Gary, Indiana Preservation Tour

Union Station

I’ve always been interested in the history of my hometown. Even as a lifelong resident, I enjoy hearing the juicy factoids about the city’s past, and still feel the stories would make an historical tour not only possible, but interesting. In an earlier post, Is Historical Tourism Possible in Northwest Indiana, I posed the question of whether a tour could be a reality.

View of Corinthian columns in former Gary State Bank (Currently Centier Bank)

Well, thanks to the Gary Redevelopment Committee and several other sponsors, three walking tours took place this summer. The main purpose of the two-hour tours were to explore the architecture of historic buildings such as the Gary State Bank (currently Centier Bank), Union Station, and City Hall. Honestly, the architecture didn’t interest me. As a writer, I enjoy the stories about the buildings more, and was glad they were also part of the tour.

While current and former residents like me are already familiar with these buildings, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the three tours were full and consisted of people not even from the area (I was the only person from Gary in my group). I was also relieved to hear– at least from my group– fascination with the stories tour guides gave about each site, and not pity about the current state of the city.

Ballroom of former Gary Hotel (currently Genesis Towers)

Due to distance and time constraints, only a few sites were part of the tour. To anyone who knows or lived through Gary’s history, the information and sites would not be new. They did not include places such as the Palace Theatre, the Memorial Auditorium, or Emerson School. Thankfully, the group doesn’t plan on this being the last tour. They also hope to include more sites on any future tours. Maybe one of those beer trolleys– the ones where everyone sits around a bar and collectively pedals it around– would make the tour more interesting and allow access to more sites such as Waldheim Cemetery, St. John’s Lutheran Church, US Steel Gary Works, and others.


First permanent structure built in Gary: The Gary Land Company Building

In the end, it was nice to see the interest people had for the city. I’m also glad that the city sees the benefit in remembering and promoting its rich history.

I wonder… maybe the city’s history can become part of the school system’s curriculum. Cultural field trips throughout the city are also a thought; a way of pointing out the beauty native Garyites might take for granted because we pass them every day. How many of us can even point to a building in the city and appreciate its place in history? By purposely teaching Gary’s history, I think young residents will gain a life-long respect for the city they call home.

Posted in Goal Setting, history | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rugs and ADHD

Bob Moulesong -- Author & Writer

On occasion, I have been asked why I chose to write about a squirrel that bounces in place, runs in circles, can’t stand still, and occasionally yells “run for your life!”

Many of us watch squirrels in our backyard, or at the local park. We laugh as we observe them behave in similar ways to Rugs. They seem to have an attention span shorter than the blink of an eye. Our children giggle when two of them chase in other in circles. Their attempts to open a bird feeder can result in a social media post gone viral.

While I am amused and entertained by their antics, I couldn’t help but notice how much they reminded me of two of my children, diagnosed with ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

View original post 391 more words

Posted in Goal Setting | Leave a comment

Is Historical Tourism in Northwest Indiana Possible?

Springfield Death Tour.gif

In researching my work-in-progress– an historical tale about Prohibition in Gary, Indiana– I came across the Rum Runners Tour in Windsor, Ontario.


Detroit (background) from Windsor, Ontario

The tour probed the area’s connection to the Prohibition Era in the United States. On the tour, we drove around an area known as Walkertown, where Hiram Walker and his family supplied a dry US with his Canadian Club Whiskey across the Detroit River.

We were then treated to the most interesting and entertaining retelling of Windsor in the 1920s, replete with costumed actors depicting bootleggers, police officers, temperance workers, and speakeasy owners. I had a ball (the morning whiskey tasting didn’t hurt either!)


Lunch and entertainment at a Canadian “speakeasy”

With as much fun as I had and the amount of history I learned, I wondered–does northwest Indiana have what it takes to create tours like this?

As readers of this blog know, this Gary, Indiana girl has a soft spot for the city and the region as a whole. When I tell people where I’m from, they ask, “Is that close to Chicago?” as if that is our only claim on the map. There is so much history here, I used to think that anything I wrote would only interest other history nerds like myself. But with the number of people who’d signed up to ride in a cramped school bus on a rainy, humid day in Windsor, I figured, why not offer something like that here in northwest Indiana? What would my ideal tour of the region be?

There are lots of things to consider if I were to confine my tour to just the city of Gary. There’s the steel mill, of course, but with today’s terrorist climate, that might not be the best idea. Several wildlife and nature preserves offer tours in that area of interest. There are also beautifully preserved mansions in the Holley District of Crown Point, Indiana.


