Wednesday, October 31, 2012


This past week I finished reading Unbroken . . . a book that is far more than a WWII narrative or even a survival story . . . but a book about redemption and restoration.  A very inspiring book, though difficult to read in its brutal portions.

Our book and breakfast group will be wading through this book in November and December (Flapjacks restaurant, 1st & 3rd Wednesdays @ 6:15 a.m.) and all are welcome to attend (and eat!).

Reading this book made me realize that we are always facing choices of life and death each day: how we treat others, what we do, how we do it.  Some of our choices lead to life. Other choices lead us to decay and death (though usually slowly).

I like to write about these themes, too, and recently had a couple of essays published that deal with thankfulness, gratitude, and the gifts of laughter.  So I hope they can give some life to others.

I might even share them here . . . provided there's an audience who likes to chuckle.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Killing Me Softly

For only the second time in my life I will be receiving a "kill fee".  And for those who don't know, a "kill fee" is a sum paid for work that was never produced . . . or, to put it another way . . . I was asked to produce some work by a certain date, but for various reasons was then asked not to produce it, and the powers that be felt so bad about hiring me to produce the work that they are sending me a lesser amount for the trouble of not producing it.

Got that?

Essentially, we're talking free money here.  Not much of it . . . and I still report it as income, but money nonetheless.

But, in order to explain this to the IRS, let me answer a few basic questions that would likely come up at an audit.

Q:  Mr. Alleycat, what's this "kill fee" you have listed here under "other income"?
A:  Well, I used to be a hit man for the mafia . . . but seriously, folks, it's just a bit of insider nomenclature that writers sometimes use to explain the unexplainable.  It's the money I received for not doing any work at all.

Q:  You make this sound like you are a politician . . . receiving pay for no work.  How do you explain this to Uncle Sam?
A:  Who's Uncle Sam?  Is he related to Daddy Starbucks?

Q:  Okay, smart***, we'll need to see full tax returns for the last three years in order to determine if you've been hiding other "kill fees".  Is there anything else you are hiding?
A:  Well, when my son is home from college we hide him in the basement and lower food down to him by rope, but he's listed as a dependent on my tax return . . . and believe me, he still is!  I've also got four guitars in the basement closet that I haven't played in years, 26,000 baseball cards in mint condition, and a wife who hasn't seen the light of day in nearly a week.  I'm not trying to hide her necessarily, but she can get rather bitchy when she doesn't get her full 8-hours of sleep and, trust me, you don't want her to be here for the next audit!

Q: Are you planning on "killing" any other work in the near future?
A:  Lord, I hope so!  This is the easiest 37-cents I ever earned.  And by the way . . . does this throw me into Mitt Romney's tax bracket? 

Q:  When should the IRS visit you again for a review?
A:  When I die.  Check with my wife on the details.  She'll be the one carrying the coffee can that will contain my ashes.  I will be in her purse, and will be glad to answer any questions at that time.    

Monday, October 29, 2012

Car Notes

Traveling this past weekend, I spent considerable time taking notes and recording information for what I hope will be a travel book.  It was fun taking these notes, as I was not the one driving.

I did, however, get rather car sick at one point among the rolling hills of Kentucky.  Looking out the window at all of those horse pies made me rather queasy, and the words on the page seemed to float along like water.  I had to stop, then walk around for a few minutes before I lost my cookies.

Deciphering my notes will be tricky business, however.  I'll need to get at these in a timely manner, and I have some late nights ahead of me this week if I am to stay on top of my memory.  Hence the note pads filled with scrawls.

I also returned home to a plethora of emails from various editors (mostly rejections) and several from my agent.  I even had one from a publicist who is eager for me to send along some photographs.

Gone three days and now I'm behind an entire week.

