Monday, December 24, 2007

Productivity is up

I've been writing more since Thanksgiving than I had during much of the year, and four new short stories are going in the mail the next time I leave the house.

Including these four, I've completed and submitted five new stories since Thanksgiving. I've also started numerous new stories and have made progress--sometimes significant progress--on a number of other stories in various stages of completion.

Why the sudden flood of work? I'm not certain, but I did spend Thanksgiving away from home, away from my office, away from my computer, and away from writing in any form. I think I came back refreshed and ready to get back to work.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why I support the writers' strike

While I should support my brother and sister writers in their effort to receive fair compensation for their work in television and movies, I don't. I support the strike for a purely selfish reason.

As my favorite television programs run out of new episodes and are replaced by reruns and bad reality TV, I find myself spending more time writing. The longer the strike lasts, the more I write. The more I write, the more I earn.

So, strike on brothers and sisters. At least this writer is benefitting from your struggle.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Published

My story "The Philandering Private Eye" appears in the January issue of True Confessions. Although published in a confession magazine, this story is straight-up crime fiction. And the title isn't mine; there's no private eye in the story.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Letter published

I have a letter in the current issue (#102) of Mystery Scene.

First publication in 2008

My story "In Love With Mr. Coffee" appears in the January True Story, making it my first publication of 2008. I have two other stories scheduled for January publication, so I might start the year with a trio of publications.

"In Love With Mr. Coffee" was originally slated for the December 2005 issue, but was bumped. I've had stories bumped before--many times, actually--but I don't think I've ever had one bumped 25 months!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Published

My story "If I Was A Rich Girl" was published in the October issue of True Love.

(I would have posted this sooner, but True Love no longer appears on local newsstands and my contributor copy just arrived in the mail.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

38

I was away from home for Thanksgiving and returned home to find a contract for a confession, my 38th acceptance of the year.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Published

My story "All I Want For Christmas Is Mr. Right!" appears in the December issue of True Love.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Character Match

Following my divorce earlier this year, I joined Match.com, an Internet dating site. While I've met some nice women and have had some interesting dates, I don't plan to share details from my dating adventures.

On the other hand, I do want to share a tip for those of you who struggle with character creation and development: Join Match.com and start reading member profiles.

Sure, you'll find basic info--height, body type, hair color, eye color, and so on--but the best material is contained in the paragraphs of self-desciption each member writes. That's where you learn characterization.

Pick one, any one, and read it closely. Is the author's profile brief and to the point, or does it run for multiple paragraphs? Does the author describe herself, or does she describe her "perfect" match? Does the author write in complete, grammatically correct sentences, or are words misspelled and punctuation applied randomly? Does the author reveal something about past hurts (you may be surprised by the number of women seeking an "honest" man), or about future goals? What's the tone--serious, funny, or sad? What does the author say and what else is implied?

You may not discover the love of your life on Match.com, but you can certainly find enough characters to populate your fiction.

If you're an unmarried writer struggling with characterization in your short stories and novels, try Match.com.

But if you're a married writer, no amount of fast-talking will make your spouse believe that you joined Match.com for "research." And if you can't convince your spouse, you might need to use that membership for more than just research...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I write like a girl

Fellow confession writer Roberta Beach Jacobson posted a link to The Gender Genie (http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php), a program that will examine a piece of writing and determine if it had a male or a female author.

For fun, I tested three confessions and the program thought they were written by a female. That's good, I thought, because they're supposed to be!

Then I tested two hardboiled pieces of crime fiction--violent, sexual, as masculine as I get. The program thought they were also written by a female.

Maybe my crime fiction isn't as hardboiled as I thought it was. Maybe I should become a florist...

Friday, November 02, 2007

37 / 1,100

I received a contract in today's mail, my 37th acceptance of the year, which puts me behind my goal of one acceptance each week. I'm 37 acceptances for 44 weeks, well behind the blistering pace I set in the previous five years (63 acceptances in 2002, 55 in 2003, 75 in 2004, 57 in 2005, and 66 in 2006).

On the other hand, if my records are accurate, this is my 1,100th acceptance.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Published, again and other good news

My story "Rescued By a Mountain Man" appears in the Winter issue of True Experience.

In another bit of good news, I returned home today to find a message on my answering machine from a woman I had interviewed. She was calling to say good things about the article I had written. My ego puffed up an appropriate amount.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why it pays to watch Mel Brooks movies

After Marcel Marceau died, Entertainment Weekly (Monitor, October 5, 2007) stated that the famous mime "entertained audiences around the world for over 60 years without ever uttering a word." As a fan of Mel Brooks movies, I knew this was incorrect, and I dashed off an e-mail to the EW editors.

I don't know how many other readers spotted the error, but the October 26 EW carries the following "clarification":

"While Marcel Marceau never uttered a word during his 60-year stage career, the mime famously said the word 'non' in Mel Brooks' 'Silent Movie' (Monitor)."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Published, again

My article "From Small Ideas, Big Projects Grow: Victoria Educational Gardens" appears in the November/December issue of Texas Gardener, which should hit newsstands soon.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Snowbird" opening on-line

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine has posted the opening of "Snowbird," the private eye story I co-authored with Tom Sweeney, on their Web site: http://www.themysteryplace.com/eqmm/excerpts/excerpt2.shtml.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

36

I received my 36th acceptance of the year today, a confession with the sure-to-be-changed title of "Sugar Tits."

Private eye story published

"Snowbird," a private eye story I co-authored with Tom Sweeney, appears in the December issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Quoted

I recently received a photocopy of part of the March, 2007, Byline. Rhonda Peters quoted me in her article "I Confess: My True Romance Was Not A True Story," an article about writing confessions.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Finding balance

When I started freelancing full-time, one of my goals was to write more short stories and to earn a significant portion of my freelance income from writing fiction. Initially, that's what happened.

That hasn't been the case for much of this year, though. I've written less fiction, yet seen my income slowly creep upward. I expect to earn more this year than last, but it appears that fiction will generate both a smaller percentage of my total revenue as well as fewer total dollars than last year.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. What I've realized is that sitting at a computer has come to dominate my waking hours. Because 99%, or more, of my gross income is derived from things I do while sitting at a computer, and 50% or more of my "social" interaction comes from participation in Yahoo groups and e-mail, I find myself seeking opportunities to get away from the keyboard. So, what suffers? The time I would spend writing short stories.

The vast majority of the fiction I've produced has been written on speculation, while nearly everything else is produced on assignment or to-order. Fiction generates income many months--sometimes years--after creation. The other work generates income a few days to a few weeks after completion.

Right now I'm trying to find balance in my life. I'm trying to find balance between generating income to support myself and producing the kind of material that made me want to be a writer in the first place. I'm also trying to find balance between "alone time" and "social time."

I don't think I have the balance perfect, yet. But I'm getting closer.

Most importantly, I'm pleased with my life. I like what I do, I like my clients, and I like the future as far ahead as I can see it.

So tweaking the balance a little bit is nothing to worry about.

I've met all of this week's deadlines, so maybe tomorrow I'll spend a little more time writing fiction. Today, though, I think I'll turn the computer off and go outside.

Today's mail

Today's mail included payments for three short stories.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

35

My 35th acceptance arrived in today's mail, a contract for a Christmas love story.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

34

Yesterday I received a contract for a short story, my 34th sale of the year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And again...

My story "Nothing But The Painful Truth" appears in the October issue of True Confessions.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Completed revision

Earlier this year I received a 24,000-word ms. back from an editor with numerous suggestions on how to revise and improve the story, along with a note that the editor would look at the story again if I revised it. I did all the heavy lifting right away, making substantial changes and reworking bits and pieces. Then other projects with real deadlines crowded my to-do list and this ms. was pushed aside.

Yesterday I carved a five-hour block out of my afternoon and did a final revision of the ms., cleaning up little bits here and there. Early yesterday evening I sent it to the editor.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Write by the numbers

I'm reading 4th of July by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, a novel I received free in a stack of books and probably would not have opened if I hadn't already read every novel published by Hard Case Crime that I had in the house.

4th of July reads like the written equivalent of a paint-by-numbers painting. It has 146 chapters, each about two pages long. If I was guessing, I'd say Patterson wrote 146 sentences and Paetro expanded each sentence into a 500-word chapter.

Because plotting is my biggest weakness, I wondered if I could apply this process to short fiction. I sat with a note pad and a pencil and tried to plot a short story in five to seven sentences, thinking I could then return to the keyboard, expand each sentence into a 500-word scene, and have a complete story.

I began with the following premise: one man, one woman, one crime.

After a considerable amount of time I had four sentences describing only the first two scenes and an itch to start writing.

So I wrote the first two scenes.

And stopped.

What I wrote is great.

What it isn't is a complete story.

I'm facing the same thing I face with nearly every story I write: an idea for a strong opening scene and no idea where to go next. So this one goes into the pile of unfinished stories, waiting until some spark of inspiration or some dogged determination pushes me through the next few scenes and on to the end of the story.

So, as an attempt to change how I write, this experiment proved to be a failure. I fell back into my old habit: get the first scene on paper; worry about the rest later.

Perhaps I just can't write by the numbers...