Lake Street Beach, Gary, IN

The pioneer era was interesting as well. One could recreate a sod dugout or set up a horse-drawn wagon route to simulate the grueling journey newcomers had to take through dunes and swamp to get here in the late 1800s.

There is Gary’s Golden Era in the 1920s with its architecture boom. Though rundown, some of the buildings from that time still exist (folks still visit the ruins in Rome, right?)


Ruins of City Methodist Church, Gary, IN

Tourists to the area could be treated to a recreation of what once was the greatest school system in the world–the platoon or work-study-play model, with someone portraying William Wirt (I think the Gary school board might benefit from studying that point in history, in my humble opinion).

So I ask, if you were in charge of tourism in northwest Indiana, what sites/themes would you include?

Posted in genre writing, history, Writing Inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Steel Mills and Tommy Guns: Gary, Indiana and the Prohibition Era

machine gun

Gary, Indiana doesn’t quickly come to mind when one thinks of the Prohibition Era in the Midwest. Chicago, Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre are more obvious choices. I’ve heard stories that Gary’s close proximity to Chicago gave those gangsters a place to hide out; that there were tunnels connecting the two cities for ease of escape. So when I decided that I wanted to write a Prohibition Era story set in Gary, Indiana, I thought I’d have to make my imagination work overtime. That I’d have to find some tenuous connection between the steel mill and bootlegging to make it somewhat interesting.

That wasn’t the case.

Research is a beautiful thing. I’ve always embraced the lesson that setting is a writer’s best friend, especially if there is a historical element to it. While digging into Gary’s Prohibition past, I learned that the city had its own share of issues with the Volstead Act. There was a Little Italy section and its own Black Hand. I learned that there were bookies, bootleggers, brothels, speakeasies and corrupt public figures who ran the rackets better than the gangsters they were supposed to prosecute. James Lane’s City of the Century led me to real-life gangster Gasperi (or Gaspari) Monti who ruled the city’s Little Italy section until his violent death in 1923.

3080059621_31d213b0dc_oAccording to local newspaper reports, Monti is best known as the government’s star witness in a corruption case against more than sixty judges, prosecutors, policemen, and even then-Gary mayor Roswell Johnson, all for violating Prohibition laws. At the time, the Gary Police Department had a special enforcement arm called the Sponge Squad that arrested bootleggers, and then would sell liquor confiscated in the arrests to line their pockets and the pockets of everyone else up the law enforcement chain in Lake County. Monti made a deal with federal prosecutors to expose the corruption, but was gunned down in broad daylight by two unknown assailants on March 13, 1923, just days before he was scheduled to testify.

Monti was no stranger to violence and attempts on his life. In 1922, he’d been shot through the mouth by a man who’d shot him a year prior. He owned and operated the Black and Tan Club in the 1700 block of Adams Street where shooting deaths were commonplace. Even Monti’s wife, Mary, was into the rackets. After her husband was killed, police found illegal liquor and several pounds of explosives in her home.

Gary, Indiana’s past never ceases to amaze me.  The further I go back in time, the more fodder I find for fiction. I imagine there are several genres I can squeeze out of the life of Gasperi Monti.

Posted in genre writing, Goal Setting, history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Suicide Squirrels and the Writing Retreat



After a writing friend mentioned how she would use the winnings of a recent contest she’d entered to attend a writer’s retreat and reading about writing retreats in an issue of Writer’s Digest, I wrote about creating my own retreat in the April 2013 post, “7 Steps to Creating Your Own Writing Retreat.” Well, I actually did it. Below details how I used the seven steps gleaned from the Writer’s Digest article to organize my very own weekend retreat. Three brave souls from my critique group dared to try this experiment with me. So thanks to Liz Wilson-Cotey, Laurie Chase, and Julie Perkins for inspiring this post.

