefully at least I'll get a good sermon illustration.
8. With every life decision, you have more history to pull from to assist you in making choices based on right priorities. I've been down enough pathways to know which ones I want to take and a few I want to avoid.
9. With age and experience, I've come to a fresh place of knowing how needy for God I am. When you are young and full of yourself, pride just makes you stumble. I'm old enough to know I need grace every second.
10. With older sons, I can begin to relate more man to man, advising and standing clear to watch the results.

OK, what don't I like? It's harder to maintain my weight. My hair has turned white and is very thin up top, not the best situation for a guy named, "Harry." I have less years to be involved in Christian mission. My mind is slower than it used to be, names are more difficult to retrieve, and my hearing is less than perfect. On the bright side, I've recently trimmed off ten pounds and started an exercise program and still don't need reading glasses (good thing, one more thing to lose!).
Oh, yea, I almost forgot. I share my birthday with a very special man: my father. I was born on his 35th birthday. That means that he'll be 85 tomorrow when I turn 50. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Harry Lee