For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Recently read: John Lescroart’s A Plague of Secrets

I’ve been an avid reader of Lescroart’s courtroom thrillers for years, and his books just keep getting better and better. I read this 500-page book in less than 24 hours—I literally couldn’t put it down. The complex plot, richly drawn characters, and perfect pacing are brilliant. In this book, attorney Dismas Hardy, his partners, his best friend, and San Francisco politics are all shielding secrets. The manager of a coffee bar at the corner of Haight and Ashbury is found shot to death with a backpack full of pot. An ambitious detective and special assistant U.S. attorney are sure the murderer is the shop’s owner, who just happens to be the niece of the Democratic mayor and the wife of a prominent liberal builder. A nightmare of legal jousting begins.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Job Series: being a writer. Part 2 Writing credentials

Like any other occupation, you need to have credentials to convince an editor, publisher, or reader that you can deliver that article, that story, or keep their interest. To get writing credentials, you must write. No matter what occupation you have now, including student, start writing. Write a journal, write product reviews for everything you buy, write for your neighborhood association’s newsletter, volunteer to write press releases for your local animal shelter, whatever—just get writing credentials. Contact the editors of online and print media and ask if they need freelancers. Start a blog. Offer to help your friends write resumes. All these will become part of your writing credentials. You may want to collect them (called "clips") into a portfolio (print or electronic). Publish links on your Facebook page or web site or whatever tool you use. And that tool should be professional looking, have NO typos or inappropriate language, and NO party pictures. It will serve as your online Writer Persona for employers, editors, and everyone else.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Digh’s Four-Word Self-Help book is out

Patti Digh’s latest book is available. In this small work, subtitled “Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives,” advice contained in four words accompanied by art is presented on twelve issues: community, love, stress, travel, soul, wellness, success, green, activism, children, generosity and endings. I received my complimentary copy last month, and love it. I got a complimentary copy because I had submitted artwork for it, which wasn’t used (however, my art will be in her next book!). Visit Digh’s blog at You can also buy the book through the site.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recently read: William Kent Krueger’s The Devil’s Bed

This book features Secret Service Agent Bo Thorsen rather than Krueger’s main detective, Cork O’Connor. Thorsen under Krueger’s masterful control is just as engaging as Cork. In this conspiracy thriller, Former Vice President Jorgenson, retired to his farming estate along the Mississippi outside St. Paul, Minnesota, is injured mysteriously and is in a coma. As his daughter, the First Lady, rushes home from D.C., protective services gather. One of the agents, a friend of the Jorgenson family, starts to wonder if there isn’t more behind the accident than a farming mishap. Another excellent read by Krueger.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Last weekend’s RMFW’s Colorado Gold Conference

I love writers’ conferences! Any environment where you get to spend three days with hundreds of people who all love the written word is inspiring. This conference was particularly well-managed, as was the Renaissance Denver Hotel, which had excellent conference facilities and provided good food quickly and efficiently.

I had submitted ten pages plus an overview ahead of time as a prerequisite for participating in the editor review sessions. As a result, the conference for me started in a meeting room with Amanda Bergeron, editor at Harper Collins and seven other novelists. We had all critiqued each other’s work prior to the conference, and now discussed what we liked best about each piece, where an improvement might be made, and suggestions, if appropriate. It was a valuable three hours.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rumba Lessons

Washington Heights Arts Center at

Carl and I had our second rumba lesson last night. We’re really enjoying the small class at the Washington Heights Arts Center in Lakewood. The old school house is a registered historic landmark, with rooms dedicated to dance, pottery, weaving, and other art forms. A pleasant break toward the end of the week, although we have a ways to go before we’ll remind anyone of Fred & Ginger!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Recently read: John Sandford’s Heat Lightening

Another work from this master of thrillers, this one features investigator Virgil Flowers. A murder in Stillwater, Minnesota, seems like a ritual killing. When another man is murdered. Flowers sees a pattern—the hard part is figuring what the pattern means before more men die. Somehow there is a connection between the victims, the scared survivors, and Vietnam. Excellent plot and writing makes this one a keeper (as opposed to going in the give-away box).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Post: Advice for New Freelancers by Angelita Williams

Whether you’d like to make a few dollars on the side or wish to try your hand at freelance writing full time, you’ll want to read over these few bits of advice for new writers. Also, when you’re done reading, consider visiting Freelance Writing at and The Freelance Writing Jobs Network at These sites offer far more resources and help than I can in these few paragraphs.