I'm never sure if I can afford these vacation/trips.  I always have to hook myself up to a car battery to jump start my life again.  And those notes . . . I can't forget about those notes!  I hope my writing is legible.  Most of what I wrote was in my sleep.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writing Christmas

Christmas always comes early . . . especially when one is writing for special Christmas editions and issues.  Last week I was able to complete several Christmas pieces that, hopefully, will find their way into other pages.

But this is rough business.  Especially when my favorite time of year is post-Christmas . . . after the hustle-and-bustle.  Perhaps I should be writing post-Christmas work instead.

I do have my Christmas Eve story completed, however.  And will soon be sending it to the printers.

Now all I have to do it find my way through November.

Can you say Thanksgiving? 

Monday, October 22, 2012


Every now and again I spend time reading book reviews.  These reviews are an important way for writers to gain some perspective on the industry . . . what's hot, what's not, etc.  And sometimes these reviews provide some interesting titles.

One upcoming book, One for the Books, is a title I'm looking forward to reading.  It is about one man's obsession with book collecting and reading--his house having been consumed by more than 6,000 titles.  The poor fellow, evidently, spends at least four hours a day reading, another two or three hours collecting even more titles, and the rest of his day earning income so that he can buy even more books.

I have a feeling this guy isn't married.  How could he manage a relationship and all of these books?

I'm always intrigued by book collectors, however, and by the titles they choose to purchase.  In the past three years I've read about collectors as diverse as Oscar Wilde and Larry McMurtry--two great writers of differing backgrounds who were nearly consumed by the volumes they brought into their homes.  Wilde, eventually, lost his entire library in a lawsuit (which crushed him), and McMurtry turned his affair with books into one of the largest used book stores in the United States.

Me? I'm a lightweight compared to these guys.  Oh, I think I have 2,000 titles in my possession now, but that's a far cry from 6,000+ or McMurtry's estate-crushing infatuation with 10,000+ titles.

I also continue to give my books away.  I love giving titles to people who enjoy a particular author or who might find satisfaction in reading a book that they can hold in their lap. 

Eventually, of course, I'll be dead and someone else will have to deal with my library.  My wife will probably call Half-Priced Books and sell the entire lot for $100.  I just hope she keeps my first-editions.  She might not know what she's doing.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mail Me

Much has changed in the world of submissions in the past two years . . . the most apparent being that the majority of magazines and journals (and even book publishers) now have online or email submission procedures.  Much of what I write these days is submitted at the press of a button.

However, there are still throwbacks.  

This past week I submitted a couple of articles via the post office.  That requires envelopes, stamps, and a moist tongue.

But I was prepared.  Since I used to carry ample supply of mailing items, it was easy locating my boxes in the closet.  Stuff.  Seal.  Post.  Wait.

Well, but I've learned to love the email submission process.  It certainly speeds things up as far as the writer is concerned.  Any time I don't have to lick an envelope, I'm elated.

Some day I expect that the online submission process will be universal.  My supply of envelopes and stamps will disappear.  The ink in my printer will dry up.  And then . . . who knows.

Eventually we may be able to talk face-to-face with editors half-way around the world.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Great Guru

Three weeks ago I reviewed a book written by a "spiritual guru" . . . a well-known pastor whose upcoming "tell all" book may, indeed, come as quite a shock to some of the folks in his parish--a mega-church of such tremendous size that it probably has its own zip code.  Since the review has not yet appeared in print, however, I feel obligated to stay mum until the book, and review, are published.

But I can still comment on the commentary.

Naturally, many big names and top leaders--especially in the church--feel that God has given them a unique message, a special dispensation, or an individual blessing that has catapulted them into the limelight of success. . . which is, of course, the place where God needs them.  (It never seems to occur to the gurus that God might not need them, or that they are, in the larger picture of human history and church history, quite disposable.)

Reviewing books written by spiritual giants isn't very fun.  The only thing one can do with a book built on such a dead-serious and ego-centric foundation is chop it down.  I always get the feeling when I read these books that the spiritual giant created the church, and that the church built upon the blood, sweat and sacrifice of Jesus Christ is just an afterthought.  Thank God the guru straightened Jesus out!

