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I read an interesting article that made the case that readers can retain more of what they read if the publisher uses a different font. The suggestion is that a font that makes the reader work a little harder to comprehend it causes the brain to keep more.

A team at RMIT University in Australia came up with a new font called Sans Forgetica.

“Sans Forgetica is purposefully hard to decipher, forcing the reader to focus. One study found that students recalled 57 percent of what they read in Sans Forgetica, compared with 50 percent of the material in Arial, a significant difference,” according to the article on

Here’s an example of the font:


While you might retain more, can you read more with this font? Would you want to read an entire novel in this font? I don’t think I would? I was taught to use fonts that make it easier for the reader to continue reading.

So, it becomes simple math. If I can retain 50 percent of a 300-page novel set in Garamond or 57 percent of a 50-page report (because I can’t read the difficult font any longer), I’m keeping more with the easier font (150 pages vs. 29 pages). Granted, I’m pulling the reading length out of a hat, but you can get my drift.

If the font is harder to read, then I’ll read less even though I’ll retain more. The article notes the same problem with the font and says it should be used to highlight important information. This will work fine with a book that uses subheads and callout boxes, but what about a novel?

No help there.

Sans Forgetica is meant to be a visual version of an earworm (an eyeworm?). Something small that drills a piece of information into your head.

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college-students-in-lecture-hallOne thing I am doing this year to improve my writing is to take a class. This class is about writing the historical narrative. I’m hoping that it not only improves my nonfiction history writing but it will improve my research skills.

It feels odd taking a class. I can’t tell you the last time I took a class where I was expected to participate and do assignments. I’ve taken some online training courses, but those just required me to listen and absorb. I wasn’t required to participate.

I’ve been teaching classes in history and writing for years, but it is definitely a different feel being on the other side. Luckily, the class is only once a week so I have time to digest what each class is about and get the assignments complete. I have gotten no feedback from my instructor yet, but I will be curious to see how much work he says my work needs.

Depending on how well this goes, it will help me decide whether I’ll keep using this method to improve different aspects of my writing.

I have to say that I was leery going into this. This is because I have considered going back to college for my Master’s Degree. When this happens, I sit down and look at the costs of getting the degree versus what I can gain from of it. I wind up asking myself the question, “I’ve been a professional writer for 30 years. Has writing changed so much that it is worth tens of thousands of dollars to learn something new?”

The answer is “no.”

In fact, I have talked to some friends who have needed to earn a Master’s to advance in their work. The consensus among them is that they didn’t learn much that they didn’t already didn’t know from already working at the job.

This class was different. It’s a single class, so it’s not costing me an arm and a leg. The second reason I chose it was because I had been looking to improve my research skills to dig out more details on the stories I write.

So, I’m taking the plunge to become a student again. Have any of you returned to school years after graduating? What has your experience been with it?

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new-years-resolutionsHappy 2019! It’s a New Year, so what are planning on doing with your writing? My writer’s group will talk about our writing resolutions this week, I thought I would share mine on my blog just to have them in writing. It will give me something to refer back to if I start to wander.


I have five books that I would like to get out this year. One is already in layout so that will be no problem. One has the first draft complete. I am working hard to complete the first draft on another one, and two others have partial drafts.

I have a good start. Two of the books will definitely come out. The potential problem will be if I run into a snag trying to complete a decent first draft. It happens sometimes. The story just doesn’t come together on the page, and I get slowed down trying to fix the book, which pushes the projects that come after it behind.


I lost three of my newspaper columns last year. One newspaper was bought by a company that doesn’t want to use freelancers. Another newspaper got a new editor that decided not to continue the column and the third newspaper didn’t like that I became the editor of a magazine they consider the competition.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that newspaper columns don’t pay that well, so if I can replace that lost work with two decent paying magazine articles each month, it will more than make up the loss. That’s my goal.


I have signed up for an online history writing course to improve my writing skills. This is a first for me. I listen to podcasts and read books, but this 10-week course will have assignments that I need to complete. I can’t coast along. I will need to focus and get the job done.


I laid out a monthly marketing plan I wanted to try to implement this year. I will also sit down with an expert in websites and SEO marketing to try to improve my online platform.


It all comes down to selling more book. My goal is to increase my book sales by 20 percent and my ebook sales by 100 percent.

That may sound like a lot for ebook sales, but that is an area of my work I don’t feel I have tapped as well as I could.

So there you have it. That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish this year with my writing. What are your goals?

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winter-blues-snowmanI finished up my last event for the year, and now, for me, winter begins. It’s not only a season, but it’s also the time when my business slows down. It won’t pick up again until mid-March.

In some ways, this is a good thing for me. I catch up on writing projects so I’m on track to release the early books I have planned for the year. I have time to do more research for stories. I get all of my tax information together to fill out my taxes. I lay out plans for my broad-term marketing for the year.

On the whole, though, it’s a rough time for me. I don’t have as much income coming in. I have to tap into my business savings to make up shortfalls.

I’ve learned to plan for this period. I save up during my busy months to have income for this time. I put off certain projects knowing I will work on them during the winter.

It’s all part of being a full-time writer. For anyone planning on a writing career starting with the New Year, don’t let the slow start off put you. It’s typical and cyclical.

Things will get better, but then winter comes every year.

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book-panel-212Want to win a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas? There are 3 days left in my giveaway.