Today's other good news

I learned that two short stories are being held for probable publication in the near future, one by a monthly magazine, one by a quarterly. (I won't count either as a sale until I have a contract in hand.)

33

I received my 33rd acceptance of the year earlier today, this time for an article I wrote on assignment for a gardening magazine.

Although the finished piece turned out pretty good, it was a struggle to get to a final draft. An abundance of other work caused me to get a late start, the woman I was to interview backed out, and I lost a couple of days reaching her suggested replacement. Then I used a new recorder and learned too late that the tape is almost unusable. I struggled out a rough draft using my handwritten notes, the few things I could hear on the tape, and other information I had gathered beore the interview. When I contacted the interviewee with follow-up questions, she was out of town for a week. Sigh.

I finally finished the article and e-mailed it to the editor last night, 20 days after my original deadline.

I think this is the first deadline I've missed in a bazillion years. I'm lucky it was a soft deadline, not a hard deadline, and that I've worked with the editor enough to know I had flexibility.

What have I learned? Take better notes in case the recorder fails. Test new recorders before using them for important interviews. And always keep your editor informed of delays.

Always.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rejection

And today's mail also brought a rejection, this from an editor who has been publishing my work since 1991: "I just didn't think it was as good as your other recent submissions (which have been pretty darn good)."

So, even though I am dismayed by the rejection, I feel "pretty darn good" about the editor's comments.

32

I received my 32nd acceptance of the year in the mail today, a contract for a Thanksgiving-themed confession that I wrote and submitted last weekend.

Stand-up

Mystery writer James Winter recently posted a video of himself performing stand-up comedy.

Stand-up is a tough gig. I know. I tried stand-up many years ago, performing at open mike nights in a variety of clubs around the St. Louis area. I won second place in a competition, later saw some of the guys I'd performed with on TV shows like Evening at the Improv, and was even present when Louie Anderson won the Midwest Comedy Competition in 1981. It's a good thing I had a fall-back career--writing--because stand-up didn't work out for me.

One important lesson I learned: Performing stand-up in front of drunk hecklers makes anything that happens at a book signing seem like a cake walk.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Writing under the influence...

...of too much cold medicine.

I woke up sick Saturday morning and had to cancel plans for the weekend. Tied to the house because I did not dare stray too far from the, um, library, I spent a great deal of time at the keyboard.

Amazingly, I finished two Christmas stories that I had previously started. They look pretty good through medicine-fogged eyes, so they're both going in the mail tomorrow.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Zoominfo

I was doing some reasearch earlier this evening and stumbled across Zoominfo.com. Of course, once I found the site, one of the first searches I did was for my own name. Very interesting. Y'all should try it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

31 and published

My short humorous essay "Water Foul" appears in today's issue of Seeds and, because I hadn't counted it yet, marks my 31st acceptance of the year.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The 50% Solution

I just spent the evening reading the first half of a really good hardboiled private eye novel. Unfortunately, there's no second half because I haven't written it yet. It's one of the novels I keep telling myself is "in progress," but I haven't added a word to it in more than a year.

Perhaps I should.

Published

Today's mail brought contributor copies of another magazine with one of my short stories in it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Productive weekend

This is the first weekend in several months that I've devoted exclusively to writing--no family obligations, no social obligations, no housecleaning, no yardwork, and no editing projects. Just writing.

The result:

I finished a new short story and will mail it to an editor tomorrow.

I found the key plot device for another short story and did some preliminary research.

I found markets for two unsold manuscripts.

And I made significant progress on an article that is on the verge of being overdue. I put together a solid draft with a few gaps and a few rough spots. It looks like I'll have to return to my source with a couple of follow-up questions, but the piece--which I've been wrestling with for a while now because my tape recorder didn't pick up the interview as well as I had expected--looks like it's going to turn out OK.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Quoted on Visual Thesaurus

My opinon about writer's block--that there's no such thing--has been quoted on Visual Thesaurus (right hand column, about halfway down the page) with a link back to my January 2, 2007 post on the subject.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Another two-fer

My stories "Office Dare" and "One Hunk of a Tutor!" were published in the September True Romance, which just hit the local newsstands.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Found money

Having a long career and an extensive file of published work helps generate "found money"--additional money for no additional work. It can even turn non-profitable projects into profitable ones.

Way back in the mid-'80s I had a short story published in a popular mystery magazine of the day. The acceptance indicated that I would be paid, but I never received a cent and the magazine went out of business. In the early '00s, the story was reprinted in a small press mystery magazine, but no payment was offered or expected.

The story was recently accepted by another publisher and the contract indicates that I'll be receiving payment in due course. It'll be a nice chunk of change--enough for dinner and a movie for two if I don't go overboard--and that's not bad.

Twenty-plus years to turn a non-profitable project into a profitable one seems like a long time, but any income beats no income and "found money" is always welcome money.

Friday, August 03, 2007

30

My 30th acceptance of the year arrived yesterday via e-mail. One of my previously published mystery short stories will be released on audio.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Postal workers are my friends

Today's mail include a contributor copy of a magazine containing two of my short stories and a check for two short stories published in May.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Contract

Received, signed, and returned a contract this morning for one of the stories accepted earlier this week.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Happy holidays!

It's the dead of summer and time to contemplate the upcoming holiday season. Periodicals work many months in advance, so the deadlines for November and December issues are rapidly approaching. If I hope to place any holiday-themed short stories this year, I need to get to work.

Earlier this week I wrote the opening lines or opening scenes for seven Thanksgiving stories and seven Christmas stories. (Why seven each? Coincidence.) I have a rapidly shrinking window of opportunity for submitting any Thanksgiving stories I write, a window only open until early to mid August, and a slightly larger window for submitting Christmas stories.

I placed four Christmas stories last year, but no Thanksgiving stories. Perhaps I'll do better this year now that I have a stockpile of ideas. So, to get myself in the mood, perhaps I should prepare a Turkey, don my foam antlers, and put on some Christmas music...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bumped, or bumped off?

I was going through my files a few minutes ago and found three short stories that had been accepted (contracts signed and returned) and tentatively scheduled for publication in 2005. Stories get bumped to subsequent issues for all kinds of reasons, but I can't recall ever having any stories bumped more than a few months. So, were they bumped, or bumped off?

I just e-mailed the editor to find out...

29

I received my 29th acceptance of the year a few minutes ago, this for a short confession. The acceptance came via e-mail and a contract will follow soon.

A P.O. Box in New Jersey

"Where do you get your ideas?"

Every writer hears this question, and it's easy to respond with something cute, such as, "I order a dozen at a time from a P. O. Box in New Jersey."

Many times a snappy answer is sufficent. Sometimes, though, if the person asking the question is sincere, a simple explanation may be appropriate: "I ask myself 'what if?' What if my neighbor isn't digging a new flower bed, but is digging a place to bury his wife? What if a woman suddenly started hearing other people's thoughts? What if a man caught his wife cheating with another woman? What if a ghost suddenly appeared in a woman's bedroom? The story is how I answer that question."

But what if the person asking the question, the person who wants to know where you get your ideas, isn't interested in cocktail chatter, but is a potential companion--friend, lover, spouse, etc.--and is sincerely interested in how your mind works? How much do you reveal? (How much do you even understand about yourself?)

I have no answers, only questions.

Monday, July 16, 2007

28

I received my 28th acceptance of the year earlier this evening. The acceptance came via e-mail. A contract will follow soon.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Finally!

I finished a new short story earlier this evening, a love story set at Halloween. It'll go in the mail tomorrow morning and my fingers will be crossed that I haven't missed the deadline for the October issue of the magazine I'm sending it to.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Published 2X

My stories "Woman on Top" and "Bad Boy to the Rescue" appear in the August True Confessions, which just hit the newsstands in central Texas.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Film treatment

I read my first film treatment today, a dark work that sent a chill up my spine when I finished reading it that was co-written by the editor who turned me into a crime fiction writer. It read much like a novel outline so, if I ever figure out how to outline a novel, I can easily adapt that skill to writing a film treatment.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Published

I just learned that my story "Sketches" was published in the March issue of Futures. Alas, I've not yet seen it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Maybe later

I've been floating anthology proposals around to various publishers and today received word about one of them. The publisher likes the concept, can't take it on right now, but want me to touch base at the end of the year.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Reviews: "Professionals"

I have not yet seen Out of the Gutter #2, but I have seen reviews of the issue, which include comments about my story "Professionals."

Rob Lott at Bookgasm writes, "[...] followed by the even-better 'Professionals,' in which Michael Bracken spins a story of a male prostitute who gets into big trouble with one of his johns."

And Bill Crider writes on his blog, "Michael Bracken's 'Professionals,' [...] reveals that Bracken is himself a real pro when it comes to crime shorts."

Monday, July 02, 2007

27

Today's mail included a contract for a short story. This is my 27th acceptance of the year.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Writing rant of the day

"Over" and "more than" are not interchangeable terms. Sadly, too few writers seem to know this.

"Over" refers to a physical relationship (that is, "my hand is OVER the desk") while "more than" refers to a numerical relationship (that is, "I have 18 cookies MORE THAN you have").