  1. Set Specific Goals: Our primary goal was to get away and have time dedicated to just writing. Our goals for the weekend were receiving feedback on current projects and then working on them. Though we do this regularly every two weeks, critiquing and then immediately working on the project keeps ideas fresh, as opposed to waiting days later until there was time in our schedules to analyze feedback and act on it.
  2. Choose the Location Carefully: We were fortunate enough to have a whole house available to us for the weekend. It wasn’t as remote as we would have liked it. Though it was in a rural part of the county, the house was located on the town’s main business drag, so we heard every emergency vehicle and overexcited patron of local establishments for the duration of the retreat. The only other snafu to our perfect location was the Suicide Squirrels. Actual squirrels had gotten into the house prior to our arrival and had a field day. We spent about an hour cleaning up what we initially thought was rat poo… ALL. OVER. THE HOUSE. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that a pair of baby ground squirrels drowned in one of the bathrooms caused the mess. At least we wouldn’t worry about rats crawling all over us while we slept!
  3. Sketch Out a Schedule: Since it was just a weekend and essentially an experiment, we had a fairly loose schedule. Friday night was to be spent critiquing, but the suicidal squirrels and a pint of Captain Morgan’s shortened that exercise. After an hour of cleaning up behind the decedents, we welcomed the Captain to the critique table. We only managed two critiques before calling it a night.
  4. Make it a Reading Retreat, Too: We learned that, for us, writing nonstop for an entire day just wasn’t going to work. We spent the morning (after finishing with critiques) and afternoon writing. By the time early evening arrived, I don’t think our eyes could absorb another word. While one of us opted to run, the rest of us napped, read, or listened to music.
  5. Be Healthful: Aside from the Captain Morgan’s, we did a potluck for the first night and ended up with more food than we needed. Fruit was available and we even had a delicious breakfast of gluten-free pancakes on the final day. To combat cabin fever, we ate at a Mexican restaurant on Saturday night. Guacamole is healthy, right?
  6. Leave Your Other Work at Home: This was easy. The only other work we brought was other writing projects. Not only was I able to write an entire chapter for my WIP, I completed a devotional for my church’s Facebook page. I also researched some places to submit work and took a couple of hours to view an online movie during the era in which my manuscript takes place. That counts as research in my book.
  7. Reflect on Your Routine: On the final night, we roasted marshmallows and reflected on the weekend. We agreed that the retreat, though short, was much needed in our hectic schedules. We decided that someplace more secluded would be our next location, without the suicidal squirrels, of course. Captain Morgan is invited to attend again, but his appearance would have to be much earlier than 9 pm.


Posted in Goal Setting | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Integration Situation: The 1927 Emerson School Boycott

Emerson VPA image

Gary, Indiana’s Emerson School, built in 1908, became a visual and performing arts school in 1982. It closed after its centennial year.

As a special education teacher, I said I would never write a story about teaching or schools. But in researching the history of my hometown of Gary, Indiana, I discovered rich–and sometimes infamous–stories about not only the city itself, but also the school system. A 1927 incident involving nearly a third of one school’s student body walking out for a week caught my eye.

That incident serves as the backdrop to a fantasy manuscript I’m currently working on about an angel in 1927 Gary, Indiana whose extended time on earth is causing him to disintegrate into a demon.

Emerson with windows

Side view of Emerson in 2014. The school had been closed for several years at this point.


The Gary Community School Corporation was once considered a premier educational system (a complete contrast to its present state). Its “platoon” model, the brainchild of superintendent William A. Wirt, was sought after by other cities. Wirt designed this work-study-play curriculum after his belief that city life ruined children, as they weren’t exposed to the style of schooling he experienced as a youth growing up in a rural area. Instead of spending time at a desk for almost half the school day, Wirt envisioned a curriculum that not only trained the child academically, but also provided guided leisure time, which kept students from what he termed a “street and alley education.”

“Employment for his idle time,” Wirt wrote in a draft I found of a 1926 speech on Work-Study-Play Education, “must be found by the big brother so that the wants that give value to work and the tastes that give value to leisure will be developed.” Wirt’s model resembles what we see in today’s secondary schools: 60-minute blocks for academics; 60 minutes for play/physical education; 60 minutes for his revolutionary Auditorium program, in which several classes met in the school auditorium for lessons that included hygiene, drama, music, and public speaking; and 60 minutes for work training or special classes such as art. According to the 1925 school statistics housed at Indiana University Northwest Calumet Archives, sixty-five percent of the district’s nearly 18,000 students voluntarily attended Saturday school. Sixty percent voluntarily attended eight weeks of summer school. From all historical accounts I’ve read, students actually enjoyed all the time spent in school.



Current back view of Emerson. This large campus once housed a zoo for its science classes

Construction began on Ralph Waldo Emerson School in 1908. In 1927, it was one of two unit schools that housed kindergarten through 12th grade. At the time, two of the twenty-one schools in the city were reserved for “colored” students only. And out of the nearly three thousand students attending Emerson in 1927, only seven were black. According to James Lane’s City of the Century and evidenced in school yearbooks prior to 1927, those black students were hand-picked to attend the school because of their fair skin. I learned that by the end of 1927, all black students had been forced to leave.