If you like reading e-books, I’m giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. This version is nicer than the old Kindle that I have. It’s waterproof. That makes it great to read at the ocean, near the pool, or in the tub. If you have ever tried to read your phone’s screen outside on a sunny day, you will appreciate the 300 ppi glare-free display. However, it also has a built-in light for nighttime reading. It’s not backlighting, so it won’t strain your eyes.

You can enter the giveaway daily, and the more you share it, the more chances you will have to win. So enter every day, share it on Facebook, and retweet it.


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14079603_10210778257032758_954325199517999867_nWhen you are an author trying to spread the word about your books, sometimes you have to do things that you might not want to do simply because the opportunity presents itself. Those opportunities may pay off or not. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell, and sometimes, it pays off quite well.

I had such an opportunity that past weekend. I was scheduled to be at an event that was new for me. I had paid my booth fee months ago, but as the time for the event drew closer, the temperature in the area started getting unseasonably cold. Rain was also in the forecast.

This was an outdoor Christmas bazaar, so I was dreading it. I have had more than one event get rain this year and knew that it would kill the crowds. Unseasonably cold temperatures would do the same thing. I really dithered about going, but finally decided that I had made the commitment so I would go.

I’m glad I did. The temperature turned out not to be nearly as bad as I thought it would be, or maybe all the layers of clothing that I was wearing kept me warm. It did rain for a few hours, but it wasn’t it hard, drenching rain.

Most importantly, I sold books. I did better than average in total sales for a day-long festival, and when I calculated my hourly rate after expenses, it turned out to be my third best show over the past three years.

I did not see that coming.

I’m looking forward to the show next year with better weather (hopefully) to see what will happen.

My point is, as many parents will also attest, you have to try something (and usually more than once) to know whether you will like it or not.

As writers, we need to try different ways to market, keep what works, and ditch what doesn’t. What works for one person, may not work for you, but it’s certainly worth trying.

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20181124_133149So I took a long weekend off after Thanksgiving to go to Universal Studios in Florida with my family, and I actually took time off from work.

One of the problems with working from home is that it is hard to get away from work. Even when I go away for an overnight show or even on vacation, I check and respond to e-mail and work on my latest project. Last year, my family took a cruise. I get up early so I would grab my notebook, walk out on a deck that had comfortable seating, and write until the sun came up and my family woke up.

As things turned out this weekend, though, I didn’t do any work. I was either too busy with driving or having fun in the parks. By the time I got back to the hotel room each night, I just wanted to shower and go to bed.

Now I’m on the other side of that weekend and seeing how true time off affected me.

I was caught up with work before I left, so I’m not behind. That’s a good thing.20181125_093004

What I feel is that I’m having trouble to find my work groove. It’s hard to get into the articles that I’m writing.

I’m hoping that I will have a jolt of inspiration for the book that I’m writing, but I haven’t been able to work on it yet. It’s taking me so long to get into my other projects, I’m not having time left over to write my book.

I don’t regret the time off. I had a lot of fun. I was just hoping for a rush of fresh creativity.

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I was speaking to a group recently about writing article query letters. I always recommend listing some of your pertinent credits as part of the letter. After I tell a group this, someone always asks, “What if I don’t have anything published?”

I have two recommendations to remedy this: 1) Write stories for free, and 2) Write filler pieces.

rdu-1504249200The second method not only can get you paid writing credits, you can get your foot in the door with some larger national magazines. A prominent example of this is writing a short humorous anecdote for Reader’s Digest. The pay is small, but you are only writing a hundred words or so. However, once published, you can list Reader’s Digest as one of your credits.

This was how I got into Boy’s Life Magazine. I wrote 200 words about something a local Boy Scout troop was doing that had national interest. Now I list Boy’s Life among my 130 or so publishing credits.

A slight variation of this technique as you work your way up the food chain to feature articles in this high-paying publications is to query about writing an article for one of the publication’s departments. The articles are shorter and don’t pay as much, but once again, they allow you to use the publication as a credit. In fact, many editors tend to test out unknown writers with department assignments first. If the writer flops with the assignment, it’s easier to fill the empty space than if the unknown writer had dropped the ball with a cover feature.boyslife

I’ve gotten started writing for a number of magazines in this way. In fact, for magazines that I do a lot of writing for, my assignments jump back and forth between features and departments. Writing a department article doesn’t take me as long and it keeps the money flowing.

The goal for a new writer is to build your portfolio in order to get larger and higher-paying assignments, and this method can help you do it in an impressive way.

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book-panel-2If you like reading e-books, I’m giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. I like the fact that this Paperwhite is waterproof. That makes it great to read at the ocean, near the pool, or in the tub (don’t judge me). It has a 300 ppi glare-free display so you can easily read it outside, but it also has a built-in light for nighttime reading.

You can enter the giveaway daily, and the more you share it, the more chances you will have to win. So enter every day, share it on Facebook, and retweet it.


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thSo I noticed something unusual about my writing lately. I have two area that I write for each day; my books and my articles.

Last week, I had a burst of writing enthusiasm for the novel that I’m currently writing. I wrote about 10,000 words of the first draft. At the same time, I was struggling to write my articles that are on deadline. I had no enthusiasm for them.

This week, it’s been the opposite, I’ve been having no problem working on my articles, but I’m procrastinating doing any work on my book.

It’s the first time that I’ve noticed something like this happening. Sometimes, I burn out. When that happens, I burn out for both my books and articles.

Has anyone else ever noticed something similar happening with their writing? Do you have any suggestions for how to level things out?

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