f2632c43ce8bb590d6a191dc6e010b66I just finished reading The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell and found it very useful. How do I know? I made a lot of notes to follow up on.

This is a book for magazine writers, which I don’t come across too often. It takes you through the entire gamut of the magazine writing business from breaking in to collecting on unpaid invoices. It is also easy to understand, which allows you to get more from the book.

The format of the book was very easy to follow. You have chapters that group “rules” by subject. I guess the rules could be classified as the consensus thinking. I think if I had to define it idea behind the book is that there’s no one right way to do things. The authors list each rule that should be broken and why it can be broken. They also include plenty of anecdotal stories to illustrate their points, too.

I found that even when I didn’t agree with breaking the rule, the explanation often had me seeing how breaking the rule could be useful. Sometimes, I even changed my mind about breaking the rule.

In between each chapter, there’s a profile on a renegade writer. I didn’t find these particularly interesting, but I can see how some writers might find it useful. You can look at these profiles as rule breaking in action.

As I said, I bookmarked quite a few rules to follow up on and decide if I wanted to try breaking them. I may be too set in my ways to change on some things and other things are working fine for me without breaking the rule.

What I found amusing when I read is how many rules I am apparently already breaking in my magazine writing work. I didn’t think about these things being rules when I started freelancing. They were simply changes I made because they worked.

That’s what this book does well. It causes the writer to think about why they are doing something. If you can defend why you are doing with something other than that’s the way it’s done, then it is probably a rule you shouldn’t break. If you are only conducting your freelancing in a certain way because that’s what you were taught, then maybe you should try breaking a rule or two to see if it jumpstarts your business.



Besides being a veteran, the subject of my new book is an artist and sculptor. This is a panel from his illustrated diary of his time at Guadalcanal.

I am still trying to get my head around an interview I conducted this afternoon. It was the first of what will probably be many as I start working on a biography of a WWII veteran. There’s so much information to take in and digest that it’s overwhelming me at the moment. I need to digest what he told me and start to shape how I want to present his story. I’m looking at a few different directions that don’t seem like they would connect—World War II, Civil War, Art. Yet, they all do connect with this man.

I want to do this man’s story justice. I think it is pretty interesting. This is the first time that I’ve worked on a true biography. Saving Shallmar was sort of a biography about a coal town. This book will be a biography about a living WWII veteran. There’s fewer and fewer of them left, and I want to be able to tell his story so that others will know what he did long after he is gone.

Right now, if I’m honest, I’m a bit intimidated by task I’ve set for myself. I’m at the bottom of a very tall mountain looking up and hoping I can find the trail that gets me to the peak.

My Amazon bestseller made me nothing..

via My Amazon bestseller made me nothing..

confused-boy-with-books1I could use some feedback on a new project I’ve got going.

I decided to expand a short e-book I did a couple years ago into a full-length book. Should I keep the same title?

I’ve seen this done before in the past with other authors when they have expanded a short story into a novel. Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is an example of this.

However, in that situation, the short story was in a magazine and so when the novel came out, it was obviously an expanded work. That won’t be the case with an e-book. I don’t want the people who purchased the short e-book to think it is the same thing as the longer, more-expensive book.

Would having a new cover be enough?

Should I put something on the cover or in the book description that says that the new book is expanded upon the shorter work?

I could change the title, but I like the original title and I think it captures the story of the book.

So what are your thoughts?



My writer’s group talked about query letters last week. This is a nice blog that I wish I had had in hand for the meeting. It has good advice from someone working as an agent.

Originally posted on The Blabbermouth Blog:

detective21. Submissions for genres I don’t represent

I know you think I’m cool (I’m really not). Or you read something about me that makes you think I’d be the perfect person to have as an agent. But the truth is that if I don’t read and represent the kind of book that you wrote, I’m just going to reject your query. I’m not really sorry about that either. You see, when you have an agent you want them to totally love your work, to get it, to be able to make editorial suggestions to you because you’re on the same page and to go to the ends of the earth to sell it. When someone sends me a thriller, a horror story, paranormal romance, a mystery, I just want to get on a bus, go to their house and shake them! Look on my agency website or this blog to…

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the-old-man-and-the-seaHidden meaning behind writing has always been a pet peeve of mine. It started for me when I read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway in high school. I enjoyed the book. It was certainly better than Heart of Darkness and Siddhartha.

However, after the class finished reading it, the teacher started dissecting it for us with themes and symbolism. The teacher made it sound like Hemingway had been trying to rewrite the New Testament. Suddenly, the book wasn’t as enjoyable for me. Instead of being something that I could read and feel, it became something that needed to be examined and picked apart.

Why do that? What did the symbolism matter? In many cases, it is only a figment of reader’s imagination as this article in Mental Floss shows.

In 1963, a 16-year-old student who had probably been faced with the same thing I had been in an English class decided to go straight to the source. He wrote 150 novelists and asked them if they intentionally put symbolism in their books. A dozen of the authors responded.

Some of the responses are humorous, but my favorite one is Isaac Asimov’s reply. When asked if he intentionally put symbolism in his books, he replied, “Consciously? Heavens, no! Unconsciously? How can one avoid it?”

An author takes in lots of different information that churns around in his or her subconscious to emerge as a story. It’s the resulting mixture that is important. However, if an author starts thinking about planting symbolism, then it becomes forced and obvious (Think: Movies with a message).

While a book may have symbolism in it, it may differ from person to person depending on their own life experiences. In my high situation, my teacher could tell me what he saw, but that doesn’t mean that I saw and having him point it out to me, changed the story for me.