The 1927-28 school year began with the transfer of twenty or so black students into Emerson. Accounts vary as to why. A history of Emerson, published in the ad book for the school’s centennial celebration in 2008, cited redistricting as the reason. Another account cited the poor and overcrowding conditions of the nearby Virginia Street School. Within three weeks, about 900 white students suddenly boycotted the transfer. Emerson’s 1928 yearbook recalled events through snippets like these:

September 7: School starts.

September 10: New students (“confusion”).

September 22: Strike! Strike! Mass meetings. Esh the orator.

September 23: Still strike! Meeting in East Side Park. Picture in all the papers.

September 25: Board of Ed acts. Meeting in Auditorium. Everyone talks. Pleasings, threats, promises, denials, defiance, etc.! Big Joe has a say.

September 27: All is well, oil is spread on the troubled waters. Everyone is back in school.

According to one historic account (and the dates vary; some sources have this occurring in 1926), a locked door on the morning of September 22 led to a logjam of teenagers in the hallway. A single negative remark towards a group of black students led to the week-long walkout. Students Drucilla Miller and Lucia Beddow summed it up in the 1928 yearbook this way: “Then, too, remember the dreadful strike? And the strikers, and the strike leaders, and the “scabs?” We’ll not soon forget that, will we?”

In the end, black seniors who attended Emerson before the transfer were allowed to return to school, only to be asked to leave for good by November 1927. The boycott resulted in the construction of Roosevelt High School in 1931, Gary’s first school built exclusively to serve the black community. In 2003, the Gary Community School Corporation awarded one of the last surviving black students displaced by the boycott her high school diploma.


Front entrance of Emerson. The school ended its days as a visual and performing arts school.

Ironically, this incident was just the first of two boycotts stemming from integration; the other, more widely publicized because of Frank Sinatra’s involvement, occurred in 1945 at Froebel School. I chose to use the 1927 incident as a plot point for my manuscript because I find the Roaring Twenties fascinating, and the city of Gary was not immune to the glamour and corruption of that time period. It also provides a thread to connect my main protagonist’s exile from Heaven to an actual event of the day: black students exiled from the only school they’d ever attended.


Posted in Goal Setting, history, Social Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Before Pressing the Send Button…

Dog at Computer

I am a dog lover. For me, my poodle and Corgi are my children. When the time came to find a place to board them for a couple of days, I took my time looking for the right place. I insisted on a tour of each facility I considered. I checked the crates they’d be housed in, the outdoor pen where they’d be walked. I also wanted to know the feeding and walking schedule. I even talked to the staff to gauge the personality of the place. My goal was not finding a facility to leave my dogs for a few days. I needed to know that my babies would be taken care of once they left me.

I consider my short stories my other babies. Like my beloved dogs, I nurture each written piece, feeding them the right amount of dialogue, imagery and exposition. I take them around the block a few times, fielding advice from my critique group members. And when the time comes for me to submit them for publication, I make sure I take a look around before giving my hard work over to just anybody.

For any writer, the submission process should involve more than just the idea of having something published. A great deal of research is needed to ensure the likelihood of not only acceptance by the publication, but that an audience is available to read it. Reading the submission guidelines is just the beginning. That would be like choosing a place to board my dogs based solely on what the building looked like on the outside. Read samples of recently printed short stories or articles in the publication to determine if they match the style and tone of your piece. Publication mediums—whether electronic, print or both—should also be considered. While some print publications have an established audience of dedicated readers, in my experience, electronic publications have the potential of being shared across several on-line platforms, thereby reaching a much wider audience. The frequency of publication, payment, rights, and response time for submissions are additional items that should be researched before deciding on a potential home for your work.

As a reader for Short Fiction Break, I’ve had the privilege of being on the other side of the submission process. Reading work with glaring typographical errors, missing or odd cover letters, and some well-crafted work that just didn’t fit with what Short Fiction Break has published gives me an appreciation for the process. I now think twice before hitting the “Send” button on my own submissions.

Consider the importance of your project when the time comes to submit a manuscript, poem or short story. Consider all the time and effort you put into crafting it. Consider the love you have for your “baby.” Then begin the work to ensure your baby will be taken care of, meaning read and appreciated, once it leaves you.