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Have a back-up plan

Among the presentations at Seton Hill University's "In Your Write Mind" conference this past weekend was Carmine Coco De Young's "Stage Time! Techniques for a Successful Author Visit." While her presentation concentrated on school visits, much of the information was applicable to any live author presentation (techniques for radio and television appearances were not included).

Two important take-away tid-bits: 1) Know your audience. 2) Have a back-up plan. Or two.

I learned both lessons the hard way a few years ago. I had been doing readings at science fiction conventions of short stories written and intended for mature audiences and the convention organizers had been promoting the readings as late-night, adults-only events.

Then I went to a convention that didn't bother to put the appropriate disclaimer in the promotional material or in the convention's schedule of events.

I found myself facing an audience ill-prepared for what I was about to read. And I had no other material with me. I tried to edit on-the-fly, cutting scenes and changing words as I read. Part of my audience let me know their displeasure by walking out. I learned what flopsweat feels like. It doesn't feel good.

Since then I've stopped doing readings that require disclaimers and I've always taken back-up material in case the horror audience I was expecting turns out to be a science fiction audience, or the romance audience I was expecting turns out to be a mystery audience.

I had the lesson repeated, though not so obviously, at the Texas Library Association convention earlier this year. I was one of a dozen or so mystery writers participating in a "speed dating" event where we spent 15 minutes at a table talking about our books before we moved to the next table.

I found myself surrounded by children's librarians at most of the tables. My mystery novels and short story collections are generally not appropriate for children. I shifted gears on the fly and talked about my young adult romance novel, Just in Time for Love.

And I had the lesson reinforced at Seton Hill University this weekend. I had prepared my talk expecting a typical writers conference mix in the audience. What I faced was an audience dominated by graduates of Seton Hill's master's program. In talking to other writers the day before and the morning of my presentation, I realized what I planned to say wasn't quite appropriate. I kept my introduction (which I posted here yesterday) and then winged it for the rest of the hour-and-a-half presentation. Lucky for me I've been around a long time so I had lots of stories to tell, examples to give, and names to drop.

So, props to Ms. De Young. Her presentation was timely and quite appropriate.

At least, it was for this member of her audience.

(To learn more about Ms. De Young, check out her Web site at http://www.ccocodeyoung.com.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Seton Hill presentation introduction

Here's how I opened my talk at Seton Hill University's "In Your Write Mind" conference this past weekend:

Publishing is in a state of flux. Rapid changes in technology have resulted in an explosion of vanity publishers, self-publishers, and small press publishers. Nearly anyone with access to a computer can produce an electronic periodical. The once clear line between professional and amateur has blurred to the point where the difference between “us” and “them” is only obvious at the extreme ends of the spectrum.

Differences in attitude between art forms confuse us: A musician self-records a CD to sell at his gigs and he’s hailed for taking his career into his own hands; a novelist releases a book through iUniverse and other writers think he’s -- at best -- ill-informed or -- at worst -- a complete moron. Professional writers’ organizations struggle with the definition of “professional” and succeed only in defining qualifications for membership in their particular organizations.

Rip-off artists scam unsuspecting new writers. The “agents” that charge up-front fees, the “publishers” that charge writers to be published, the “editors” that charge for negligible editing services, the “contests” that exist solely to make money for the contest sponsors, all make their money because new writers spend more time dreaming than they spend working.

So how can any new writer successfully traverse a minefield filled with rapidly advancing technology, scam artists seeking to pick their pockets, and a plethora of writers’ organizations that can’t agree on the definition of “professional”?

The secret to success for most writers is the same today as it was when I started more than 30 years ago: It’s inspiration, determination, and perspiration.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

26

I returned home from speaking at Seton Hill University's "In Your Write Mind " conference to find my 26th acceptance of the year, a contract for a confession.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

49 consecutive months

I have now had one or more pieces of short fiction published each month for 49 consecutive months. I have contracts in hand that should stretch that another few months. But if I don't start writing and submitting more fiction I might break the streak.

Two published

My stories "The Naughty Professor" and "Flirting With Danger" appear in the Summer issue of True Experience, which just hit the local newsstands today.

Published

My article "Feeding the World One Garden at a Time" appears in the July/August Texas Gardener, which should be hitting newsstands any day now.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Money flows TO the writer

After reading an editorial written by Hope Clark, I popped off a response. She printed the letter in the June 3 issue of FFW Small Markets. Here's what I said:

Your article "You Get What You Pay For - Investing in Your Writing Career" reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the intent behind "Money flows TO the writer, not FROM the writer."

A writer should invest in her career. A good education, the proper writing tools, business stationery, and related expenses should all pay off in the long run.

What doesn't pay off is sending money to rip-off artists who scam would-be authors who don't know any better--the "agents" who charge fees up-front, the "publishers" who charge writers to be published, the "editors" who charge for negligible editing services, the "contests" that exist solely to make money for the contest sponsors, and on and on and on.

One of the most important questions a writer can ask when faced with a business decision is, "Which way does the money flow?" If money is moving from the author's pocket to someone else's pocket, there's a good probability it's a scam or a shady business arrangement. If the money flows to the author's pocket, there's a good probability that it isn't a scam.

But determining which way the money flows is only the beginning. Writers must make many decisions throughout a career and the best thing a writer can do is understand copyright law, contract law, and standard business practices within publishing.

Then, and only then, can a writer make informed decisions about her career. If a writer chooses to pay a contest entry fee, it's because she has done her due diligence and has good reason to believe the contest is sponsored by a legitimate organization. If a writer chooses to self-publish, it's because she understands the benefits and limitations of self-publishing (and knows the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing). If a writer chooses to take money from her pocket and put it into someone else's, it's because she has made an informed decision and understands how that decision impacts her career. A writer should never let ignorance guide her career decisions.

With more than 30 years of publishing experience--including 11 books, more than 1,000 shorter pieces, and time spent on the editor's side of the desk, I will happily and loudly proclaim that "Money flows TO the writer, not FROM the writer."

P.I. story published

A new story featuring my Waco Texas-based P.I. Morris Ronald Boyette was just published by Thrilling Detective. Read it at: http://www.thrillingdetective.com/fiction/07_06_03.html.

Published

My "Love Letter" appears on page 50 of the July True Romance.

Interesting tidbit: This was originally written for a college course in argumentative writing. The assignment was to convince the reader to change his/her mind about something. Most students wrote traditional essays and Op-Ed pieces about "big" topics--abortion, war, public education, etc., etc. I was the only student to write a letter intended for a single, specific reader.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekend in Louisville

I flew to Louisville this weekend to attend the American Advertising Federation's annual ADDY Awards gala, where I received a Silver ADDY Award for a series of newspaper ads I created last year for the Waco Symphony Orchestra.

It was a wild weekend. I had a brief nap Friday evening and left the house at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. From then until I finally crashed at about 2 a.m. Sunday, I survived on a trio of brief naps--one on the airplane traveling from Dallas to Memphis, another on the plane traveling from Memphis to Louisville, and a brief one at the hotel in Louisville.

The evening began with a cocktail reception for the award winners, where Joe Piscopo presented us with our awards and we had our pictures taken with him. Then we moved to the general cocktail reception, where the Gold Award winning entries were displayed. From there we went to the banquet hall for the awards dinner. Award winners sat at reserved seating in front.

The food was great, the presentation was excellent--moving seamlessly back and forth from Joe Piscopo performing live to video presentation of winning entires--and at the end Joe annouced the names of each of the award winners present and we each stood when our name was called so that we could be recognized by the bazillion attendees.

I have to admit, it was a bit of a rush. To think that one guy working alone can create advertising competitive with that produced by national and international advertising agencies like BBD&O, Saatchi & Saatchi, and many others is mindblowing. To be that guy is...well...a rush.

I think it'll be months before my swollen head deflates to normal size...

Published

Today's mail included a contributor copy of a magazine containing one of my short stories.

Friday, June 08, 2007

25

Today I received a contract for a short story. This is my 25th acceptance of the year.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Anthology delays

An an editor, I understand that anthologies get delayed; I have three accepted for publiction but have be given no publication date for any of them. And the contributors keep wanting status updates for each of the anthologies.

As a writer, I've had work held by anthology editors facing similar situations. Today the editors of an anthology updated me on the status of a project dating back to late 2004. It's still inching forward.

Payments

I like it when I find money in my mailbox. Saturday I received payment for a short story. Today I received payment for another short story.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

24

My 24th acceptance of the year coincided with its publication. My article "Weatherization provided at no cost to low-income homeowners" appears in the June issue of Senior News.

Understanding rejection

Earlier this year I wrote a hardboiled crime story that I particularly like. It's been out to a couple of markets and the gist of the rejections is a) not enough sex and b) too much sex. So, is it a problem with the story, or have I sent it to the wrong markets?

This is the kind of dilemma writers face all the time. And, no, it's not about having too much sex or not enough sex. It's about using the editors' comments to help prevent future rejection.

I can use what I learned from these rejections to help sell future work to these markets. For one market, I may increase the sexual aspects of the next story I submit; for the other market, I'll decrease the sexual aspects.

But the editors could have pointed out anything. Perhaps one felt the characters were well drawn but the setting was skimpy. In that case I might spend more time setting the stage. Another editor might think the setting was fine but never "saw" the characters. In that case I might spend a little more time describing the characters.

