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

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


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.


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:


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...


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

Friday, June 08, 2007


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.


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.