This post previously appeared at Indiana Writers’ Consortium

Posted in Publishing, Writing advice | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Working with a Freelance Editor: An Interview with Tiffany Cole

Freelance editor Tiffany Cole

Freelance editor Tiffany Cole

Today’s post is an interview with Tiffany T. Cole, a freelance editor and a copy editor for Limitless Publishing and the Purdue University Chronicle. She has edited and critiqued dozens of newspaper articles and dozens of books, fiction and nonfiction alike, in a variety of genres. Before that, she was an editorial assistant for Month9Books and the president of Reader’s Den, a website where she reviewed and promoted books for self-published authors and traditionally published authors for two years. You can learn more about Tiffany and her editorial services at If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail her at


What exactly does a freelance editor do?

TC: To understand what a freelance editor does, it’s important to understand what an in-house editor does. An in-house editor, namely one for a big publishing house and certain small press houses depending on how the press is run, often spends their nine-to-five job shift working on a number of tasks: reading and acquiring submissions, running P&Ls (profit and loss), writing cover copy, writing bound galley copy, reaching out to agents, etc. Surprisingly, for an in-house editor, almost little to no editing and reading actually takes place at the office. Many in-house editors work on multiple rounds of editing during weekends and nights.

A freelance editor skips right to the chase. Their nine-to-five is editing. An author or publisher sends them a book, the editor decides if they’re the right fit for the book, and then the editor edits the book. Further, freelance editors tend to work for multiple houses and multiple authors instead of being on an employee payroll for one house.

How did you first get into editing?

TC: When I graduated from high school, I knew right away that I wanted to play some type of role in the publication of books, but I wasn’t sure what role. Then it occurred to me that if I reviewed and promoted books, I could get free books, talk to authors and publishers, and get my reviews published in magazines and on websites. For a nineteen year old who loved books (but couldn’t afford them) and saw authors and publishers as celebrities, this was a dream come true.

For two years, I ran a website called Reader’s Den and wrote reviews for multiple blogs and Suspense Magazine. In all, I wrote fifty reviews, some for traditionally published books, but most for self-published books. More often than I’d like to admit, authors would send me books in need of editing and, instead of taking quick notes as I read so I could write a thorough review, I found myself taking long, meticulous notes for an editorial letter. Out of respect for the author and because I genuinely felt their books were only suffering because it either hadn’t been edited or hadn’t been edited well, I would decline to write a scathing review and would instead give them the letter and ask that they consider republishing.

I didn’t mind doing this every so often, but there was one month in particular where all of the books given to me were in need of editing. Writing long editorial letters for free became stressful and caused problems for my schedule, both as a reviewer who only reviewed books on the weekends and as a college student with a full schedule of classes who hadn’t prepared for the time consuming nature of writing editorial letters, which often required more than just one day of reading and one day of writing.

Finally, I decided I was better off pursuing a manuscript critique service, closed Reader’s Den, and redirected my energy to editorial courses, studying, and building a new business.

Are there certain genres you find more challenging to edit? If so, Why?

For both fiction and nonfiction, the more technical the genre, the more trouble I have, only because I then spend a lot of time questioning the technicalities and/or asking the author to clear something up for the readers (depending on the book’s specified audience).

For fiction, the genres I read and know a lot about are fantasy, paranormal/supernatural, romance, action/adventure, and horror. For nonfiction, the genres I’m most interested in are self-improvement, writing craft, and autobiographical/memoir.

Each genre has its own set of mechanics and styles, so, for the genres I named above, I’m familiar with the mechanics and can edit with the mechanics in mind. For something like mystery or history, for instance, I can still edit the books, but not with that understanding of the mechanics specific to that genre.

How do you choose which projects to take on?

TC: Whether I take on a project depends largely on my schedule and if I’m the right fit for both the author and their book. An editor who doesn’t understand the book and the author or who has personal views that might interfere with how well they edit the book should never accept the book. You can’t give your all as an editor to a book or author you don’t understand or respect. I strongly stand by that.

If I’m a good fit for the book and there’s room in my schedule, I choose that project.

Are there projects or clients you would NOT take on?

TC: I had an overbearing, controlling client who wanted daily updates on my progress and a number of contracts. She was always trying to talk me into lowering my already very cheap prices. It’s not an experience I want to repeat, so I make sure to avoid clients who give off a similar vibe to that client. The editor-author relationship has to be a compatible one. At the very least, there can’t be any toxicity.

I won’t accept a project I don’t think I’d be able to give my all to. When that’s the case, I try to recommend other editors. I don’t accept poetry, dissertations (not yet), or any book written for a specialized skill and audience. To properly edit a book about the medical field or any of the sciences, for instance, I would need to understand those subjects thoroughly enough to notice any substantive errors. It would be disingenuous to edit something I don’t fully understand.