Although you might pick up your first few gigs through friends and coworkers, eventually you’ll have to strike out on your own. Finding jobs is perhaps the least rewarding aspect of freelancing, because there’s no guarantee that the search will lead to a paycheck.

In order to make this process less time-consuming, I recommend creating a basic gig-seeking routine. Take a day to set up a feed reader that will collect every job posting from sites like the two I’ve linked above as well as Craigslist. That way, you’ll be able to scan these postings once a day and “favorite” any jobs that seem worth your time. Also, you’ll want to have a good idea of how quickly you work and what your rates are for various tasks. If you can establish these early in the process, that will make your bidding less stressful. Then write a basic email template that you can use when introducing yourself and bidding on the job.

Once you do land a gig, be sure to communicate with your clients as clearly as possible. They might know exactly what they want, or they might expect you to show them through the process. If you can determine your client’s expectations quickly, then you can serve them accordingly. Establish deadlines, agree upon rates and a billing schedule, and never hesitate to ask for clarification if you don’t understand an assignment. Finally, be sure to explain to your clients that writing is a process and that they are now a part of that process. I’ve found it is helpful to emphasize this aspect when a client seems worried about an initial draft.

As you work on the project, make sure you are as organized as possible. Know at what points during the day you are most productive and schedule your writing time to take advantage of your productivity. Track the time you devote to certain tasks, either using a writing notebook or task management software. The more detailed your logs, the easier it will be to prepare your invoices. Deliver your invoices as scheduled, and insist upon being paid promptly, just as your client would insist that you submit your work on time. Finally, back up all of your writing and records.

And, of course, write! The more you write, the more income you stand to make, though you’ll want to be careful not to take on too much at one time. Find a level of work at which you are most comfortable writing. The key is to balance all of the above tasks so as to make a decent income without overwhelming yourself.

This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of online college courses. Read more of her articles on her blog at She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Conference, wildfire, and my first guest writer

In an hour, I’m heading to the east side of Denver for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Gold Conference at the Renaissance Hotel. I’ve revised my pitch (think of the blurb on a book’s back cover) and packed my new business cards so I feel as ready as I’ll ever be. Next week I’ll provide news on what I learn from the conference as well as posting an article from my first guest writer, Angelita Williams. A freelance writer, Williams has excellent advice for succeeding in this competitive field, and her article will be Part 2 of my job series on writing.

In the meantime, the wildfire continues to burn outside of Boulder, 20 miles from our house. The smell of smoke is strong as the winds blow from the west with the possibility of the fire reaching Boulder itself.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Creative Competitor

Annette Young, of the Creative Competitor website, is a good source for information for help if you, like me, periodically have a flurry of contest submissions and usually don’t quite make the cut. There are a variety of services including critiques, links, and e-books. Be sure to sign up for the free newsletter. Check it out at Also note the current competitions sponsored by the site listed in this month’s Money Corner (scroll down).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Recently read: M.C. Beaton’s Death of a Gentle Lady

These books set in the Scottish Highlands featuring Constable Hamish MacBeth are always fun. An incomer, an elderly lady named Mrs. Gentle, settles herself and her family into the old mansion perched on the coast. Mrs. Gentle and her money are welcome in the village, from her generous promise of money to the church, to her interest in the town’s doings. Hamish, however, is less welcoming, with his worries about her threats to close the police station. So he is the only one who seems not to be surprised when Mrs. Gentle is found murdered.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Job Series: being a writer. Part 1 Technical Writing

In 1990, I was asked to serve on the board of the Council for Wisconsin Writers ( ). The other board members were university faculty, editors, and a literary agent. I was completely intimidated by all these high-powered people, and wondered how I ended up being asked to serve with them. At my first board meeting, when I explained that I was a technical writer for the State of Wisconsin, everyone gasped. That made me feel even more intimidated—but just for a moment. Almost immediately, everyone started talking at once, saying things like, “you are so lucky. . . we need someone on the board who actually earns a living writing . . . how did you get this job?”

I have earned a good living as a writer for 35 years. I've written for the private sector as an employee and as a freelance consultant, and also for state government as an employee. And I still am asked how did I get so lucky as to be able to earn a living as a writer, and what is my advice for becoming a technical writer.

When I was in college in the 1970s, there was no field or education program called “technical writing.” Technical writing as a field evolved from the computer industry, where understandable manuals and instructions were needed so people could use their PCs and Macs. My degree is in English, with a minor in Journalism, which served me well then, and would still serve anyone today. A degree in technical writing is also available now on undergraduate and graduate levels in many universities and colleges. If you have writing credentials and want to branch out into technical writing, taking workshops or college classes on the subject will help as well.