Not Sucking Up, I Swear.

4 writers

No, this isn’t a literary agent suck-up…

An old Huffington Post article referred to writer Anais Nin (seen above, top right) as ‘the original blogger’. Not really of course, there being no internet for her, but her release of portions of her diaries and journals was akin to blogging, or so the article explained. Makes you wonder what writers from the recent past would think of social media and writer’s blogs.  I follow my share, though often unfollowing quick enough if I conclude that the blogs are only self-promotion sites cluttering my inbox with redundant “Buy My Book!” posts. Publishing professionals’ blogs are much more rare, many literary agents and acquisition editors understandably too busy with their jobs to feel like posting about the biz in their down time.

But when I come across a good one, I really pay attention.

I’d already queried Janet Reid at New Leaf Literary & Media (though New Leaf queries are directed to a generic inbox) and promptly received my polite form rejection about a week later, signed by Ms. Reid (but could’ve been from her assistant, an intern, or who knows). As any actively querying writer realizes, a rejection isn’t necessarily an agent or editor saying that “You suck” or “Your work sucks, too”, (though, of course, it could be) and can just as easily be no more than “Not right for me”, “I already have something just like it”, or the agent’s overloaded and is more or less shooting out form rejections to damn near everything that comes in. Whatever Ms. Reid’s rejection meant, a tip of the hat to her for adhering to traditional biz communication protocol and bothering to send the form rejection. Not unlike employers with resumes/job applications, the number of agencies that forego any reply at all is disappointing.

Still – Query sent. Reply received. Case closed. So…no suck up here. Clear?

Janet Reid Blog

Because this is actually a shout-out to writers and writer wannabes: Make a point of following Janet Reid’s excellent blog (link below). Reid used to run the Query Shark blog, where brave, thick-skinned writers submitted real queries for her critique. Which could be pretty merciless. With a shared sense of humor, but still…pretty merciless. Which is good. However, Query Shark appears to have been dormant since March, so perhaps it’s on hiatus, or Reid’s devoting her time to her regular blog instead, or Query Shark simply was folded into that blog, or moved, or…

No matter, Reid’s blog is a treasure trove of pull-no-punches advice and practical guidance on countless topics of interest to writers, whether beginners, pro’s or anything in between. And, it’s often quite funny. Reid has a wicked, whimsical sense of humor and a real way with words, enough to turn many un-fun topics into chuckle-worthy chats. The blog’s been going since 2004, and the archives have hundreds (thousands?) of posts, so be warned: Stop by for a peek and you could get lost for days. I follow her daily posts via BlogLovin’ and am diligently working backwards through the archives a few-per-day. It’s so informative (and entertaining), I almost feel like I should be paying Reid tuition.  You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

So, an agent’s rejection? Oh well, that’s to be expected. But I’m glad to have discovered Janet Reid’s blog, and encourage you to take a look too.

(Author photos: Ernest Hemingway, Anais Nin, Carson McCullers, Phillip Roth)

A writer’s blog that is: Libby Fischer Hellmann

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I think of this as “a writer’s blog that’s not”. Yes, I’m a writer, with multiple small press, anthology and other credits I’m proud of. But there’ll be little if anything about those here. If my current projects eventually work out, I can turn this into a ‘writer’s blog’ then and chase followers away with redundant self-promotional content at that time. So, for now, a writer’s blog that not.

Want to see a writer’s blog that is, and is really, really good?

3 libby hellmann dot com

Go to to browse author Libby Fischer Hellmann’s excellent website, blog and e-newsletter. Any writer looking for inspiration or guidance on how to do a writer’s blog and do it right could consider hers “Author Blogging 101” and ought to send her a check for tuition after a visit.

Hellmann worked in broadcast news in Washington DC before relocating to Chicago three decades ago. There, her website’s footer notes, she “naturally began to write gritty crime fiction. Fifteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first.”

Easy Innocence, originally published in 1990, is the first Libby Fischer Hellmann novel I read, and I’ve read two more since: Toxic City and An Eye For Murder. Browsing her website tells me I better buckle down if I plan to work through more of her books.

Like a growing number of writers, Hellman’s a hybrid author, successfully published by legacy/trade publishers, yet concurrently self-publishing, whether to share smaller or niche projects that are unlikely to interest mainstream editors, or to keep older material in circulation, or simply to sell more books and make more money. Writers can be such a mercenary bunch, bless them. Hellmann’s work is a textbook example of hybrid publishing done right, and she’s shared her thoughts and observations about the process via her website, blog and e-newsletter.

If you’re a mystery/crime fiction/thriller reader, you’ll find Hellman’s site interesting, and if you’re a fellow writer, even more so. Check it out.

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alexa mazzarello


“A writer’s blog that not.”

Huh? That’s what the masthead’s subtitle says. And this is a writer’s blog. But then, it’s also not.

Yes, I am a writer. Previously published in multiple genres in the small press scene and did reasonably well for that marketplace. Which is like an actor saying they’ve been successful in community theatre or an artist saying that they’ve done well in sidewalk art fairs. Fine, but hardly the validation most creatives long for. Still, with rights to those projects reverted, I’ve dabbled a little with doing it myself at Amazon in print and Kindle eBooks to keep a couple of those projects alive. Also, I had the opportunity to work on the business end of trade book publishing for a while, which was a good learning experience and a real eye-opener. But don’t look for anything about those undertakings here.

I’m still a writer, of course. Either you are, or you aren’t, right? It’s not like you can just turn it off. The fingertips inevitably get itchy for the keyboard, don’t they? At the moment I’m shopping around one recently completed novel via the normal query process (with all the customary frustrations that entails), while hard at work on its sequel for what’s intended as a noir-ish period mystery/crime fiction series.

Not surprisingly, that first book is titled The Stiletto Gumshoe. Hey, it made sense to buy the domain in case I wanted it later, and since I have to park it somewhere, I might as well put it to use.

But I’ll call this “a writer’s blog that’s not” because too many writers’ blogs I follow and sites I visit can get a bit depressing. You’ve seen them too, I’m sure. Daily reports on the writer’s progress, crammed with tedious minutiae explaining an all-too-frequent lack of progress. Rants against the industry gatekeepers (agents and editors). Partials of work-in-progress that mean absolutely nothing to the reader since we don’t have the whole manuscript in hand and have no idea what we’re reading. Or worse, the relentless self-published self-promoters populating their blog or website with redundant cover pics and links to buy their book…which inevitably produce blogs and sites of the same damn book cover shown over and over and over…

All of those are great in small doses. Comprising all of a blog or site’s content? Not so much.

So, if the time comes when I have some exciting news to share, I’ll do so. But till then, there’s a lot to share about other things. Recent reads, interesting sites and more. And since this is called “The Stiletto Gumshoe”, it won’t surprise you to discover that I’ll focus on mystery/crime fiction books, authors, films, art, pop culture, blogs, websites and more. If my own tastes lean more towards the dark and noir-ish (however you choose to define that) rather than the ‘cozy’…well, noir culture can be found in everything from comics to fashion editorials, vintage illustration to fine arts, collectible paperbacks to television series. So, if any of that might interest you – and I hope it will – stick around.


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