Are the colors, brush strokes and subject matter that an artist chooses so important? Or is it the way a painting makes you feel?

Read. Experience. Enjoy.

I’m a full-time freelance writer. That means that I have two or three articles due each week and I work with a variety of editors who don’t really care that I have other deadlines. They are only concerned that I meet their deadlines.

Trying to do this week after week can be daunting if you don’t develop coping mechanisms and prepare yourself.

Here are some tips that I use to meet my deadlines without losing my mind.

Break down each project to smaller pieces. For instance, when I’m writing an article, there’s research, interviewing, writing and final preparation that needs to be done. I use daily “to do” lists, so I can list a small piece of each article on the list and accomplish something for each project daily. It keeps each project moving forward.

  1. Set mini-deadlines. Using the smaller pieces for each article, I set dates to have each piece completed by so that I can complete the entire project with time to spare before the entire project is due.
  2. Build in extra time. When setting those mini-deadlines, I plan it out so that I am finished the project a few days before the entire project. This buffer time allows me time to fine tune a project or deal with any unexpected delays such as not being able to get a hold of someone I need to interview.
  3. Don’t take on too much. As Dirty Harry used to say, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Know what you have due around the same time each new projects you might take on would be due. Know how productive you are and what your general schedule is. There’s only so much you can do no matter how prepared you are so make sure you know how much you can handle before you take on a project.
  4. Go with the flow. While having little deadlines is nice organizational tool, if you find yourself in the zone with a project, don’t worry about the deadline. Just keep writing. You can adjust your deadlines later.

Juggling multiple deadlines can be tiring, but it can be done. The more deadlines you have, though, the more organized you will need to be.



10550837_892137040815989_4726715983921528619_nLuckily, I don’t know if any of my books or articles has ever been plagiarized. Maybe that means my writing isn’t good enough to be copied.

I have been accused of plagiarizing myself, though. I tried pointing out that plagiarism involves copying another person’s work without permission. Not only was I not another person, I gave myself permission to use part of another of articles in a different article.

Some writers have had to deal with much worse. Rachel Ann Nunes writes romantic fiction. It’s not a genre that I read, but I’ve met Rachel at a writer’s conference where I spoke. She’s a nice woman and definitely didn’t deserve to have one of her older books copied in many cases verbatim. To make matters worse, rather than apologize and try to make amends, the offending author went on the attack, making accusations against Nunes and posting poor reviews of her book.

It’s a scary story to read, much more so because it’s true. I’ve included the link to the extensive blog post that Nunes wrote that details the entire story. Take a few minutes and read through it. If you feel moved to do so, leave Nunes a word of support and encouragement in the comments.

She deserves it for having to put up with all of this.



When I started out as a writer, rejection letters were commonplace and usually they were simply form letters. I got a sense of dread seeing them arrive in the mail. I didn’t want to read them, but I had to see if it was a rejection or acceptance.

I knew my writing was starting to get better when the editors started adding little notes to the rejection letters like “Almost” or “Keep trying”. Then the rejection letters started becoming specific to my submission.

Finally, I started getting those treasured acceptance letters. Nowadays, I get more acceptances than rejections and I even get editors asking me to take on assignment.

That doesn’t mean that I still don’t get rejection letters. They don’t bother me, though. I’ve developed ways of dealing with them over the years that work well at keeping me focused on the positive.


Keep things in the mail

When I started writing, I would send out a short story and then wait for three months before I heard back a rejection. I spent those months wondering and worrying about what the editor was going to say.

After I had a few stories written, I got into the habit of not worrying about the stories that were in the mail but finding markets for the new stories that I was writing.

As soon as a story would come back in the mail, I would simply send it back out to the next market. By not having to focus on the rejection and let it get to me, I started focusing on the future and finding new markets. With dozen of queries in the mail at any one time, I don’t have time to focus on a single rejection.


Have a list of markets

After I send a story out to the magazine I most wanted to see it published in, I would create a list of additional markets. When I would get a rejection letter, I would simply prepare the story for the next market on my list.

By keeping a list of my top five or ten markets, I didn’t have to look at an unsold story sitting on my desk.

I always have a new market to send my stories to so I don’t worry about a rejection.


Enjoy positive comments

When you do start getting personalized comments on your rejection letters or even personalized rejections, pay attention to the comments. Some of them can help you improve your writing. If the comments are positive, enjoy them. Let them inspire you to write more and write better.

If an editor is interested enough to write you something personal, it means that he or she is interested in your writing. It is a market worth trying again.


Keep writing to remind you why you do it

Don’t let an editor’s opinion make you doubt your writing ability. Write because you love it and want to do it. Keep at it. This is probably the best way to keep from feeling down because of rejection. Write because you love it. Write because you want to do better.


My internet went out on me this week. Well, it didn’t actual go out as much as it was cut out. Literally. A township crew doing some work on the street in front of my house cut through the cable running internet service to my house and a few of my neighbors. I’m not sure how badly my neighbors were affected, but it killed my productivity during the day. I tried shifting some of my work around to do non-internet projects, but I was still left without e-mail. It was very frustrating and it made me realize just how dependent I am on the internet. I market my books, communicate with people, research projects and more on the internet. Without it, working from home just becomes sitting at home.

That dependency made me nervous when I read a Washington Post article about how a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe because it would have fried anything plugged into an outlet.

The internet is a great thing. It has made me more productive and allowed me to pursue my dream of writing full time, but it has also made me dependent on it being available. I’m like the puppet and the internet is my strings. If the strings are cut, I can’t do much.


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