Do you find being an editor makes it more difficult for you to read for enjoyment?

TC: I don’t have as difficult a time reading for enjoyment as I did when I used to review 4-5 books a month. Back then, since I was reading so much fiction, the only books I enjoyed reading on my own time was nonfiction. I edit a lot of romance these days, so I have no interest in reading romance on my own time. Now I’m more interested in reading classics, business books, and nonfiction.

All in all, I’m still an avid reader, but whatever I’m editing or reading a lot of for a job, I usually avoid reading on my own time. I like variety.

Can you explain the different kinds of edits (copy, line, etc.) you do?

TC: I offer three editorial services: copy editing, substantive editing, and manuscript consultations. For both fiction and nonfiction alike, a copy edit consists of clarifying meaning and polishing language; editing for grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style; and checking for consistency of mechanics and internal consistency of facts. The completed copy edit of a book includes line-by-line edits, a comprehensive report that goes over consistent errors and how to correct them, and communication before, during, and after the edit. All of my edits are at least two rounds.

The substantive edit (fiction only) covers a thorough analysis of conflict, setting, characterization, items/terminology, dialogue, plot/sub-plots, and consistent grammar and spelling errors. It’s best for the first and/or second draft of a novel and should be done before getting a copy edit.

For manuscript a consultation, regardless of which stage your book is in—an outline, a rough first draft, or even a final draft you’re preparing to send to a publisher or formatter—I’ll thoroughly read through whatever you send me, take extensive notes, and call you to discuss the book’s concept, what’s working, and what’s not working. The turnaround will always be two weeks, no matter the length of the book.

What, in your opinion, is the benefit for writers using a freelance editor?

TC: If you’re an author that plans on self-publishing, it’s absolutely necessary. If you’re self-publishing, there’s no gate keeper or in-house editors your book must go through before it’s published. It’s easy to only get a proofread and/or publish your book right away if you’re convinced the book is in perfect shape, but, no matter how great of a writer you may be, a book is seldom in perfect shape so early on.

If you’re an author that plans on traditionally publishing, hiring a freelance editor to edit your book first will give it that extra edge when the acquiring editor or intern is looking it over. You will stand out as someone who went the extra mile to make sure your book was ready.

You may think turning to friends, family, beta readers, or English majors is enough to officially prepare your book for publication, but it’s only enough during the self-editing stage. Even if they’re really good at English or pointing out errors, their edits are more likely to be affected by their feelings for you. Furthermore, their edits are less likely to be organized, thorough, or focused. They’re not editing your book because it’s something they do often and professionally, meaning they don’t truly have a checklist or evaluation process keeping their edits consistent and thorough. They’re also probably not using a style guide and its preferred dictionary while editing.

What advice would you give writers on choosing a freelance editor for their work?

TC: Since prices can vary so widely, you need to know how much money you’re willing to spend. You need to consider just how rough your work is before submitting. If you’re sending an editor your first draft (which I don’t recommend; it’s always better to at least self-edit first), consider how expensive that will be. Last but not least, you need to know when you’d like the edits back, since a lot of editors will charge extra if you give them a book last minute when you’re on a tight deadline.

After getting your money’s worth on your end by understanding yourself, it’s time to get your money’s worth on the editor’s end by understanding them. Explore their website. Check if they have a page for their biography/resume, testimonials, prices, and submission guidelines. Read their biography or resume and look for the credentials that matter most to you. Go to the page that lists which books, publishers, and/or authors the editor has worked with so you can individually ask a few of that editor’s clients about their experiences working with the editor. Ask for a free sample edit so you can see how you feel about their style of editing and/or ask to see a sample of some of their other edits.

Posted in Editing, Interview, Publishing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How I Wrote My Poem: Guest Post by Tom Spencer


I am reblogging this previous guest post in memory of my friend, Tom Spencer, who passed away June 30, 2015.

How does one create poetry? I have no idea. I’ve tried it a few times and have only read one in my “therapy” sessions (translation: writer critique group). But instead of subjecting you to my near non-existent process, I’ve asked an expert to do it. The following guest post is by the Immediate Past President of the Indiana Poetry Society, Tom Spencer.