I also find it interesting when the giants want to write a tell-all book . . . . Why aren't they being honest with their friends and family from the beginning?  Are there really that many secrets to keep?  Are people really going to be surprised to learn that they are, after all, flawed and broken individuals?  Why wear a mask for thirty years and live in secrecy and self-delusion?  Doesn't the gospel free us from such things?  Or, am I missing something . . . ?

The saddest thing about reading these tell-all books about ministry is that most of these famous leaders don't seem to have a life worth living.  They always come across to me as starched, humorless, and calloused people . . . .

Well, but maybe that's the reviewer in me. Or maybe I've had too much fun in my life.  Some of these people, honestly, they need to have their ticket punched.  I think Jesus would be more pleased . . . and I'm sure Jesus wouldn't buy the book, and he sure as tootin' wouldn't read my review.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Poetry Reading

Earlier this year I subscribed to Poetry magazine so that I could take advantage of the special 100-year anniversary issues mailed directly to my door.  I look forward to these issues each month.

No doubt, contemporary poetry is every bit as diverse and unpredictable as it was 100 years ago.  There is a bit of everything out there--from more traditional stylists to wild esoteric poets to accessible to the inaccessible.  Poetry represents the spectrum quite well.

This past week I also began a more extensive record-keeping of my own published poems--enough to create a book I would think.  And I've also been perusing my hundreds in backlog, taking note of some of the better pieces.  Here's one about autumn that always makes me smile.


We are drunk on the scent of yellow:
The maples reaching for the arching blues
Of cloudless sky,
The wrens and finches
Propping up the feeders and the benches
Streaked with stains of fresh chartreuse.
The grass is bent and measured by
The welcome shadow of the bus
Where children fly from yellow doors
Enjoined in serendipitous
Shrieks of laughter.
And raking lawns we mark the time
By foliage fallen from the trees,
Their veins and codices sublime
To make us float upon their seas
Of roiling wind-swept atmosphere
Where, drenched in color, we appear.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cotton Candy World

Recently I wrote an article about cotton candy and received quite a bit of feedback about it.  Evidently, cotton candy is a popular treat--and not just among the state fair and circus or freak show crowds--but among your normal, every day folks who enjoy visiting the dentist and getting their teeth drilled.

Others seemed surprised to be reading about cotton candy . . . and wondered why anyone would take the time to write about it at, oh, say . . . 2 a.m. on a Tuesday?  What would compel a writer like me to even think about writing an article about cotton candy?  What, do I have cotton candy on the brain?  Why am I not writing about important matters like the World Series, or the rapid decline of cork trees in South America, or how to make a decent cup of coffee?  Why write about cotton candy?  Cotton candy?

Listen . . . I write about a multitude of subjects.  I write about things that interest me--and I write even more about the things that don't interest me, or about things I know nothing about.  As 2012 winds to a close, I look back and see that I've written--and published material--about subjects like:

* God
* Jesus
* Cancer
* Smallmouth Bass fishing
* Beavers
* Mrs. Lulu Buzzard (more on her later!)
* Woodpeckers
* Road Kill
* Amador County, CA wineries
* Wine appreciation
* Writing & Publishing
* My daughter's wedding
* Wedding anniversaries
* Church finances & stewardship
* Grant writing
* Youth Group games
* Donut dunking
* An easy four-step procedure men can use to check their own testicles
* God
* Jesus

And I'm not even going to list here . . . oh, why not . . . writing like:
* my blogs
* some personal memoirs
* science fiction stories
* mystery/suspense stories
* literary stories
* an array of devotional material
* monthly and weekly columns
* several book proposals
* poems
* book reviews

So . . . cotton candy?  Why not!  And by the time I come to my senses, I'll probably have a dozen ideas to write about tonight and, if I'm really tired, who knows where that kind of exhausted mindset might take me . . . .