At least neither editor said the story sucked. Then what would I do?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

22, 23

Two more acceptances--a bit of crime fiction accepted by a web zine and some writing tips accepted by a friend putting together a book about writing. I also received a check for a short story published back in April and a contributor's copy of a magazine containing one of my short stories.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Published

One of my pseudonyms had a story published today. It's a "be careful what you wish for because you just might get it" story.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Busy weekend

At the request of a publisher, I put together an anthology proposal for her to look at.

I provided some writing tips and advice to a friend who's writing a book about the habits of successful writers. If he quotes me in the book, I'll get two copies.

I sent a story to a new on-line publication and I submitted a reprint to another new publication.

And I edited articles for a monthly publication.

I just about have my desk cleared of miscellaneous little projects. Maybe now I can write something...

Friday, May 25, 2007

21

I received a contract for a short story today, my 21st acceptance of the year.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Insurance and freelancing

Being a full-time freelancer means having expenses that the average Joe doesn't think about, or doesn't think about in the same way. Medical insurance is one of them. I had insurance through my former spouse's employer. The cost to the family was neglible and, because the premiums were deducted directly from her paycheck, not a financial issue that had my attention.

That's changed. I elected to retain insurance through COBRA and now medical/dental insurance is my single largest monthly expense other than my house payment.

I'll have to sell another short story or two every month to cover the premiums, or find some way to lower other expenses.

I will also have to revist this issue on a regular basis. I've received quotes for other, less expensive polices, but less expensive also means higher deductibles and less coverage. Plus, COBRA's only good for three years.

And two months have already passed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

New series with old stars

Abe Vigoda and Erik Estrada will be revisiting the roles that made them famous in the new British police drama "Fish & Chips."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another award

I learned today that I've won another advertising award, this time a Silver ADDY Award that will be presented next month at the AAF's national conference. The award is for a series of newspaper ads I created for the Waco Symphony. This series of ads previously received a Gold ADDY Award in local competition, a Silver ADDY Award in district competition, and now a Silver ADDY Award in national competition.

Not bloody bad for a one-person operation.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Productivity

I finished writing a 7,000-word short story today. The final draft is printing now and it'll off to an editor in the morning.

This is a story I've been working on for several months, but the last half of it finally fell into place yesterday and today.

In the strangest places

Earlier today I discovered that a research paper I wrote about writer's block is listed as a source in "KIRJOITTAMISEN
PELKO," written by Kalle Lintunen and published in EKHO (http://org.utu.fi/tyyala/prometheus/ekho/syksy_06/ekho2_06.pdf). As the entire article is witten in a langauge I can't read, I have no idea what it says.

For grins, I googled other references of my article and found this: "While we’re talking about academic writing, let me share my favorite scholarly aricle on writer’s block 'Writer’s Block: A Definition by Example' by Michael Bracken." (http://www.todayiwrite.com/writers-block-in-all-its-variety.html)

To read the paper I wrote, go to: http://www.sfwa.org/writing/block.htm

At three words, it may be the shortest research paper ever written.

Published

One of my pseudonyms had a ghost story published today.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Productivity and Postage

I finished a new short story today, but preparing to mail it was a challenge.

A few days ago I saw the editorial calendar for a magazine I frequently contribute to. Yesterday morning I had a story idea that I thought would fit an upcoming issue. I wrote most of the opening scene and some notes for the second scene right away. Last night and today I wrote the balance of the story. After proofreading and minor edits, the final draft clocked in at 4,300 words.

As I was preparing the envelope and SASE I realized there's no way I'll get the story in today's mail and postage rates change on Monday. I haven't been to the Post Office to purchase stamps of the new denominations.

Luckily, my bucket o' stamps came to the rescue. I have a small butter tub filled with stamps of various denominations that I've collected over the years. Every time rates change I find myself with stamps that don't equate to anything useful. Today the bucket o' stamps proved useful. I was able to cobble together postage of the correct amount for both the outgoing ms. and--heaven forbid--the returning SASE.

The Value of Research

Ken Bruen and Jason Starr don't know women. Neither does their copyeditor. On page 53 of Bust they make an error on par with the old westerns where the hero fires 10 or 12 shots from his six-shooter before stopping to reload. They describe a woman's breasts as "46 triple-Ds" and then say she has a "bone-thin dancer's body."

Sorry, guys, but you blew it. A woman with a 46-inch chest does not have a "bone-thin dancer's body." Instead, she's more likely to be a small truck. I'm a 225-pound 6-footer myself, and I don't have a 46-inch chest.

So, here's my writing tip of the day for Ken and Jason and every other male writer who wants to write about women's physical attributes: Do your research. Talk to your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother and find out how bras are sized and how the size of of a woman's bra relates to the size of the woman.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Productivity, Rejection, Frustration

I completed and submitted my first short story since mid-February. That's a bloody long gap between short stories for me, but life has interferred with writing so I won't beat myself up about it.

I received a rejection today, so I promptly repackaged the story and it's off to another editor.

And, a bit of frustration: I received a healthy check for a short story in today's mail. Unfortunately, the check wasn't signed and I have to return it to the publisher.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

19, 20

One of the articles I wrote last weekend was accepted today and I also received a contract for a short story I wrote last December.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Non-fiction productivity

This has been a good weekend for writing non-fiction. I finished and submitted an article yesterday and finished and submitted another article earlier this evening. Since both articles were written on assignment, I have every reason to believe they'll be accepted.

So, back to writing fiction...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

18

I sort-of received my 18th acceptance of the year earlier today. I discovered a story that had been tentatively accepted is listed on a publication's Web site as scheduled for its next issue. In my eyes, that moves the story from a tentative acceptance to a full acceptance and now I can count it in my yearly total.

Look for "Professionals" in the second issue of Out of the Gutter.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Published and rejected

My short article "Organizing for Anthology Success" was published in today's Gila Queen's Guide to Markets.

On the downside, I received a rejection from a literary magazine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back in the saddle?

Although I didn't stop writing, my writing recently had been more personal and less commercial. The past week, though, I've been hard at it again writing fiction intended for publication. While I haven't finished any stories recently, I've made good progress on at least half a dozen of them.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Published, again

I had another short story published, this one written under one of my pseudonyms.

I appear in the strangest places

In her March 4 column in Parade (http://www.parade.com/articles/editions/2007/edition_03-04-2007/Ask_Marilyn), Marilyn vos Savant was asked: "If a farmer has a total of 30 cows and chickens, and the animals have 74 legs in all, how many chickens are in the coop?"

She gave a complicated mathematical answer. I sent her a much simpler answer to the question and it's now posted at http://www.parade.com/export/sites/default/articles/web_exclusives/2007/04-15-2007/Marilyn_Readers_Respond.

I don't know if my response actually appeared in Parade, but if it did, it would have been in the April 15 edition. Parade is distributed with the Sunday paper and April 15 is the one time I didn't buy a Sunday paper!

Did anybody see it?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

17

Today I received a contract for an essay, my 17th acceptance of the year. My acceptance rate has dropped to one acceptance every 6.5 days, which puts me right in line with my annual goal--one acceptance per week--but below the blistering pace with which I started 2007.

An interesting/ironic twist to this sale: I was enrolled in an argumentative essay writing course a few years ago and I wrote the essay to complete a homework assignment (note to new blog readers: I was 48 when I graduated in 2005). The assignment was to write a letter to convince someone to do something they probably wouldn't want to do. I wrote a letter to my second wife (she had died from cancer less than two years after we married) about my third wife.

So, my college homework continues to generate income (this is not the first piece of homework I've sold), and my personal life has changed so much since I wrote the essay that I had a really weird feeling when I reread it a few minutes ago.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mail / Bills

Today's mail brought payment for a short story and a check from an editing client. I promptly paid bills. For the first time in a few months, I still had a modest balance after all the bills were paid.

Of course, my luck being what it is lately, I also learned of another bill about to drop in my lap. Sigh.

Just another incentive to get productive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Published

Today I received author copies of an anthology containing one of my short stories.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dying to Meet You

Last Thursday evening I participating in "Dying to Meet You" at the Texas Library Association's annual conference in San Antonio. Sixteen mystery authors participated in the event, which was based on the speed-dating concept. Nine (there may have been more, I never actually counted) librarians sat at each table eating while the authors visited with them. Approximately every fifteen minutes, the authors would change tables and talk with a new group of librarians.

I spent one to two minutes introducing myself, talking about three of my books (the most recent, the best-reviewed, and one--not a mystery--that was suitable for young readers). Then the librarians peppered me with questions--from the common ("Where do you get your ideas?") to the personal ("How many times have you been married?") to the off-the-wall.

There was time to visit with five or six tables (it's all a blur, now) and I had a rip-roaring good time!

Before the event, the authors had the opportunity to eat dinner together and I had the chance to talk with a number of writers I knew from previous events we'd attended together--Lillian Stewart Carl, Cindy Daniel, Julie Wray Herman, Susan McBride, and Chris Rogers--met John Foxjohn, who I'd only crossed paths with on-line, and nodded at a few other authors that I didn't have a chance to talk to.

