Beating the Holiday Blues

Recently, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Dr. Scott Zentner and Dr. Scott Shelby of Family Solutions Counseling in Monroe, Louisiana. The first interview in October covered information about our book, “Hope Again: A Lifetime Plan for Conquering Depression” by Mark Sutton and Bruce Hennigan. Much to my surprise, they asked me back for an interview in early December. We talked at length about depression and anxiety during the holidays.

We had a lively and wide ranging discussion.

Here is the link to the page with both interviews at our website.

If you are suffering from depression and anxiety and need help, check out our book at and more in depth information at for help during and after the holidays. We have a special on where you can order a copy of the book and a set of deluxe LifeFilters for only $20.

Mark and I hope and pray you have a peaceful, joyful and hopeful holiday! Be sure and listen to the interviews, especially the second interview about the “Holiday Blues”.

Check Out These Books for Christmas!

For the holiday season I have some suggestions of books that might fill the stocking, or at least, the memory on your reading device.

First up, one of my favorite books I have written. If you like sentimental nostalgic stories like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or “White Christmas” you would enjoy my novel, “The Homecoming Tree”. In 2005 I wrote and directed a play based on my parents’ lives at the beginning of World War II. The play was well received and told the story of a family running a boarding house in Shreveport, Louisiana. The story begins on Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Eve, 1941. After the play, I decided to rewrite the story a bit and a new version of the play has never been performed. Instead, I took the story into novel format and the main character is a modern businessman who finds himself sent back to 1941. Suffering from amnesia, he learns powerful lessons from “The Greatest Generation”. Reviews for the book have been very positive and I just uploaded a newly edited version that took care of some minor typos. I hope you enjoy, “The Homecoming Tree”.

Secondly, my two latest books take place at Christmas.

“Shadow Merchant” is a very different story for me to tell but it hits close to home. The main character is a radiologist who finds himself the target of a homicide investigation. To clear his name he becomes a consultant to the local medical examiner as a “forensic radiologist”. As the story unfolds, his problems worsen when he finds himself entangled in an international conspiracy and the target of an assassin. Tense and fast moving, “The Shadow Merchant” brings the world of radiology out of the “shadows”.

The 9th book in “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel” will be a crowd pleaser for my readers who have followed Jonathan’s story from the prequel, “Death By Darwin” through the subsequent eight books. We finally learn most of Jonathan’s hidden secrets when he recovers his memory and relives the most painful time in his life, when he was put on trial for murdering a loved one. Featuring two demons, “The 4th Demon: The Trial of the 3rd Demon” begins the finale of Jonathan Steel’s story just in time for Christmas. And, I promise the final chapter will please my readers as Jonathan will finally find happiness. Well, sort of!

By the way, “Death By Darwin” also takes place at Christmas. Ruth Martinez, a rising star in a major Dallas, Texas law firm must defend someone caught in the act of murdering his boss over a conflict fueled by religion versus science. She must work with the mysterious Jonathan Steel as she investigates the death of Dr. Darwyn, head of a paleontology institute where a deadly creature from the distant past threatens her life. The book culminates in a tense courtroom battle when God and creation are put on trial! This is officially a prequel to “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel” and introduces characters who show up in the last two books. A must read for anyone who has enjoyed the journey of Jonathan Steel.

My final suggestion is a book I spent about twenty years putting together. Based on many of the short dramas I wrote during my days as drama minister of Brookwood Baptist Church, “Our Darkness, His Light” shares the stories of the ordinary individuals surrounding the life of Jesus Christ. The book begins at the manger and ends on the road to Emmaus. This compilation was almost published long ago by a major publisher. My book went up against another book by a little known author of time, Max Lucado. Max won that contest and I couldn’t have been more please that I made it that far. Now, with new stories I have added over the years, I hope you will enjoy the tales of ordinary people in the most Extraordinary Story of all time.

All books are available through major outlets and you can learn more by going to .

Merry Christmas

Dr. Hugh Ross Live Dec. 6th

Join us at Brookwood Baptist Church on Tuesday Dec. 6th for a live Zoom meeting with the founder of Reasons to Believe. Dr. Hugh Ross will be discussing personal evangelism and his book, “Always Be Ready”. We have 50 copies of the book for the first 50 attendees. You can just show up or register at Brookwood Baptist Church website.

Christmas snacks will be available.

Also, there are only a few days left to support my daughter’s campaign for epilepsy awareness. Check out her tee shirt and hoodie designs.