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Good Book

I often read the Bible.  I find that it remains my favorite book of all-time.  There's a lot in there.  And much of the Bible is quite funny . . . especially when one reads the King James version (published in 1611) and discovers how language has changed through the centuries.

For example, I always chuckle when I come across lines like: Cursed is the one who pisseth against the wall or She rode on the ass and broke wind.  (Get yourself a KJV concordance and look these up!)

Comedians have long-known that the Bible is a rich source of humor, and guys like Jim Gaffigan are pros at exploiting it.  In fact, I think much of the Bible's intrinsic humor is lost on us.  To the original hearers, I think large portions of the book of Genesis and Exodus, in particular, are rich with humor (certainly rich with puns!) . . . and there is no doubt that many of the parables that Jesus told are more akin to instructive jokes, or humor at the expense of the ultra-religious and powerful, than they are to serious commentary (as we often read them today).

Reading the Bible makes me smile.  I like the thought that I can make God laugh each day as well.  All I have to do is tell God my plans for the day.  God will always gets a chuckle out of my egotistical mindset.  You plan to do what?  Really . . . you think you have this much control

I also enjoy trying to explain the Bible to others.  It humbles me.  Eventually I end up admitting that the Bible is a HUGE book (or, actually, a collection of books) and that I have no idea, even after years of theological study and prayer, what most of it is about.  Every time I read the Bible, I seem to change my mind about something or somebody.  The Bible turns me into a waffler every time.  On the one hand this . . . on the other hand that.  I feel like I'm in Fiddler on the Roof.  What, exactly, are we supposed to learn from the Bible anyway? 

And even when I'm not aware of it, I often find myself exploring Biblical themes in my stories.  Suffering, faith, journey, love, redemption . . . these are just some of the themes I write about, even when I am not aware that I am writing about them. 

Mostly, I try to inject some humor into much of my writing. I think this is Biblical.  Humor fits my concept of God.  And sometimes, when I'm really hitting on all cylinders and I'm writing chapters at a time (even if I'm writing about dog poop) I feel something akin to the Spirit.  I feel connected to a power beyond myself.

Lord knows I can't write all this crap by myself.


Friday, October 12, 2012


Today is my 52nd Birthday (no best wishes or smug reminders required) and I have received already a small supply of cards and emails and gifts . . . mostly from relatives who feel compelled to send along their condolences and gags. My mother even sent me a card filled with exorbitant lies, detailing how much she loves me and telling me how I rocked her world 52 years ago (she would have preferred a poodle, I'm sure . . . and I know my Dad was kicking himself back then, wishing he had completed that vasectomy sooner).

Still, 52 years is nothing to sneeze at.  I've lived more than a half century.  And a birthday should always be cause for reflection. So . . . let me reflect.


Back there in the past
When I used to drive fast
My chassis was shimmering new,
And all my gears turned
Cause my wife made them burn,
But now I just drive fifty-two.

I'm not in a hurry
Or head-start or flurry
To find something better to do,
These days I drive slow
Wherever I go
And I never exceed fifty-two.

Sure, I can recall
When my wife had it all
And we burned down the highway or flew,
But now that the years
Have rusted my gears
I don't push it past fifty-two.

I guess I could curse,
But things could be worse
Considering all I've been through,
I'm not yet a wreck
Or a pain in the neck
Since my throttle has hit fifty-two.

And I'm sure, by and by,
When I'm ready to die
And pull into the pits with the crew,
That my wife will confess,
"He created this mess
When he pushed himself past fifty-two."


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Handshake Deals

In many respects I'm a Luddite . . . especially when it comes to old-school trust, honor, and honesty.  That's why I continue to like publishers (for the most part).  Publishing has remained, in many respects, a business built on relationships, trust, and the once-honored tradition of the handshake.

In recent weeks I've taken part in several handshake deals.  I love this.  Although most of these were not of the physical flesh-pressed-to-flesh variety, these were deals arrived at via phone conversations, email correspondence or a simple mutual understanding:  I'll do this . . . YOU do that.  That's publishing as it used to be . . . that's publishing as I remember it and how I want to see it preserved.  I'm an old dog and I don't like new-fangled tricks.  I just want an honest word. 

I like handshake deals because they also appeal to my sense of integrity.  I love it when an editor gives me the green light to write . . . an opportunity based on nothing more than his/her trust in me: that I will accomplish and deliver what I say I will deliver and will deliver it on time, unplagiarized and uncorrupted, and in a manner consistent with the high standards the editor expects.

Likewise, I trust the editor to follow through on his/her good word, to use my work in a manner consistent with the publication, and (if discussed as part of the deal) to deliver payment on time and in the amount determined.

I don't intend to fail on my end.  I don't expect the editor to fail on his/her end.  I will work all night if I have to.  I will work for weeks.  I know the editor will do the same.  And all of this is built on a firm handshake and a smile.  That's how it used to be.  That's how it is.  That's how I want to keep it.

In the meantime . . . I'm still working on my essay entitled, "In Praise of Editors".

I know someone out there will publish it.  Editors, after all, are happy to read about themselves.  They just need writers like to me to write about them and stroke their egos.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Week's Worth

As of this week, I have an official weekly column to write, which should be interesting.  A monthly column doesn't sneak up on me, but a weekly . . . it's going to be interesting.  And the fact that I'm getting paid for my weekly makes it all the more interesting yet.  I've got to produce.  Good material.  Every week.  Fifty-two columns in as many weeks.

Writing a weekly column (just like a sermon) is cause for both indigestion and consternation.  When one is producing by the week, one wants to have something compelling to say or write.  There has to be at least a hint of interesting material, or people won't return.  A dud sermon--people just tune me out and tune in to listen to Creflo Dollar.  A dud column--and people quite reading mid-sentence or they give up reading all-together and move on to Better Homes & Gardens.

Still, I love the challenge.  It's sort of like having to make romance to my wife every week.  I know I've got it in me, but it takes a lot of coffee, nerve, and a fair amount of coaxing during reruns of Gomer Pyle.  And sometimes, when my writing is not hitting on all cylinders, it's like my wife telling me "better luck next time."

Naturally, I'll have to work ahead on these weekly entries.  Perhaps I'll write two at a time, or three, or four . . . .

A week, after all, only has seven days.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Live Long and Prosper

I noted last night that my science fiction story, "The Sea and All That is In It", was published in Morpheus Tales, a British fantasy magazine.  I thank the editors for including me--this is one of those stories that I knew someone would appreciate . . . and one of the best science fiction stories I've written in the past 3-4 years.

Of course, we are living in an age of science . . . so not all science fiction is futuristic.  Some of my stories deal with the challenges of modern-day life, or questions posed by a guy like me.  Questions like:

Where can you find a really good Reuben, and if one doesn't exist, could it be teleported from, say, the future to Shapiro's?

What would happen if I were abducted by aliens?  Would they probe me?  And if they did, would the find anything that would advance their knowledge of inter-stellar space flight or would they just chuck the probe findings into The New England Journal of Medicine?

If I could go back in time and become a younger man, would my wife recognize me and would she still call me "Your Royal Highness"?

What if I wrote a science fiction story dealing with a dartboard that was actually like a Russian Roulette wheel that controlled the universe?  Would this change Calvin's thought on God as the divine parade-master?

Why does my wife give me strange looks when I tell her I'm writing a story about a futuristic society in which all men have twelve wives and all of these women are named "Bambi"?

Would a sane man do this?


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekend Update

Since I will be rising on Monday morning more early than usual, I thought I would post my Monday morning blog on Sunday night (instead of waiting until Monday night to post--in which case the Monday blog might seem like the Tuesday blog to a great many of my readers).  Got it?

But it has been quite a weekend. 

In addition to working up two sermons for the week, I also managed to compose three book proposals--and not small namby-pamby ones--but full-blown proposals of some heft, complete with sample chapters.  So . . . my keyboard has been busy.

My wife wanted to know what would happen if I suddenly received contracts for all of these books at once.  "I'd write them," I said.

"But I would never see you.  You would be hunkered down in your office over your little twenty-five watt bulb all night.  What about that?" she wanted to know.

"We could visit," I said. "Let me write you into my calendar now."

But it's not like I see Becky every night anyway.  Being a principal, there are days she doesn't get home until 9 p.m. (and she's always up by 5:30 a.m.), and there are whole weekends when she is either at school staffing sports events or working up material in her office at the house.  And now that we don't have children at home, and the dog and cat are both dead, it's a wonderful thing to sit in silence (no TV either!) and write.

A man could do worse, after all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Not Just Another Love Poem

The winter 2012 issue of The Barefoot Review recently published my poem entitled "Breast Implants".  The Review--which is devoted to poetry about healing and wholeness--is a good read during breast cancer awareness month.

You can find the poem (a sonnet) at:

I thank the editors of TBR for selecting this one for the winter issue.  Any man who has been through this moment with his wife will understand . . . and I hope it will be of some comfort to women, too.  It is, after all, a love poem.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month.  And breast cancer is a theme that I've written about a great deal over the past decade.  In fact, I now have an entire book on the subject that is currently being reviewed by a publisher.

Beyond that, I've written many essays and poems.  A few of these have won awards. Some years back, Becky even got into the act and wrote a piece for a travel magazine: a first-hand account of hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim as a way of showing solidarity for several friends who were themselves cancer survivors.

Cancer certainly changes lives.  The old ways pass away.  The new emerges.  And there are days of grace.  I don't think one views life in quite the same way after a cancer diagnosis.

I'll spend a few days here sharing a few insights about breast cancer.  Some of these thoughts may be poignant, others funny.

But I hope you'll join me.

Toward that end, here's an excerpt from an essay I wrote more than a decade ago . . . a personal account of visiting the local bookstore to purchase books about breast cancer and the comfort I discovered that night among the shelves.  I was there for hours, finding my bearings, until the manager informed me that the store was closing.  Later I wrote this essay entitled, "The Bookstore and the Breast." 

     That night in the bookstore was more than a moment of commerce for me.  The time spent there, and the hours I would spend later reading all of the titles I purchased that evening, was something of an epiphany.  The books offered me a space and a time—a type of holy chronos--a place set apart to work through my feelings, to come to grips with the fact that cancer had invaded my wife’s body.
     Although I purchased several books about breast cancer--books that my wife and I would later read cover-to-cover--there were other titles that offered far more to both of us. It is difficult to measure the impact of a poem, an essay, a short story, or even a novel on the human psyche.  Some books simply change your life.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Being a Book Reviewer

I'm still receiving shipments:  sometimes two at a time, often more.  Each package filled with books to be read . . . and reviewed.  By me.

Not all of the books are in book form. Many are galley-proofs, or reviewer proofs:  large, 81/2 X 11" format glued and bound in cellophane or sometimes stapled together.  I'm seeing the book before it is a book, and it's an honor to be one of the few (maybe only a few dozen in some cases) to read the book prior to the general public.

I like the idea of being a book reviewer.  Makes me feel tough, like I have some clout.  I try to be precise in my reading and perusal of a new book:  determine what the author is trying to say and then ask how well he or she pulled it off.  Most of what I'm reading--at least in print form--is well-written.  But that's what an editor can do for a book.  (Try that with self-published books and you often get a mash up of split infinitives and bad grammar and thoughts that trail off into nothing . . . .)

Reviewers, generally, must also be quick.  Reviews often have deadlines.  In essence, the review must arrive before the book hits the shelves (or the internet) and people need to have a review that is both informative and accessible. 

