Thursday, August 31, 2006

From Flood to Trickle

During the past few months the volume of non-spam e-mail I receive has slowly diminished. I'm receiving fewer e-mails from editors and fellow writers, and I've pondered the reasons for the reduction in volume.

I was once quite active on a couple of Yahoo groups--including serving as president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and, thus, moderator of its Yahoo group--but have limited my participation in on-line discussions this summer.

I'm producing less work on-spec and thus seeing fewer rejections (which is the kind of editor contact I'd prefer to avoid!). At the same time, a couple of editors with whom I had good on-line working relationships have moved on (and not always by their choice), and I've not developed that kind of relationship with their replacements.

On the other hand, it could just be that good weather and summer vacation has taken everyone away from their keyboards and the volume of e-mail will increase as we move into fall.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Return of the Damned

A week ago today I started grad school. I'm only enrolled in one course--at this pace it'll take five years to complete, so I'll need to step it up a notch later--and I'll still trying to balance my workload. As a result, I'm slightly ahead of schedule on my classwork, on schedule with all of my writing/editing assignments, but have not written anything on spec since class started.

Alas, most of my on-spec work is short fiction and short fiction is what I most enjoy writing.

On the other hand, I have made a few notes about stories in progress and have outlined a new story that could be pretty cool if I can write it the way I outlined it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Essay reprinted

My essay "Gardening Rocks" was reprinted in today's edition of Seeds, a weekly newsletter for Texas gardeners. The issue is archived at:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When Editors Attack

I received, approved, and returned edits for two of my short stories this evening.

I quibbled with a couple of minor points, but was satisfied overall. At best the edits improved my work; at worst they did no harm. What more can you ask of a copyeditor?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Proposal and other projects

I've been juggling a trio of projects the past two days: I've been doing prelimiary research for an assigned non-fiction article, roughing some notes for an unassigned essay I hope to submit to an anthology with a deadline only weeks away, and preparing a proposal for another anthology. I finished the anthology proposal this evening and it'll go in the mail tomorrow. I made progress on the other two projects, but am nowhere near completion on either of them.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Essay Accepted

The essay I turned in Tuesday was accepted today. The editor's comment: "I really like it."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Today's Mail & Etc.

Last night, I emailed the essay that was due today. I've not yet heard from the editor, so I'm hoping that's good news.

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

And, earlier today, I started doing research on the article that's due in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Christmas makes 52

I received an e-mail earlier today telling me that another of my Christmas stories has been accepted and that a contract will follow shortly.

This is my 52nd acceptance this year, putting me 4.5 months ahead of schedule. (My goal is to average one acceptance each week. Maybe someday I'll get ambitious and set a target of TWO acceptances each week.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Good Day To Be A Writer

Today was a good day to be a writer. I received checks for two short stories, received author copies of a magazine containing a short story, received an assignment for a non-fiction piece, and may be helping one of my clients update a non-fiction book first published in the early '80s. My work on the book will be more production--editing, proofreading, design, and layout--than writing, but it'll be a good bit of extra work nonetheless.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Today's Contract

The decision to concentrate on writing Christmas/holiday stories for the past month and a half is paying off. Today's mail brought a contract for one of them.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Holiday Fiction

Early last month, after an extended period without writing fiction because other freelance work (editing and advertising/public relations, primarily) kept me busy, I decided to concentrate my efforts on holiday fiction. I felt I had the greatest opportunity to write and place these stories in a short period.

The window of opportunity for submitting Christmas-themed stories essentially closes at the end of this month, but I just finished my fourth Christmas-themed story and will drop it in the mail tomorrow. I have four more Christmas-themed stories in progress, two of them already past the halfway point, and I hope to finish them before the month ends.

Last week, I sat down and roughed out six Valentine's Day stories. Unless editors and clients overload me with assignments, I'll work on those stories until the window of opportunity closes around the end of October.

Then what? St. Patrick's Day? April Fool's Day? Mother's Day?

We'll see.

Today's Assignment

I received an assignment via e-mail earlier today, from an editor who wants a Halloween-themed essay with a twist I never would have thought of on my own. And it's due on the 16th.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Most Prolific?

There's an excellent profile of Edward Hoch at in which it's noted that Hoch has produced an average of 18 short stories each year since he sold his first story in 1955 and that he was working on his 909th story at the time the profile was written.