I took the words down from the shelf

in polished rhymes of rhythmic times

let them wander through my mind

to fraternize, socialize

mingle indiscreetly

At first they cast a jumbled mass

noble prose of, –

of –

of polysyllables

Gathered then the vowels as kin

they thought to start a movement

the “i”s made social ties with “e”s

the “o”s and “u”s sang the blues

the “a”s true fate stood isolate

quite shy the “y”

tried to imitate an “i”

The consonants in wonderment

thought their lot to emulate

sororities, minorities

groups of cliques

bold clichés

fraternities of vowels

conquistadors of toreadors

gathered force in kind

to stimulate the mind

Amassing then their rhythms

in ethnic groups of sound rebound

the orchestras were formed

arias of assonance,

consonance as minuets

alliteration salutations

their rhythms made relations

and then,

only then,

the labor did begin


Tom Spencer, is a northwest Indiana native now living in Lowell Indiana. He is a 1961 graduate of East Gary Edison High School with a BS degree from Purdue in 1995. Tom has been writing poetry since his encounter with Alice Peterson, an eighth-grade English teacher in the East Gary School system. He was mostly a formalist poet during the blue period of his life where family demands required his attention more than poetry and writing.

Tom has amassed a wide variety of experience to draw on for his poetry: a stint in the US Army’s Combat Engineers, sewing machine sales and service, millwright at Union Tank, blue print machine repairs and independent business along with community involvement.

He has been, and still remains active in many community organizations which, to him, is a wellspring of poetic fodder. A member of The Indiana Writers Consortium, Write-On Hoosiers, Northwest Indiana Poetry Society, The Indiana Federation of Poetry Clubs and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies.

A widower since 2009 with one daughter, Lenore Spitznagel of St. Louis, Missouri, he has the required two “Brilliant Grandsons” now attending college in Missouri.

His mantra is “to be a writer of any genre you need to write every day”… and he does.


Posted in Guest Blogger, Poetry, writing method | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Striving After Wind: A Prequel, Part I

wind-on-the-dunesThis is the prequel to my unpublished historical fiction manuscript, Striving After Wind, which previously appeared at Short Fiction Break.

October 1860

Helen Brandt lay on her straw mattress listening to the autumn rainstorm roll across the northern Kentucky countryside. A growl of thunder vibrated the cabin. Outside her bedroom window, lightning flashes revealed the skeletal remains of the surrounding forest readying itself for winter. The wind slapped rain against the glass pane sending shots of cold air through the worn-out chinks between the logs of the cabin.

She buried herself deeper into the layers of bedding knowing she wouldn’t fall asleep before her husband came to bed, as Theodore usually stayed up late on weekends preparing for his Sunday sermons. On occasion, she would keep him company in the study as he worked until interrupted by the clandestine arrival of runaway slaves. With no forewarning, they would arrive in twos and threes, ragged and tired, having sometimes spent days in the wilderness. But Helen doubted anyone would be out on a night like this.

A sharp clap of thunder rent the heavens. That gave her excuse enough to get up and see how far Theodore had gotten with his sermon. Listening to him read it aloud usually put her to asleep, not out of boredom, but because she would hear it three more times on Sunday when she accompanied him on his rural town circuit. She jumped from the bed, wrapped a shawl over her sleeveless cotton nightgown and headed toward the firelight beckoning from the study.

From the bedroom, Helen saw Theodore hunched over his desk, the top of his balding head glistening with fevered concentration. His wire-rimmed spectacles balanced on the tip of his nose. He dipped the metal nub of his pen in the inkbottle then scribbled notes on a piece of paper. A Bible and other worn compilations of writings from Church fathers formed a barricade atop the desk. His head bobbed up and down, his blue eyes moving between book and paper. Helen made her way across the sitting and kitchen area, hopping onto area rugs to avoid the chilled wood under her bare feet. She leaned against the doorway of the study, fingering the rope of silver hair that hung over her porcelain shoulder.

“You’re going to catch cold,” he said in German.

Helen walked behind his chair and wrapped her arms around his thin shoulders. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“You’re distracting me,” he said, a smile teasing at the corner of his mouth.


Theodore turned around in his chair and kissed her. Then he smiled and returned to his work. She leaned her chin on his salt and pepper hair as he continued to write. They remained like this for several minutes, him working and her listening to the sounds of the storm mingled with the crackle of the fire.

“So what did your sister have to say in her letter?” he finally asked, flipping through the New Testament.

“Grandchild number three has been born.”

Theodore turned around and removed his glasses. “So that’s the reason for your melancholy! People were beginning to think I’d done something to you. Why do you let that bother you still?” He scooted his chair back from the desk and pulled Helen down onto his lap.