I also met James Reasoner when we both arrived about half an hour early. We sat in the hallway of the Menger and had a great conversation about writing. I tried to get him to tell me the secret of being a prolific novelist, but he never did show me the secret handshake. Maybe next time.

Rejection

From Murdaland. I think I'm zero for three with them. Sigh.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Another Award

Earlier this year I mentioned receiving ADDY awards for a series of ads I created for the Symphony. Those were local awards. The winners are sent to District. I learned today that my ads won a Silver ADDY Award at the district level.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Twisted Intent

I've been doing quite a bit of writing lately, some of it quite good, but none of it intended for pay or for publication. While the writing I'm doing benefits me in a non-financial way, it is a bit frustrating to realize that it's taking time away from my for-pay production.

Or is it? Would I really be working on for-pay/for-publication work if I stopped the other writing I'm doing? Or might I just be staring at the wall or the television screen?

One of the odd things about writing--especially difficult for the non-writers around us to understand--is that it is difficult to know when we're working and when we aren't. Either way, we may be sitting in front of a keyboard, or staring blankly into space, or on a long walk around the neighborhood as we think.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

16 and publication

I received a contract today for what is my 16th acceptance of the year, a humorous short story accepted by a men's magazine.

I also received the May issue of True Romance, which contains my story "Hot Mom."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Acceptance, publication, and payment

My humorous essay "Dandelion Whine" was accepted and appears in today's Seeds.

The mail brought payment for two short stories.

And one of my regular clients dropped two assignments in my lap today.

All-in-all, a good day.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Rejected

Today's mail brought a rejection. I've already targeted another publication and have the story ready to go out in the mail tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Freelancing, family, and failure

As I sat at my desk a few minutes ago writing a check to the U.S. Treasury for my first quarter estimated taxes--which put a healthy dent in my bank balance despite my increasing ability to plan ahead--I realized this is a significant day. Four years ago, on April Fool's Day, I became a full-time freelancer.

It's been a wild ride.

While I don't normally share personal information as my intent is to track the ups and downs of the "professional" side of freelancing, freelancing does impact my personal life. And not always in a good way.

My ten-year marriage ended a few days ago and my career choice was one of the reasons. I'm certain there's a lesson to be learned here. If nothing else, it's that I should have devoted as much energy to my key relationship as I devoted to my career.

Because now all I have is the career.

Friday, March 30, 2007

When all else fails, fax!

A contract I snail-mailed back on May 5 never arrived in the editor's office, so the editor asked me to fax my signed copy.

Of course, because I keep copies of damn near everything, I had it at my fingertips and was able to fax it right away.

Monday, March 26, 2007

13, 14

I received contracts for two short stories today--both confessions--bringing my total sales for the year to 14.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Getting away from it all

I spent last week in Atlanta. While I didn't have much opportunity to sight-see--I was attending a week-long seminar on new marketing trends for symphonies--I took advantage of the time away from the home office to relax. I spent much of each day attending the lectures/workshops, but still had time to read, walk around the neighborhood surrounding the hotel, and attend a performance of the Atlanta Symphony. More importantly, I didn't take any writing or editing projects with me, and I limited my Internet time to about 10 minutes each day.

I learned a lot about marketing symphonies. And I relaxed.

I'm back home, and, somehow, I don't feel as relaxed.

Sigh.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

It's a Miracle!

My essay "Write What You Know" appears in the just-released non-fiction anthology Teacher Miracles, edited by Brian Thornton and published by Adams Media.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Published, again

I received my contributor copy of a magazine today. It includes a bit of my hardboiled crime fiction--written under a pseudonym...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why writers don't sell

One of my freelance gigs is editing a weekly newsletter. As I was putting together this week's issue, I found an essay in my slush pile that I wanted to use. If I could have contacted the writer quickly, I might have published his essay.

But I couldn't. Neither his manuscript nor his cover letter included an e-mail address. Neither his manuscript nor his cover letter included a telephone number.

I tossed the manuscript aside. I didn't have time to write a letter and expect a response in the half-day I had before deadline, and I wasn't about to waste time looking for a telephone number that might prove to be unlisted.

The writer lost a sale because I couldn't contact him.

Maybe it isn't a permanent loss. Maybe I'll have time later in the week, or next week, or the week after, to write him a letter and await his response. Or maybe I won't. Maybe the manuscript will languish in the slush pile until I get tired of looking at it and I'll just shove it in the return envelope. He may never know how close he was to making a sale or how his own failure to provide complete contact information may have lost him the sale.

I've been on the other side of this quite often--twice in the past month, even--where editors contacted me (one by e-mail and the other by phone) to tell me they wanted to use something immediately. They found me. I said "yes." I made the sale.

My advice: Always, always, always, include complete contact information on your manuscripts. Don't lose sales because you forgot to tell an editor how to reach you.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Today's mail

A rejection. A form letter. From a magazine that's published many of my stories in the past.

Sigh.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I get questions

In a response to a previous post, D.A. Davenport wrote, "I love the short story and flash fiction formats. It forces me to distil my work and insists on absolute clarity at all times. I'd like to know why you have chosen short stories as your major form of writing."

I suspect circumstance more than intent made me a short story writer. In the early stages of my career, the time I had available to write was limited--ten minutes here, a hour there, fifteen minutes somewhere else--and I could not keep a single project in my head. I found that I often had to reread what I'd written before I could continue writing and there comes a point where a project is too long to reread and add to in the short spurts of time I had available.

Also, success breeds. I found early success with short stories, getting them published in non-paying markets while I was in my mid-teens and selling my first story to a professional market while I was still a teenager. Every time I sold a short story, it served as an incentive to write another.

Although every novel I've finished has been published--to good reviews--it took me years to place them all and I couldn't bring myself to invest time and effort into long-term projects like novels with no clear payoff when I could write a short story in a few days and possibly see it in print and money in my pocket in as little as a few weeks.

"I am also curious about how you feel about Ezines as a forum for writers," D.A. also wrote, "Do you feel that they are as viable a vehicle as print magazines for a writer seeking to have her work read and noticed? Do you have a preference?"

My preference is to write for publications that pay me. Currently, the majority of paying markets for my fiction are ink-on-paper publications.

But that isn't exactly what you want to know, is it?

So, a bit of history. When I started writing back in the dark ages, using the burnt end of sticks to scratch my work on cave walls, I was a science fiction fan. Many science fiction fans published fanzines (fan magazines) by, for, and about science fiction/science fiction fans. These were often printed on ditto machines and mimeographs. These were amateur publications that did not pay contributors. And these publications were--except for my junior high and high school literary magazines and high school newspaper--where I first saw my work in print.

Science fiction fans also published semiprozines (semi-professional magazines) that paid contributors a token amount of money--often a fraction of a cent per word--and served as stepping stones into writing for the professional science fiction magazines. I also wrote for a few of these.

I see today's e-zines as the modern version of those fanzines and semiprozines. They are often produced by people with a great love for science fiction or mystery fiction or some other genre but who may lack real background in writing, editing, and publishing. For that reason, they range from terrible to terrific.

If you write for e-zines, try to write for the better e-zines--the ones that look good and aren't filled with typos and spelling errors, the ones that consistently have stories selected for best-of-year anthologies, the ones that are edited by people with some clue about copyright law, etc., etc., etc.

Although there are hardliners on both sides of the write-for-love and never-write-except-for-money debate, I fall somewhere in the middle. If you give your work away, do it with the full knowledge of what you are doing and why you're doing it.

And always strive to place your work in the best publications possible, whether they pay or not. You are, ultimately, known by the company you keep, and if the company you keep is ill-mannered and illiterate, it won't reflect well on you or your work.

Today's mail

I received a contract for a short story (my 12th, duly noted a few days ago when I received the acceptance e-mail), and a rejection for an anthology proposal.

Interestingly, the anthology proposal has funny legs. The first editor who saw it suggested an editor at another publishing house. That editor--the one who sent today's rejection--has suggested yet another editor at yet another publishing house. This is the first time I've ever had an anthology proposal get this much attention without a sale.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cows and chickens

I'm not in the habit of responding to columnists in national publications, but in today's Parade, D.C. of New York, NY, askes Marilyn vos Savant, "If a farmer has a total of 30 cows and chickens, and the animals have 74 legs in all, how many chickens are in the coop?"

She gave a complicated mathematical answer and said there are 23 chickens in the coop, but here's a simple answer:

All the chickens are in the coop. The cows are in the barn.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ain't technology grand?

Last evening I received an e-mail from an editor. She was accepting a story and asked if I would e-mail it to her so she wouldn't need to retype it. I happened to be sitting at the computer when her e-mail arrived, so I shot the story back to her within five minutes.

I attended a business luncheon today and, when I stopped at the office* before continuing on to a client's office this afternoon, I found a voice mail asking if I'd sent the story. I sent the story again and then phoned her. Even though neither e-mail had bounced back to me as undeliverable, she had not received them. Neither e-mail was stuck in her spam filter, and neither of us knew why the e-mails failed to reach her or where they had gone. She planned to talk to her company's network gurus to see if they might have a clue what had happened.

I don't know the end of this story. I don't know if her network gurus solved the problem or if she had to retype the story.