Reviewers must read quickly, but thoroughly.  Light reading not withstanding, sometimes a book requires heavy lifting or the late-night work that will keep a reviewer awake.  Sometimes I have to start my day with four pre-coffee chapters, then coffee, and then another ten chapters and a blog before writing the review.

But I like it.  Being a reviewer keeps me in touch.  It also makes me more aware of my own writing and causes me to ask the question:

How am I doing so far?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book Banter

Last week I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with a publisher--a real flesh-and-blood person who, by all accounts, seemed generally pleased to be talking to a real flesh-and-blood writer.  In fact, we were having such a good time talking layout, deadlines, book production, marketing, warehousing and shipping . . . that before I knew it, my five-minute drop-by turned into an hour-long foray into the idiosyncrasies of the changing industry and a complete tour of the editorial offices and warehouse.

What hospitality!

At one point, while the publisher reviewed my complete sales and working history on some amazing web-based software, he said, "It's not every day I get to talk shop with a successful author."

Successful?  Never for a minute have I considered myself in that vein. In fact, I have always considered myself just a prolific stiff, an unsuccessful work-a-day writer.  I commented that I was a firmly established mid-list author, and a lower-mid-list author at that.  I've never had a book on a best-seller list.  Never won rave reviews.  And most of my books have been published along similar lines of the self-help or religion or spirituality vein. 

That's not to say that I don't write in other veins, however.  In fact, I must admit that the books I have had published are actually comprised from a small vein of my total output, with most of my arteries pumping out much larger quantities of work that could be described as general interest or literary or comedy.  I also write copious amounts of fiction (science fiction, mystery, and literary) along with material that could only be described as bizarre or off-the-wall humor.  I also write memoirs, poems, and an odd assortment of material that continues to be picked up by editors who are more warped than I am and who, obviously, are toking on hallucinogenic medications prescribed by a backroom pharmacist named Moondog.  Oh, and I also sell pieces occasionally to women's magazines, travel magazines, fitness publications, outdoor and recreational journals, and even specialty magazines that deal in everything from cancer to kayaking.

What kind of writer am I?  I haven't got the foggiest.  And that's why publishers, generally, don't like me.  I'm wild, untamed, unfettered, and wholly unpredictable.  I don't even know what I'm going to be writing tomorrow.  I make my plans as I go.

And that's why I enjoy talking to a book hound when I get the chance.  They understand me.  They know that, as soon as I leave the warehouse, I'm leaving with a hundred new ideas and will be writing on one of them that day. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Second Bible

There are two books I use nearly every day:  The Bible, and Writer's Market.  As for the former, makes sense.  As for the latter, The Writer's Market is what I use for my light reading:  casually thumbing pages when I watch TV or have a spare moment to relax.  I dog-ear those pages that have some connection or appeal with my work:  editors I hope to contact; unique publishers; magazines or journals that seem right up my alley.

But The Writer's Market is a big book and my wife is always telling me to put it back on the office shelf.  She doesn't like to see if lying on the floor next to the couch (where I normally keep it); nor is it welcome on the center table, where I often leave it spread open to some juicy description of a new publishing venture in Sweden.

Becky is always complaining about this book:  "Why can't you put your things away?" or "Do you really need to leave that book in the center of the couch?"

Answer: Yes . . . and yes!

Information/education is the key to success (or one of the keys anyway) . . . and so I am always trying to improve upon my knowledge of editors.  I want to know who they are and what they do.  I try to keep up with publishers.  I try to learn as much as I can about trends in publishing, gaps and opportunities in various genres and niches, and I read as much as I can about the people who are working in the industry.  Sometimes I send them candy.

The Writer's Market is one of those books that any chap can find in the library. But spending the $25 annually for my own copy is a bargain.  I don't want to go searching for a phone number or web address when I need it.

So . . . for now the book sits under the couch.  It's there when I need to reach for it.