“I don’t know.” She lay her head against his and shrugged as she toyed with one of his shirt buttons.

“Look, I’ve settled into a selfish stage now. I think I’d be quite sour if I had to share you.” He smiled and kissed her neck, making her squeal like a girl. Then she sat straight up.

“Did you hear that?” Helen’s eyes searched for the direction of the sound. “That,” she said, as the rapping against the back door grew louder. She stood and followed Theodore out of the study toward the source of the noise.

Theodore cracked open the back door and then widened it to reveal a shivering little chocolate girl. Bullets of rain riding on a blast of chilled wind pushed the child inside. Her thick plaits were swollen from absorbing the water falling on her head. Her bare feet and ragged attire were slathered in mud.

“Tabitha? Are Ulysses and Caroline with you?” Theodore asked in accent-free English. He scanned the area before slamming the door shut.

“Mama fell out there,” the girl whispered through chattering teeth. Her bony finger pointed toward the darkness.

“Why would they choose to run tonight?” Helen said in German. “Caroline should be ready to have that baby by now.” She removed her shawl and bundled Tabitha in it. Helen picked up the child in her arms with ease, despite the fact that the girl was about eight years old. Helen carried her over to the fireplace in the middle of the room as the skinny wet legs around her waist sent a shiver up her back.

Theodore had already donned a hat and a woolen overcoat, and was now lighting a lantern. “What better night than tonight? Nobody will want to look for them until morning.” In English, he asked the girl, “Where’s your daddy, dear?”

“Out helpin’ other folk wit’ they farm. He s‘posed to be back t’morrow.”

Theodore left the house without saying anymore. Helen sat in a chair next to the fire, holding Tabitha until the girl fell asleep. Then she walked into the study and moved a wooden bookcase full of empty tomes. Behind it was a door that led into a windowless room with two sets of bunk beds stacked three cots high. Underneath one of the beds was a trapdoor through which one could climb down into a tunnel that connected to another trapdoor in the barn several yards away. Helen laid the little girl onto one of the beds and sat next to her, rubbing her back and humming “Jesus Loves Me.”

Helen jumped when she heard the front door splinter from its hinges. She immediately exited the room, closed the door, and pushed the bookcase back against it. She hurried to Theodore’s desk and located the breech-loading rifle hidden underneath. As she jammed the butt of the gun into the groove of her shoulder, Theodore burst into the study with a very pregnant Caroline in his arms. The woman was soaked to the bone. Her butter-colored skin was sallow. Hair plastered against her back and chest like black spider veins. Helen shoved all of Theodore’s work onto the floor and helped him place Caroline on top of the desk. An anguished scream indicated the baby’s imminent arrival.

“Where…my…baby girl?” Caroline mumbled through ragged breaths.

Helen smoothed the hair from Caroline’s face. “She’s sleeping.” She stood at Caroline’s side and offered a hand to absorb the woman’s labor pains as her body contorted with each passing wave. As Caroline writhed, Helen noticed bruises covering her body. “Look at this!”

“That’s not from Ulysses,” Theodore said.

Helen exhaled and rolled her eyes. She’d never met the husband, Ulysses, though she did deliver all six of their children at the request of Caroline’s mistress, with only their first surviving. Helen ordered Theodore to retrieve the necessary items for the delivery. After receiving them, she pushed him out of the room and shut the door.

After a few hours, Helen emerged from the study carrying a bundle of cloth in the crook of her arm. Theodore slept in a chair near the potbelly stove. She shook her husband awake. “Caroline’s gone. She held on long enough to name her baby.” She held the bundle out toward Theodore. “What are we going to do?”

Theodore stretched and yawned, his eyes still closed. “I’ll go by the Evans place in the morning. Ulysses will have returned by then.”

“What about Tabitha? You can’t risk taking her back there. They’ll wonder why we have her.”

Theodore stood. “That’s up to Ulysses.” His eyes widened when he finally looked at his wife and the bundle in her arms.

“What is he supposed to do? Caroline was the only woman left on that farm. Earl will sell these children for sure.”

Theodore sighed and scratched his head. “Knowing Ulysses, he’ll want his children. He has a pass to leave for work. Maybe now he’ll be ready to run.”

“Or we can keep them.”


“What about this one?” She held the bundle out in Theodore’s direction, urging him to look. When he did, Helen couldn’t help but smile as he stroked the tiny ivory fist clutching his finger.







Posted in history, Short Story | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment