Telecommuting: First steps

I've been successfully telecommuting full-time for more than four years. By "successful," I don't mean that I'm pulling in thousands upon thousands of dollars per day, or however the spam ads go. I mean, I function very well in a full time position working from a home office. From chatting with other people, and from my own experience, telecommuting full-time looks really attractive. But how does one shift from working in an office to working from home? Here are a few ways to get started. Read the rest of this entry »

What is an anchor skill?

Anchor_art_t An anchor skill is a basic component in a professional's repertoire that one should have, regardless of any other changes in environment or technology. So, what anchor skills should a writer have? Read the rest of this entry »

Beating Windward toward success


Beating windward: it’s a nautical thing.

My younger days were spent as a daily beat reporter and later, as a freelancer, and I had a lot less stuff to worry about. Knocking around central Florida in an old Toyota Celica with a couple changes of clothes, a volleyball, and a battered copy of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash in the trunk is a fond memory now.

As a writer, I doubt that I’ll recapture the spirit of those younger days, crashing on friends’ couches and brainstorming with them about our respective Next Great Novels. But I still keep moving forward and writing. The skill remains necessary even as the medium changes around me.

Take a few minutes to check out the site of a friend of mine who’s moving forward with his own vision, one he talked about often when we hung out during those central Florida brainstorming sessions. What I mean is, he started an independent publishing company. And he did it right: he went and got a master’s degree in the field, and then combined his love of the written word and his love of sailing with a wish to see more of his friends’ awesome stories in print. And now the world has Beating Windward Press to deal with. Check out his first imprints, and enjoy.

How to query editors: A guide for freelancers

As an editor I regularly get queries across my desk. And because of the size of my company, I often play a deciding role in hiring a freelancer. So I've moved to the other side of the desk, figuratively, from being a freelancer trying to figure out what pitch is going to sell, to being the person being sold to. If that makes any sense. Anyway, I've seen good and bad queries. By “bad,” I mean that the freelancer didn't just not get the nod to write for my company – he or she got roundfiled. Read the rest of this entry »

Content management systems for beginners

One thing I was surprised to learn when I became a web editor is that there is still a sharp divide between writers: those who know how to use content management systems, and those who do not. There is no in-between. They either have had exposure to the CMS environment, or they have not.

This is heartening to me, believe it or not. Because I have not yet met any freelancer or new hire who said, “well, I'm kind of good at online blogging but haven't learned XYZ yet.” They say either, “I have used CMSs in the past and can learn yours,” or “I do not know how to use a CMS.” Read the rest of this entry »

A new book, and a new website for This Is A Hammer

Times keep on rolling…

This week, MazzInk Communications published a new book: 101 Best Home Repair Tips. These are home repair, maintenance and improvement tips submitted over the years by readers of my syndicated column, This Is A Hammer.

Along with the book launch, we relaunched the website, Check it out when you get a chance. There will be plenty of home maintenance, repair and improvement articles, updates on the latest technologies and techniques in the do-it-yourself (DIY) industry, and much more.

Download the latest book on Amazon Kindle for just $0.99 cents today! It’s a great deal and a great read.

Fighting Fleas freebie day!

October 17 is free download day for Fighting Fleas!

Head over to Amazon and download the Kindle edition of my new book Fighting Fleas beginning at 12:01 a.m. PDT (that’s 3:01 a.m. for you East Coasters and cheerio to all your coworkers 8:01 a.m.-ish over in Jolly Ole you know where).

Fighting Fleas is my first book in a series that draws from over a decade of pet care and advice dispensed through my weekly syndicated column, Paws Corner. Add it to your collection on Wednesday and hold on for more great pet care books in the near future.

Hooray! My book sucks

The very first Amazon user review of Fighting Fleas is in, and it ain’t pretty. It’s not horrible, either — in fact, it’s enlightening, and I’ll tell you why.

First off, it’s a one-star review. That’s always bad, right? And it’s clear the reader hated the book. That should make me angry. I should be shaking my fist at the sky screaming “they just don’t understand me!” or calling the reviewer names and wondering if he or she just drank a cup of stupid this morning. But I’m not. Not because I’m a Pollyanna, glass-is-half-full type, but because this review seemed pretty honest and frankly, helpful.

“If you are a fan of chemicals and pesticides then this book is for you. I was hoping to find natural and healthy ways to control fleas,” the reviewer wrote. Sounds harsh, but the fact is, the reviewer purchased my book looking specifically for natural alternatives to the flea sprays, shampoos, collars and other chemical treatments. And she (or he) didn’t get the information she was looking for.

“…however it is clear that the author is not a fan and does not recommend any of them,” the reviewer continues. “She actually points out the dangers of the least toxic solutions while touting the benefits of poisons.”

That’s an interesting statement. I’d hoped to give a balanced view of both natural vs. chemical treatments, but for this reader, it wasn’t balanced at all. And it raises questions about what exactly readers are looking for. Is it a good idea to present two opposing alternatives in one book? Is it better marketing to stick to one or the other–a book that only covers natural flea treatment, for example? There are actually quite a few on shelves already, meaning there probably is a bigger market for natural-only treatments. Read the rest of this entry »

Like Paws Corner on Facebook

Heck yeah, Paws Corner has a Facebook page! Head on over and click “like” if you feel so inclined. Also, let me know what kind of content you’d like to see on Paws Corner. More pet training info? More health advice? Tell me, and I’ll do my best to cover it.

Paws Corner also has a Twitter account, which you’re welcome to follow. stay tuned

Those of you who visit the website have probably been thinking lately, what’s up with the site? It’s got a very generic look at the moment. is in the midst of a slight technical meltdown. As a result of that, and just a lot of months of frustration in trying to manage its CMS, will soon be sporting an updated design and a new back end.

Basically, I’ll be shifting the site from a Joomla platform to a WordPress platform. This is a bit of an undertaking and some of the old content may be lost in the process, so I’m taking my time and making sure everything is backed up, accessible, and can be loaded into the brand-new platform without any glitches.

Why the shift? When first went live, true content management systems were expensive, custom-made, and out of reach to most small businesses and individuals. The choice was either a blog, or a static HTML site. The blogging format wasn’t a direction I wanted to go in at the time. But then open source CMS entered the picture: Drupal and Joomla (Mambo, at the time). With just a little technical knowledge and enough time on one’s hands, an effective CMS could be built relatively quickly. I sat down, compared the two, and went with Joomla. The learning curve wasn’t as steep as Drupal’s–the hardest part for me was designing a functional template, not figuring out the CMS. So while Drupal in my opinion was and is vastly more flexible for developers than Joomla, my goal at the time was to get a CMS-driven website up quickly.

Joomla was in a great position at the time to grab small business owners like myself who had almost no web budget, and did a great job of it. Its community was enthusiastic–I attended at least two of the New England region Joomla workshops in the past four years. But I think the competition has caught up, finally. Read the rest of this entry »