What I do know is that problems like these--though less common than they were a few years ago--continue to interfere with my working relationships. We have all come to rely so heavily on e-mail and the Internet that we may think ill of the person at the other end of the wire (editor or writer) for failing to respond or failing to meet a deadline when, in fact, there's a technological glitch interferring with our communication.
___
*Sounds more professional than saying, "I stopped at home," doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

12

I received my 12th acceptance of the year, this time for a bit of crime fiction that's almost noir. I'm slipping: My acceptance average for the year has fallen to one acceptance every 4.917 days...

I also received the copyediting ms. for a bit of supernatural fiction that'll be coming out soon. I OKed all the edits and suggested an alternate word in a place where the copyeditor didn't like one I used. I think the substituted word is better.

Who knew freelancing would tag me as a subversive?

Who knew that leading the life of a freelance writer would cause me to be tagged as a subversive out to undermine the American banking system?

I visit my credit union so often that most of the tellers recognize me on sight and greet me by name even when I'm not visiting their windows. Today, luck of the draw had me at the window of a new teller, a young man who did not recognize me and who apparently had limited authority to use the bank's computer.

How do I know this? Because he could not accept my deposit.

And why couldn't he accept my depost? Because I had made too many of them.

Made too many deposits? Excuse me. Don't banks/credit unions want people to deposit money?

I'm not sure what the magic number is, but I've made eight deposits in the past eight days--or eight deposits in the past six business days--because that's how the money's flowed in from clients, publishers, and other sources.

It's a simple process: I receive money, I deposit money. Apparently, the credit union views this as suspicious behavior because its computer system is programmed to reject an "excessive" number of deposits.

One of the other tellers* had to override the system so that I could make the deposit.

Good grief.
___

*Interesting side note: The teller who overrode the system is married to a Secret Service agent assigned to the Bush ranch. I guess if you're going to have trouble with the banking system, there's no one better to call for help the the spouse of a Secret Service agent.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New Review of Old Story

I found this recent review of my story "Partners," a private eye story first published in Hardboiled (1988) and reprinted in Tequila Sunrise (Wildside Press, 2000):

http://nastybrutishshort.blogspot.com/2007/02/partners-by-michael-bracken.html

Monday, February 26, 2007

Another Revision

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from an editor requesting a minor revision on a previously accepted story that was about to go to press. I made the revisions this evening and e-mailed the revised story to the editor.

11

I received my 11th acceptance of the year, this time for a confession with a Mother's Day hook.

And a check for my half of a co-authored private eye story coming up in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Tom Sweeney is my co-author.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Awards

I just returned from the local ADDY Awards ceremony. (For those unfamiliar with advertising, ADDY awards are presented by the American Advertising Federation for outstanding work in advertising.) I received four awards this evening: a Bronze award for my Web site (www.CrimeFictionWriter.com), a Silver award for an ad I wrote and designed for the Waco Symphony, a Gold award for a series of ads I created for the Symphony, and a special Judges award for copywriting for work I did for the Symphony.

All-in-all, an outstanding evening.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Today's Mail

Today's mail brought the opposite of yesterday's mail: a rejection, a bill, and no money.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Today's Mail

On the upside, I received payment for four short stories today. On the downside...well, there really wasn't a downside. I didn't receive any rejections or any bills.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Revisions, Copyediting, Etc.

I mentioned sometime last week about receiving two stories back--one with a request for revisions and the other with suggested revisions.

I revised the first story twice, going back-and-forth with the editor over one change before I understood why he wanted it and then figuring out how to incorporate it in a way that flowed with the rest of the story. It's a better, stronger story now. The editor's happy with the changes and I received a tentative acceptance. I won't include this story in my sales-to-date count until I receive a clear acceptance.

I've looked over the editor's suggestions on the other story, think I understand her comments, and have gone over the story once making some of the easier changes. As it's a 27,000-word story, this isn't a revision I'll bang out in a weekend.

Earlier today I received the copyedited version of a story I sold earlier this year, and I approved all the editor's changes. This particular copyeditor has worked on a few of my stories and of all the changes he's made in all the stories, I think I've only rejected/questioned two of them. (And questioning one of the changes brought back the response that the copyeditor's Australian. The Americanism I used didn't make the leap into the other English language.)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dying to Meet You

I'll be participating in "Dying to Meet You: Speed Dating with Mystery Authors" at the Texas Library Association's 2007 conference in San Antonio on Thursday, April 12, and I received the TLA's conference program in the mail this weekend. The conference a bloody big event!

Sixteen other mystery writers--some of whom I've met--will also be participating in "Dying to Meet You," so there will be 17 of us vying for attention as we move from table to table--or do we stay put and the librarians move from table to table?--discussing our work and what it's like to write myserties and whatever else the librarians might ask us.

This could be fun. It might also sell a few books.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rant of the Day: Cover Letter vs. Query Letter

It bothers me that many writers don't know the difference between a cover letter and a query letter, and I keep seeing the same misinformation posted in open forums. So, here's my Rant of the Day:

If you include a letter with a manuscript, it isn't a query letter, it's a cover letter.

A query letter is what you send asking an editor if she wants to see your manuscript.

The essential difference between the two is that the query letter is a sales tool and the cover letter is an informational tool. That is, the goal of a query letter is to make your manuscript seem so appealing and so perfectly targeted that an editor asks to see your manuscript. A cover letter is intended to provide some potentially important or useful information about yourself or your manuscript that isn't obvious from looking at the manuscript alone. If the manuscript's enclosed, it had better sell itself.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

10

One of the two stories I finished this morning--the 3,700-word noir crime fiction story--has already sold. About three hours after I e-mailed it to the magazine I received a contract.

This is one of those right-place-right-time sales because the editor is going to use the story in the issue being put together right now.

This is my 10th acceptance of the year. I'm averaging an acceptance every 4.6 days.

Revision time

Last night and then this morning, I received notes from editors suggesting revisions to submissions.

The note last night--a quite detailed one concerning a 27,000-word story--including the note that the editors wanted to see the story again if I made the revisions. I haven't had time to review all of the comments.

The second note--about a 2,200-word story--gave me the clear impression the editor would take the story after the revisions (and might even take it if I don't do the revisions). But I like a couple of the suggestions and I have to think a little harder about the others.

So, it looks like it's revision time for me.

Growing Up with Writers

I saw Joe Hill on Good Morning America touting his first novel. Joe is author Stephen King's son (and, presumably, though not stated specifically, his mother would be author Tabitha King).

I thought about Hill and I thought about Anne Rice's son (wasn't his father a poet?) and about some of the other writers I've heard about over the years who had one or more parents who wrote. What must it be like to grow up in an environment where writing is "normal"?

I certainly didn't experience that. No one in my family wrote. As far as I ever knew, none of our friends or neighbors wrote. Creative writing wasn't seen as a career choice, but as--at best--a hobby.

In some ways, though, I'm lucky. Creativity was never specifically discouraged. After all, my mother painted (landscapes, mostly, in oils and acrylics) and my step-grandfather was a nature photographer who lectured throughout the Puget Sound area of Washington.

But writing? For a living? Not in my family.

Productivity

I finished and submitted two new stories this morning, a 3,700-word bit of noir crime fiction and a humorous 2,900-word piece of men's fiction.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Today's mail

Payment for two short stories and an article arrived in today's mail, enough to pay all the bills on my desk, put money aside for quarterly taxes, and restock the refrigerator. Days like these are always good days.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

To Market, To Market

I mailed copies of seven stories published last year to the editor of a best-of-year anthology in the hopes that he'll select one or two for inclusion. I learned a long time ago not to rely on fate or karma or happenstance for best-of-year anthology editors to discover my work and have been diligently (or semi-deligently) sending copies of my stories and copies of the anthologies I've edited to appropriate best-of-year anthology editors for a few years now.

All-in-all, tooting my own horn like this has worked. I've placed one story in a best-of-year anthology and had one story named as among the year's best even though it didn't make the book. I've also had contributors to my anthologies see their stories listed among the year's best, which is great for them and reflects back on my editorial acumen. (OK, OK, I'll stop now. I'm hurting my arm patting myself on the back.)

I also discovered a new publication--only one issue published--and submitted two unsold stories from my files.

Monday, February 12, 2007

7, 8, 9

I received three acceptances this morning, all supernatural stories, all sold to the same market.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

MySpace

I've had a MySpace page for a few months now, but I didn't do anything with it until this evening. I added a photo and some bio information.

It's at: http://www.myspace.com/crimefictionwriter

Productivity

I finished a new short story this morning--a 5,400-word confession--and it's ready to drop in a mailbox tomorrow.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Today's Mail

Today's mail included payment for a short story reprint. It isn't a significant amount of money, but checks for reprints are like found money.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Productivity

I finished a new short story this evening--a 2,600-word bit of noir crime fiction--and e-mailed it to an editor a few minutes ago.