Free Books!

Three weeks until Christmas!


First, there was some delay in the availability of my newest book on Amazon and other portals. The books are now available and if you cannot find them by doing a search for “The 4th Demon: The Trial of the 3rd Demon” then search under my name. Also, you can go to for links to the book. And you can go to my Author Central Page on Amazon to find the books, .


So here’s the deal. Charisma Media has ended their Realms imprint and returned the bulk of printed copies of “The 13th Demon” and “The 12th Demon” to me. Right now you can only buy used copies on Amazon so don’t do that! They will charge too much. And the ebooks are not available. I am working on combining these two books into the first volume of “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel” with new, additional material I was forced to eliminate by Charisma’s draconian editorial process. But that will be after the first of the year.

So I am giving away the first two books for free! That’s right! I have about 40 copies of each and I am bundling them together and will ship you both books for free. All you have to do is pay for shipping and handling fee of $10! This is a good way to introduce others to the world of Jonathan Steel. And, you can start ordering right now. Just go to this PayPal link and place your order. Note that I will be shipping BOTH books, not one or the other. If you already have a book, just give the other away. Again, I only have about 40 copies of each book so don’t delay. Note that the price will be listed as $1 because I have to put a price on the invoice and the shipping will be listed as $9 — link for purchasing the two books.


Now, to the other issue, my daughter’s tee shirts. If you have read my blog posts in the past, you are familiar with Casey and her life long battle with epilepsy. She has designed an “Epilepsy Warrior” tee shirt to raise money for epilepsy awareness and she will give the proceeds to the Epilepsy Foundation. We have sold about half of the minimal 50 shirts so far and have eight days left in the campaign. Go to and order a tee shirt, a hoodie, or a long sleeve tee shirt.

Thank you for supporting my writing and thank especially for supporting Casey’s efforts to raise epilepsy awareness!

Weigh Your Heart!

I was very depressed trying to watch a Hulu show, “The Patient”. If you made it through the entire series you know why. Dark, depressing, hopeless, filled with despair and the most subtly violent murders I’ve ever witnessed. I wanted to chain myself to a dark, basement bedroom floor by the end of the thing!

And watching the first part of that series changed my approach to writing. I’ve been working on the next two demons in my Chronicles of Jonathan Steel trying my best to keep them in separate books. That didn’t happen. The story of the 4th demon is so intertwined with the 3rd demon I had to combine the books for one LONG book. It will cost a bit more but that is because of the added cost of printing and producing the book by my distributor, Ingram.

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Another Long Year has Passed!

It’s been a while.

I swear, each year HAS to be better than the year preceding and that illusion lasts about a couple of weeks into the new year. I haven’t posted in FOREVER! Why?

My daughter, Casey, dozen’t mind me giving you an update. In February of 2022, she was evaluated at UT Houston Neurosurgery department for her epilepsy. She spent eight days in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit with some of the most phenomenal health care people in the world! The purpose was to wean her off her medication and to record via 24/7 EEG readings the location and nature of her seizures. It was very difficult for Casey and she ended up having multiple seizures on the last day. But the doctors saw what they needed.

After a couple of weeks of conference presentations the recommendation was for Casey to have deep brain stimulator lead placement. This consists of putting two wires on either side of the base of her brain and attaching them to a stimulating generator.

After watching a video of patients who had remarkable results Casey decided to proceed.

March came around and she had her surgery. We’re talking BRAIN surgery. You never want to think your child will have to have brain surgery! And I’m a doctor. I know too much!

But, she did remarkably well and had to wait six weeks of healing before turning the generator on.

May rolled around and the generator was turned on. The first week, she went five days without a seizure. She had been averaging about four to six a day. Of course, that did not last but she has had remarkable response so far.

July saw the second adjustment and then August and then October. With each adjustment she have seen tremendous improvement. But the intervening weeks saw us having to be more vigilant to document each seizure with a special cell phone and program. So our family has been very busy and I have been very preoccupied. 

Casey has designed a tee shirt to raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation and you can check it out at .

But this post is not about the past few months. It’s about the next book in the Jonathan Steel Series and the following post will give you all the details along with a new website featuring my books and the books of the other two authors published by Hope Again Books!


I have read so many X-rays over the past two years and three months of people afflicted with COVID. As a radiologist, I bear witness to the onset of COVID from the first variant to the most current. I’ve seen chests fill up with fluid and inflammation to the point of destroying the lungs. I have seen the Delta variant show up with florid, rapid onset pneumonia. I’ve seen the Omicron variants have not shown as much pneumonia and frankly, the past three months, I have been relieved as I interpreted Chest X-rays that did not show pneumonia at the outset.

My daughter has had some health challenges since November. These challenges were from new treatments for her epilepsy including brain surgery in March. Because of this, the three of us did not get booster shots. So it was with trepidation I went ahead with a trip to Disney World for our entire family: wife, daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren. This was a trip almost a year in planning. I read that in the past three weeks, COVID cases were on the increase along the east coast with the newest variant up almost 31% in Florida. Should I cancel our trip?


My son’s family had COVID around the first of the year. Both my son and daughter-in-law had booster vaccinations. But, because of my daughter’s surgery and trying to work out scheduled visits four hours away in Houston, the three of us never got around to it. After much thought, we went anyway. And we wore our masks. BUT, most of the people in Disney World were not wearing their masks. I should have been more careful.

Two days after arriving in Disney World with my son (we drove down 15 hours to avoid the cost of renting a van and three car seats) I started feeling weird is the only way to describe it. Now, I’m a physician and I’ve taken care of hundreds of patients in the past two years or so who had COVID and never had problems. By Tuesday night, I was having nasal congestion and it just didn’t feel like a regular cold.

Wednesday, I was a walking zombie is the only way to describe how I felt. I had no appetite. My taste and smell were fine. Wednesday night I began to choke on nasal secretions and I knew Thursday morning I had COVID. I had tested myself Wednesday and it was negative. Thursday morning, the little red line showed up at 3 minutes! You’re supposed to wait until 15 minutes to see a positive test.

I went to a local stand alone ER and they jumped all over me with intravenous steroids, monoclonal treatment, I.V. fluid, and a breathing treatment and put me on a Z Pack, steroid dose pack and an inhaler! I must admit about thirty minutes after the steroid and monoclonal infusion, I was feeling pretty spiffy.

Back to the room now in quarantine while the rest of my family enjoyed Disney World. I was pretty bummed out. Especially when my wife and daughter got sick Friday and tested positive for COVID. It was especially galling when my wife called me from the same ER because the doctor, a different one from the doctor I saw, was miffed at me that I had gotten their last dose of monoclonal infusion! I said I wasn’t the one who made the decision how to treat me. In fact, he told my wife and daughter to take over the counter medication. After talking to one of Casey’s health care providers, we opted for a conservative approach.

Fortunately, our symptoms were moderate. But the real problem arose. How were we to get home? My son and I were supposed to drop everyone off at the airport Saturday morning to fly home and he and I would drive the 15 hours home. Now, I had to buy him a ticket. Problem was, he had driven from Abilene to my house in Shreveport and this is where his car was located. He did this to deliver two car seats to take in my van. Sherry and my daughter had driven three hours to Dallas DFW Airport and parked in the long term parking to meet my daughter-in-law and three grandchildren driving three house from Abilene so they could all fly out together to Orlando.

Now how would we get the cars straightened out? It was obvious three of us would be driving back. We couldn’t fly with active COVID! So we set out Friday afternoon driving for home and left my son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They flew home safely Saturday and my sister-in-law was kind enough to drive my son’s car to Dallas to pass off to them and pick up my wife’s car and drive it home.

Bottom line: I don’t care what you think about masks. I don’t care what you think about vaccinations. All I know is I got COVID at Disney World and it ruined our long planned trip for my grandchildren’s first visit to Disney World. Did you read that? I GOT COVID AT DISNEY WORLD!! IT WAS NOT THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH!!

If you are going this summer, be careful! Don’t hesitate to get boosted. Don’t hesitate to wear a mask in large crowds. COVID is surging again and granted, it is the more contagious, but less deadly newest variant. But, if you get it, it will ruin you carefully planned trip. And, it may ruin your life!

Thank God, we only have mild symptoms so far. I am hoping and praying it stays that way. So BE CAREFUL! Don’t take this for granted. A little precaution can save your day. And, maybe your life!

Now for the humor. I told someone I had Disney COVID so every time I coughed I sounded like Sneezy (or Wheezy, or Croupy, or Grumpy). And I had a touch of gastrointestinal effects and lets just say driving for 9 hours on Saturday we had to stop way too often for me, Whiny the Poop! Sorry, too much information!