Hoch is one of the most prolific short story writers producing new material on a regular basis, but reading the profile started me thinking: Who are the most prolific short story writers working today? Do they write genre fiction, as Hoch does, or do they write literary fiction, as Joyce Carol Oates mostly does? Are they well-established names, or are they the often nameless scribes who turn out short stories for confession magazines? Should equal weight be given to writers who turn out flash fiction for non-paying, publish-almost-anything Web sites as is given to writers who are published in respected literary journals or "professional" genre magazines?

In short, how does one identify a prolific short story writer?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Today's Don't

If you don't know the difference between "insure" and "ensure," don't use either word.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Before Desktop Publishing

While helping my wife clean the garage this evening, I discovered a box filled with technical documentation--some of which I wrote--that immediately took me back to the days before desktop publishing.

I entered publishing through the production department, setting type, doing paste-up, and proofreading advertising, newspapers, magazines, books, and just about anything else that could be printed. Although I initially worked on some smaller phototypsetting systems such as Compugraphic and strike-on systems such as the IBM Composer, I ultimately "mastered" the Penta System--a multiple terminal typesetting sytem running on Data General computer hardware--first as a typesetter and then as a systems manager. I wrote complex typesetting "programs" utilizing Penta's typesetting language and I wrote systems programs in Data General's RDOS language and, later, their AOS/VS language.

At one point I was so good at what I did that I was a panelist at the annual convention of the Penta Users Group, that some of the things I created were shared with Penta users other than my immediate employer, and I consulted with other companies (McDonnell-Douglas, among them). I job-hopped my way up the ladder from typesetter to systems manager to shift supervisor to department manager and so on.

Desktop publishing made most of my skills obsolete almost overnight. I was lucky that I was employed in a supervisory/managerial position with one plant of a multi-national printing company just dipping its toes into desktop publishing when it exploded, and I was there to oversee the desktop publishing department's transition from a Macintosh, a PC, and an imagesetter to a department with multiple Macs, multiple PCS, and multiple imagesetters. I traveled around the country helping the plant's clients make the transition to desktop publishing and training the plant's clients in best practices for submitting files to the printing plant.

Somewhere along the way I shot my career in the foot. After a few more job changes, I found myself managing a prepress company/service bureau at a time when prepress companies and service bureaus were disappearing at an alarming rate. Shortly after the turn of the century, all three of the prepress companies/service bureaus in the city where I live either went out of business or were absorbed into printing companies.

Seeing computer printouts of coding--dozens of pages of single-spaced coding--I wrote that made a computer do an extremely specific task still impresses me. Seeing the pages upon pages of technical documentation I wrote to explan to others what the programs did and how to use them impresses me as well.


Because I am not that person today.

I can no longer do those things...and there's no longer a need for me to.

On the other hand, the wealth of knowledge I gained on the production side of the fence has been a tremendous boon to my freelance career. While I freelance as a writer and editor, many times the opportunities presented to me require more than wordsmithing. I'm called upon to write the brochure...and then to design it and prepare it for the printer using desktop publishing programs such as Pagemaker, QuarkXPress, and InDesign.

Alas, I'm unlikely to ever attain a skill level with desktop publishing comparable to what I once had with Penta Systems, but it isn't for lack of effort.

And, after looking through the entire box of material, I pulled out a stack of paper about half an inch thick and dumped the rest in the trash bin.

I need space in the garage for something else I'll try to save way beyond its useful life.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Essay Reprinted

My humorous essay, "Fashionable gardeners say pink in the new green ," first published in Texas Gardener, was reprinted in today's edition of Seeds. Non-subscribers can read it at:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Reading My Published Work

When I first started seeing my work in print, I read every word of every published piece. I even pulled out my manuscripts and placed them side-by-side with the publications. I compared everything. I studied what the editors had done, asking myself, "Why did he insert this comma? Why did she remove that comma? Why did he insert a scene break here? Why did she change the name of my secondary character?"

Later, I read my published work less for the editing lessons I might learn and more just because I received pleasure from seeing my work in print. There is a certain feeling reading a story, article, or essay in a magazine or anthology that's quite different from reading it in manuscript.

I don't read my published work much these days. Perhaps I just haven't enough time. Perhaps I'm jaded. Either way, I've been writing for some editors for so long that whever editing lessons I might learn are minimal and whatever thrill I might get from reading my own work is negligible.

When I have time to read, I read the work of others. These days, there's more to learn from studying how others write and more joy in discovering what others create.

Yesterday's Mail

Yesterday's mail brought a check for a short story, just in time to pay end-of-month bills.