Google Update

When I tried to log-in today, Google "forced" me to upgrade my blog, a decision I've been putting off for the past few weeks. I don't yet know how the upgrade changes my blog, but apparently I now have more ways to maintain and customize. I guess I've just have to play with the settings and see what happens.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Record Keeping

Try as I might, I can't keep track of everything. This evening I discovered that two of my short stories were published last year and I didn't know it. Oh, I received acceptances, cashed the checks when they arrived, and even approved the copy edits; I just didn't realized the stories had been published.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Production

I finished a new short story this evening. It'll head off to an editor the next time I go to a mail box.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Today's mail/e-mail

Today's mail brought payment for three short stories published last year. In a perfect world we'd all write for pay-on-acceptance publications and in a slightly less pefect world all the pay-on-publication publications actually would pay on publication. Still, the money was enough to bring the bills up-to-date with some left over to set some aside for my quarterly estimated taxes.*

Today's e-mail brought page proofs of an anthology containing one of my short stories. I have five days to proofread my story and note any corrections I'd like.


*Learning to set aside money for taxes has been quite a challenge and marks one of the significant financial differences between being a full-time employee who writes on the side and being a full-time freelancer.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Writer's Disinterest

I don't believe in writer's block. Put me in front of a keyboard and I can write.

But, because I spend my life sitting at a keyboard--writing and editing and creating page layouts, Web sites, and advertising material, and doing other related tasks, and because a good portion of my social interaction comes via e-mail and Yahoo groups and blogs--I sometimes get "writer's disinterest."

Writer's disinterest might best be defined as: I can write; I just don't want to.

I want to be somewhere else doing something else.

So I usually do. I find something else to do until I either must return to the keyboard because of a client- or editor-imposed deadline to meet or I want to return to the keyboard because inspiration struck.

Writer's disinterest doesn't strike often, never lasts long, and is easily cured.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Reprint Published

My story "In the Death Ward," first published in Thin Ice back in 1995, has been reprinted in the Winter 2007 issue of Burst, and can be read at http://www.terra-media.us/burst/Winter2007.html

Friday, January 26, 2007

6

I received a contract today from True Romance for a short story tentatively scheduled for the April issue.

This is my sixth acceptance of the year, and I'm averaging one acceptance every 4.33 days, slightly better than my goal of one each week.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fresh starts

I wrote the opening pages of four new short stories today. The shortest is only a paragraph; the longest is nearly three pages. I write a great many opening scenes and some of them sit on my computer for months before I come back to them. But I will, sooner or later, get back to them and mold those beginnings into stories.

The things we get ourselves into

Last fall I posed for a photograph that was used in a magazine ad. That ad has been converted into an on-line advertisement now up at http://www.wacowedosports.com/events/

On the right side of the screen is an ad that changes each time the page is refreshed. One ad comes up with a picture taken from a sand trap toward the flag on the green and asks "Has an injury gotten you off-course?" The ad is a three-parter. After a moment, the second part appears on the screen and shows a guy in a blue shirt and tan pants swinging a golf club. That's me.

I've posed for other photographs before this, most recently to illustrate something in Seeds, the weekly newsletter I edit, but the golfing photo may be the first time I've ever posed for a photo ultimately used in an advertisement.

Is this the start of a modeling career?

Somehow, I doubt it...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Too Short/Too Long

I've had a long ms. bouncing around for a couple of years now. At 27,000 words it's too short for traditional book publishers and too long for magazines (despite having a couple of magazine editors say the liked they story and wished they had room to publish it!).

Earlier this evening, an editor at a new small press responded to my query and asked to see the story. I e-mailed the ms. a couple of minutes ago and have my fingers crossed (though that makes typing really, really difficult) that the story will finally find a home.

How many words?

Jeff Stehman stumped me earlier today when he asked, "Do you know how many words you sold in 2006?"

The quick answer is: No.

I don't track my output by number of words written or number of words sold. I only track finished ms. For good or ill, that means a filler has the same weight as a novella.

But Jeff's question had me wondering. How many words did I sell in 2006?

I had to pry open the filing cabinets and rifle through the drawers to get an answer, and here's what I came up with:

In 2006 I sold:

At least 193,100 words of original material.

8,000 words co-authored with Tom Sweeney.

And some reprints that I didn't bother counting.

I'm pretty sure I missed a couple of ms. in my haste, and this count doesn't include any of the advertising or public relations material I wrote, nor does it include the miscellaneous writing I do as an editor (headlines, cutlines, blurbs, etc.).

Now I'm left with a question that I can't answer: Is there any direct correlation between number of words written and number of words sold?

5

I received a contract in today's mail--my fifth acceptance of the year--for a short story tentatively scheduled for the May True Story.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Self-Limitation vs. Marketing Ploy

When you identify yourself as a writer, do you categorize yourself? Do you say, "I'm a horror writer" or "I'm a mystery writer" or "I'm a science fiction writer"? Or do you just say, "I'm a writer"?

There's a difference...and it can either cause you to limit your opportunities or it can be an effective marketing ploy.

If you write in a single genre, and you do it either because that's all you want to write or all you're capable of writing, then clearly identifying yourself as a particular kind of writer makes sense. If Sally Editor or Joe Client needs a "horror writer" for a project, they know to contact Bill The Horror Writer.

But if Bill The Horror Writer has the ability and the desire to write many other things, then being so clearly identified with a single genre can prevent him from picking up assignments he might enjoy.

At the same time, if Bill The Horror Writer tells himself that all he wants to write is horror--in effect limiting himself to a single genre--he might not ever discover that he is capable of writing in other genres and may, in fact, be more successful outside of his chosen genre.

(I've related this story many times before, but I began as a science fiction writer and had modest success. Then a men's magazine editor liked one of my science fiction stories but couldn't buy it because the magazine's publisher wouldn't publish SF. The editor asked if I had anything else. I wrote a mystery. Sold it to him. I wrote another mystery. Sold it to him. I wrote a third mystery. Sold it to another editor. After years of watching my SF stories bounce around the markets before finding homes, I sold the first three mysteries I wrote. That opened my eyes to possibilities I'd never previously considered and I attempted, and found success, writing in other genres.)

Of course, one can self-identify without self-limiting. Both my Web site and my blog identify me as CrimeFictionWriter. I have probably been most successful writing crime fiction, but I was identified by others as a mystery writer before I pinned the label on myself. So I've run with it.

So I am "Crime Fiction Writer."

But I am also so much more.

Shouldn't you be?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Who am I today?

I occasionally cross paths with writers--either in person on in on-line forums--who self-limit their opportunities.

For example: I am a white male of a certain age. The self-limiting writers I meet would have me believe that I should only write stories about white males of my age to be read by white males of my age. This indicates a lack of imagination on the part of these other writers--writers who, ironically, may write science fiction or fantasy or horror and seem to have no problems imagining things that don't exist.

If I can imagine faster-than-light travel or ghosts of dead relatives speaking to me, why can't I imagine what it might be like to be a different gender or a different ethnic background or a different religion? Why can't I imagine what it might be like to be substantially younger or substantially older than I am? Why can't I imagine what it might be like to be handicapped or to have substantially more or less education or to live at a substantially different socio-economic level?

Why indeed?

So I write for men's magazines and women's magazines, white magazines and black magazines, teen magazines and senior magazines, and on and on and on.

But one thing I don't do is pretend to be something other than what I am when I'm dealing with editors. I present myself as a writer, and as long as I meet editorial requirements with my submissions, few editors question who I am off the page.

Of course, sometimes editors change my byline so readers think I'm someone else...

Friday, January 19, 2007

4

Today's e-mail brought my 4th acceptance of the year; this time an anthology editor accepted a short horror story.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ice & Productivity

Icy roads have kept me home more than usual the past few days, and today, because I couldn't go anywhere until late morning, I finished another new short story. This one was requested by an anthology editor and I hope I met his expectations. If not, I'll only have about 10 days to write something else.

I also received a request from another anthology editor, the second time she's emailed me about her current project, and I've been noodling around with ideas that might meet her requirements. Alas, this isn't a commission or a specific assignment, just a note that we'd previously worked together and that she'd "welcome the chance to read" anything I submitted for her current project.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Productivity

I finished two new short stories today--one at 1,300 words and the other at 7,000 words--and will drop them in a mailbox tomorrow.

Friday, January 12, 2007

3

This afternoon I received my third acceptance of the year. Burst will be reprinting "In the Death Ward," a story first published in 1995.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

2

I received my second acceptance of the year earlier this morning--a deal-with-the-devil story.

(There are two stories that have been overdone--or so I've been told: Adam-and-Eve stories and deal-with-the-devil stories. Yet, I've sold one Adam-and-Eve story and at least two deal-with-the-devil stories. Go figure.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Published & etc.

My short story "Love From Above" appears in the February True Story, on newsstands now.

Yesterday I received my first rejection of the year. So far, no acceptances and no rejections today.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Seton Hill

It's official: I'll be speaking at Seton Hill University's "In Your Write Mind," June 22-24. I signed the contract earlier today.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Anthology Proposal & Etc.

I completed the anthology proposal today, thanks to help from a couple of mystery/private eye historians, an anthology editor with more experience working with large publishing houses, and some well-known writers willing to have their name attached to the project. I have high hopes for this one as my historian friends were unable to find any previous anthology with this theme!

I also found markets for an essay and a short story that had not yet found homes and prepared them for submission.

And, I added a significant chunk to a story-in-progress.