If you go, seriously, let me recommend:

Wear your mask in large crowds.
Wear your mask in any attraction line.
Wear your mask on all attractions.
Use the hand sanitizer every time you get on and off an attraction.
Wash your hands over and over in the bathrooms.
And, I recommend picking up a home COVID test the minute you get there or bring your own because the tests will be in short supply as this new surge peaks in Florida!

What is a “Shadow Merchant”?

A Jack Merchant Medical Mystery

The emergency room doctor had become a thorn in my side. He was demanding. He was demeaning. He was defensive. It was obvious to me he had suffered a painful experience with radiologists in his past practice. Pleasing the man was almost impossible. Every interpretation I gave him was insufficient. I was taking too long to report his ER cases. I was too vague in my reports. I was wrong with my diagnoses. You name it, he never appreciated my hard work.

As a radiologist, I was used to this kind of treatment. I’ve been in the business for almost 40 years and recall how poorly we were regarded at the beginning of my practice. Times have changed and radiologists are integral partners in patient diagnosis and treatment and we are accepted as equals by our colleagues in other specialities.

But that was not the case years ago with this emergency room physician. He sat in my office while I was going over the findings of a CAT scan of a patient’s abdomen and pelvis. He told me he was leaving our hospital for another practice. I was ecstatic but didn’t show it. In a rare moment of honesty he looked at me and said, “You know, I practiced in a military hospital before I came here. The radiologist there was not that proficient. That’s not a commentary on the military. Just a commentary on the person. Your group has done a good job while I’ve been here and I wanted to thank you before I left.”
I was stunned and he shook my hand. He stood up and before he walked out the door he said, “You’re the best of the shadow merchants in your group.”
“Shadow merchants?” I asked.
“Yeah. That’s what we call radiologists in the military. Shadow merchants. You live in the shadows and make a living by interpreting shadows on your films. Shadow merchants.” He walked out.

There is a suggestion for authors, write what you know.

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Getting Published, Marketing


When the book is released, this is when the real work begins.

Book Signing First Orlando Baptist Church

Social Media

Oh, my, but this is the hardest part for me. I’m not a spring chicken. I don’t follow Facebook or Meta or whatever it is called with regularity. I don’t tweet. I have an instagram account but I mainly look for recipes. I don’t Tik Tok or Snapchat or chit chat, etc.

But, if you want to sell books you’ve got to become an expert in all of these social media tools. In fact, you might want to consider paying someone to help you learn how to handle social media and I would once again point you to Joanna Penn’s site ““.


This is absolutely essential. And, there are many reliable services that will help you build a website. The decision point is whether to have just a blog from which you can link your books to Kindle, Nook, and Apple Books, for instance, OR an e-commerce site which you will have to handle. That means selling and shipping your books yourself. Either requires a LOT of work on a DAILY basis and a big commitment to fulfilling your promises.

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Getting Published: Independent


Now, here is where I am currently with my writing. Becoming an independent publisher is astonishingly easy. But, there are two very different pathways to follow. Technically, one pathway is not necessarily that of an independent publisher although you would be acting in that capacity. The second pathway requires you to establish yourself as an independent publisher. And, it’s not that hard!

First, I set up an LLC many years ago. This is not that expensive and it gives you protection from lawsuits. Your LLC can be sued but your personal assets cannot be touched, in theory. I recommend this first step to protect yourself. You can find out how to do this at multiple sites on the internet.

Second, I had to decided which one of those two directions to take. You can publish directly through Amazon and their publishing program. You can read all about it on Amazon. It is relatively simple process once you understand it. The downside is your book will be ebook format only unless you choose to pay extra for producing print copies.

The other format is Ingramspark ( Ingram is the largest book distributor in the world. Setting yourself up as an independent publisher with this entity is simple. Just go to their site and watch their tutorial. It costs nothing to set yourself up. The cost comes when uploading a book. Also, you can make your books returnable, which means a book store can order your print books and if they don’t sell, return them for their cost. As the publisher, you are given the choice of having those books then shipped to you at your cost or destroyed (at a cost). Either way, returnable books can be placed in brick and mortar stores if they choose. These stores will NEVER take a POD, strictly, print on demand, book that becomes THEIRS once it is printed. The Ingramspark model is still POD, but the books can be returned. No warehouse fees involved!

CAVEAT: ISBN numbers. They are essential for your books. Amazon will offer to supply you with an ISBN for a cost. Ingramspark will ask you to get these numbers before uploading a book for distribution. Go to to purchase ISBN numbers (I recommend in bulk as you will need a separate ISBN for your ebook and your print book).

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