I've been working 12-plus hours a day all week, so I might just shut the computer down and veg in front of the TV all night. We'll see.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Productivity

I finished a new short story yesterday and have it ready to go in the mail the next time I leave the house. I spent most of the yesterday concentrating on two projects: editing a monthly newspaper that's due today and preparing the anthology proposal. I managed to write only a few paragraphs of fiction--additions to two short stories in-progress--and made notes for a couple of more stories.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Anthology bite

I've edited eight private eye/hardboiled anthologies for a small press. During the past year I've been trying to move up the food chain and have been sending queries to New York publishing houses. I received my first bite today, and I’ve been asked to submit an outline/proposal.

So I'll spend the next day or two--in and around my other projects--putting the proposal together.

1

My first acceptance of the year, a short article titled "Types of Community Gardens," appears in today's issue of Seeds, an e-mailed newsletter. It was originally written as a sidebar to an article published in the January/February issue of Texas Gardener, but there wasn't room for it in the magazine. After a touch of rewriting, I was able to place it in the newsletter.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Typical day

Kitty asked, "Have you ever done a post on what your typical day looks like?"

Until I read Kitty's question in a response to one of my previous posts, I didn't think I had a "typical day," but the more I think about it, the more I think I do.

Monday through Friday I rise around 8:00. I meet with one or more of my clients to determine their needs and I do whatever needs to be done for them. It may be writing a press release, advertisement, or brochure. It may be selecting and editing material for publication. It may be something else related to those projects, such as contacting a printing company.

Each of my three primary clients has work that is deadline driven. For example, I edit a weekly newsletter, a monthly newspaper, and a bi-monthly magazine. The symphony concerts occur on specific dates and require appropriate advertising/publicity to ensure that people show up at the right place at the right time.

Additionally, I occasionally pick up one-shot projects--a short story for this magazine, a magazine article for that magazine, a Web site for a company. Each of those projects has a deadline.

Then a juggle like crazy to keep all projects on schedule.

In addition to deadline-driven work for clients and deadline-driven assignments from editors, I also write a great deal of fiction on speculation ("on spec" means that I am writing without assignment and with only a hope of future income). I do that in the "down" time between everything else during the week and on weekends and holidays.

The downside of all of this work is that I'm a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. I wind up not giving my family the time and attention they deserve, I don't have wild adventures (scuh as flying off on spur-of-the-moment vacations), and I don't socialize a great deal.

Writer's block?

Kitty wrote, "I'm pea-green with envy that you are such a prolific writer because I've been trying to break through my writer's block for months. Have you ever experienced it? If so, got any suggestions for me? So far, the 'just do it' approach isn’t working."

Although this probably isn't the answer you're looking for: There's no such thing as writer's block.

You either write or you don't write. It's that simple.

I view writing as a job. (I have to because it's how I put food on the table.) Just like any other job, I have good days and bad days. I have days when I am stunningly brilliant and other days when I even bore myself. I have days when I'm highly productive and other days when I barely manage to put two words together and spell both of them correctly. I can't afford to have a "block."

Think of it this way: If you were a plumber, how long could you afford to have "plumber's block" before you found yourself living on the street? If you were a doctor, how long could you have "doctor's block" before creditors started hounding you for repayment of all those school loans? If you were an airplane pilot, how long could you have "pilot's block" before your jumbo jet hit the ground?

That said, I realize writing--particularly creative writing--requires more emotional involvment than, say, snaking a drain. Our emotions can interfere with our productivity.

The key is to work around whatever is interfering with your ability to write.

If one of your parents just died, your spouse just walked out, or your cat's in cardiac arrest, for God's sake take care of the situation. Writing can wait.

If you can't pinpoint an external reason preventing you from writing, perhaps it's the particular project you're trying to work on. Maybe you're forcing yourself to work on something you shouldn't be working on. Unless you're writing on assignment and have a deadline, set the work aside. Start a new project. Pick something in a different genre (if you're a mystery writer, try writing a science fiction story) or a different form (if you're a short story writer, try writing a poem).

One of the ways I manage to be productive is by project-hopping and genre-hopping. If I get stuck on one piece of non-assigned writing, I stop, set it aside, and start something else or pick up something else. I constantly have three dozen or more short stories in-progress at any given time. Some I'll write in a matter of hours or days; others may take years from first word to final draft.

One last thing you can do if you just aren't getting words on a page: Work on your writing career. Spend your non-writing time studying (reading books about writing, perhaps), researching markets (go to the magazine section of your local supermarket or bookstore and look through a couple of dozen magazines you've never looked at before), or clean and organize your workspace so that it is comfortable and inviting.

One last suggestion: Don't obsess over your inability to put words on a page. If you're a writer, it's only temporary and you'll be writing again sooner or later. If you're not a writer, it really won't matter.

Writer's block?

Kitty wrote, "I'm pea-green with envy that you are such a prolific writer because I've been trying to break through my writer's block for months. Have you ever experienced it? If so, got any suggestions for me? So far, the 'just do it' approach isn’t working."

Although this probably isn't the answer you're looking for: There's no such thing as writer's block.

You either write or you don't write. It's that simple.

I view writing as a job. (I have to because it's how I put food on the table.) Just like any other job, I have good days and bad days. I have days when I am stunningly brilliant and other days when I even bore myself. I have days when I'm highly productive and other days when I barely manage to put two words together and spell both of them correctly. I can't afford to have a "block."

Think of it this way: If you were a plumber, how long could you afford to have "plumber's block" before you found yourself living on the street? If you were a doctor, how long could you have "doctor's block" before creditors started hounding you for repayment of all those school loans? If you were an airplane pilot, how long could you have "pilot's block" before your jumbo jet hit the ground?

That said, I realize writing--particularly creative writing--requires more emotional involvment than, say, snaking a drain. Our emotions can interfere with our productivity.

The key is to work around whatever is interfering with your ability to write.

If one of your parents just died, your spouse just walked out, or your cat's in cardiac arrest, for God's sake take care of the situation. Writing can wait.

If you can't pinpoint an external reason preventing you from writing, perhaps it's the particular project you're trying to work on. Maybe you're forcing yourself to work on something you shouldn't be working on. Unless you're writing on assignment and have a deadline, set the work aside. Start a new project. Pick something in a different genre (if you're a mystery writer, try writing a science fiction story) or a different form (if you're a short story writer, try writing a poem).

One of the ways I manage to be productive is by project-hopping and genre-hopping. If I get stuck on one piece of non-assigned writing, I stop, set it aside, and start something else or pick up something else. I constantly have three dozen or more short stories in-progress at any given time. Some I'll write in a matter of hours or days; others may take years from first word to final draft.

One last thing you can do if you just aren't getting words on a page: Work on your writing career. Spend your non-writing time studying (reading books about writing, perhaps), researching markets (go to the magazine section of your local supermarket or bookstore and look through a couple of dozen magazines you've never looked at before), or clean and organize your workspace so that it is comfortable and inviting.

One last suggestion: Don't obsess over your inability to put words on a page. If you're a writer, it's only temporary and you'll be writing again sooner or later. If you're not a writer, it really won't matter.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Three for the Road

I completed three new short stories today. I submitted two via e-mail; the third is packaged and ready to travel via USPS the next time I leave the house.

2006 publication stats

My publication stats for 2006:

Short fiction: 50

Non-fiction: 18

Filler: 1

2006 in review

2006 is history. So, how'd I do?

66 acceptances. 31 rejections and/or non-acceptances. (Non-acceptances include lost ms., non-responses, etc.)

I became a full-time freelancer on April 1, 2003. My total gross income from freelancing in 2006--my third full calendar year as a full-time freelancer--exceeded my total gross income from all sources for any year since the mid-90s.

Income from
Advertising & Public Relations: up 215.82%
Consulting: down 84%
Editing: up 32.02%
Fiction (not novels): down 34.64%
Non-fiction (not books): up 48.85%
Royalties (from all books): down 38.17%

Of course, percentages don't tell the entire story.

Advertising & Public Relations generated the largest dollar increase, while Editing generated the second largest dollar increase.

Editing generated the largest revenue stream, while Advertising & Public Relations generated the second largest revenue stream.

Key developments:

An Advertising & Public Relations client I gained in September 2005 kept me busy throughout 2006 and was entirely responsible for the income increase in that category.

One editing client increased my workload mid-way through 2005, kept the workload at the new level through 2006, and was responsible for part of the income increase in that category. Another editing client launched a new publication in early 2006 and was responsible for the rest of the increase in that category.

Some of the periodicals I wrote for ceased publication, some changed editors, some cancelled or cut back the use of fiction, and some have been dragging out payments the past few months, thus leading to a decrease in both freelance fiction sales and freelance fiction income.

The bulk of the increase in non-fiction income came from two sources: an existing editing client and a periodical that's already cancelled the column to which I had become a regular contributor.

Key concerns:

The bulk of my freelance income comes from three sources. While I think all of my clients are happy with my work and intend to continue our relationships, I wish I had a little more diversity in my client base.

I completed no new fiction during much of September, October, and November. While I finished a number of new stories in December, the three-month gap in productivity will probably impact my pocketbook in mid-2007.

There's a possibilty that I'll lose medical insurance in 2007. Could a desire for medical insurance make me consider returning to full-time employment?

So, how'd I do?