Yes, I Will Write For You!

This week, I got an email from a publisher who wanted me to submit to his new magazine, but wasn’t sure if I did that sort of thing. I realized that I don’t often talk about the writing I do by request… But I am a freelance writer, and I’m always open to doing more work on spec. So, if you want me to write a story for your anthology or magazine? Just ask! I’m happy to write fiction and nonfiction, provided the market pays above a token rate. I will prioritize writing projects to favor those which pay on acceptance first because writing takes time and I have bills to pay, but if your project pays on or after publication, please still feel free to contact me about it.

If you’re not familiar with my work, you can start here. My list of fiction publications is here, and my nonfiction publications are here.

Please use the contact form below to tell me about your project:

Thank you!


Updated Workshop Schedule with Guaranteed Start Dates — Enroll Now!

GUARANTEE: if you go through the class and ultimately don’t find it useful, I will give you a free enrollment in any one of my future workshops, on any topic – no questions asked.

I always include a little one-on-one work with each student to help tailor the experience to the it individual needs.

All workshops take place in my private online forum, so you can post questions, comments, and writing excerpts without worrying who will see it. Plus, since we have deadlines of a certain day, not a set class hour, you can be anywhere in the world and still participate!

These are guaranteed start dates, and the lowest fees I will be offering in the future. The workshops are capped to make sure we don’t have too many students for me to give everyone individual attention. They will sell out, so please sign up now.

Now enrolling:

Begins August 15, 2015

“Plotting the Short Story” We will cover:

Recognizing plot vs other elements in someone else’s story? How about in your own?

Different plot structures and plotting techniques.

Fitting a whole story into different lengths: flash (1000 and under), mid-length short story (about 4000 words), and longer short stories (up to 6500 words). And, what do you put in and what do you leave off the page?

Plus! Fundamentals of storytelling, prepping (including outlining, character arcs, and plot twists) and basic editing (including how to recognize the different moments of your story so you can move them around) are also covered.

$75 for 4 weeks SIGN UP HERE

Begins September 15, 2015

My most popular workshop!

“Better Writing Through Brevity: Writing/Editing Microfiction and Flash” – read, write, critique, and edit short fiction of various lengths, including 140 characters, 1 sentence, 100 words, six sentences, under 500 words, under 1000. Previous students of this class have sold their final pieces to semi- and pro-rate SFF markets. Learn more here. (Wondering how this workshop will improve your novel? Read this.)

$75 for 4 weeks: Sign up here

Begins November 1, 2015:

“Editing 101” – AKA “Editing for Writers”. Identifying parts of a story, tenses and perspectives, narrative arcs, and other elements that are potentially affected by the editing process. Definitions, editing marks, using (and creating) style sheets, important style manuals, levels of editing, and fact-checking. The basics of copyediting: concepts and skills necessary for line editing (also called copyediting), relying mainly on the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed; editing vs. proofreading; tips for spotting tricky errors. The basics of developmental editing: what it is and isn’t, including the specifics of developmental editing in fiction. We’ll also cover rates, and working with clients, including querying about edits, maintaining an author’s voice, and related services. (Read more here.)

$100 for 4 weeks: Sign up here


The Quest For Sleep

Since leaving my day job, I’ve had severe insomnia. I assumed it was stress related, and worked on reducing my stress, but also cut down on caffeinated sodas (which has other health benefits as well).

But I’m still not sleeping. I have good days, a couple of good nights of sleep, and then I lose control of it again. I either am “awake” during the day, but too tired to do anything useful, or I sleep poorly during the day and am up late, exhausted and useless. Finally, I talked to my doctor, and we did a bunch of tests.

He thinks there are two main culprits: my ADHD, and a couple of decades of bad habits with caffeine. I have had insomnia my whole life… (Ironically, several months ago I gave up the medication I was taking for my ADHD, because it was too expensive, and kept me up at night.) Most likely, my current bout of insomnia isn’t actually new.

My doctor said that my day job helped mask the serious sleep deprivation by giving me structure. I had to get up at the same time each day, without the option of going back to sleep during the day, so I compensated by consuming several caffeinated drinks each day. And, in the evening I was pretty much useless. But at least I was going to work. Once that was gone, I lost my anchor. And giving up soda cut down on how much caffeine I was drinking, which made me more tired —

Why didn’t that help me settle into a good night’s sleep? Because I push myself too hard. I forced myself to be awake to get things done, and compensated in unhealthy ways: more coffee, and overeating. Both of which interfere with sleeping, too. See, caffeine stays in your body up to 24 hours, and when not keeping you awake, it can still keep you from resting, by making you wake up more often during the night.

The solution is to make a big change, and then give it time to work. (It’s the being patient part I usually have trouble with.) The plan?

1) Get up at the same time every day, even when I’m tired.

2) Go to bed at least 7 hours before the alarm is set to go off. (8 is better.)

3) Start the day with one caffeinated drink. And that’s all. No more! Not at all, not the rest of the day. None.

4) Resist the urge to nap, eat too much, or caffeinate during the day.

5) Whenever possible, if I feel sleepy during the day: exercise.

6) Accept that I am going to be tired for a week, maybe a couple of weeks, until I get settled and my sleep cycle resets.

Now that I’m going back to freelancing, that last one is the hardest. At a day job, if I struggled through sleepily and was a zombie at night, okay, I’m still getting paid. When I work for myself, if I take time off to be a slug, not only do I feel lazy and useless, but I’m not making any money. I can’t afford to take time off.

But I’m going to be 42 this year. I’d like to be just hitting the halfway point of my life, instead of nearing the end — and if I don’t stop the “quick fixes”, who knows how badly that’s affecting my health? I have a chance to turn my life around now that I may not get again any time soon. In that case, it’s an easy choice.

I’m setting my alarm, going to bed early tonight, and getting up on time tomorrow. I’ve got a caramel dessert-like coffee drink waiting in the fridge. I’m giving myself permission to take it easy this weekend, and next week too. Maybe next month, if I have to.

They say you can’t put a price on your health. I’m about to trade my income for my self, and find out.

One Month Ago, I Lost My Job

After six months of working full-time for a local branch of the government, I was let go. I was great at my job, and told that often; my bosses even tried to find another position to put me in (but couldn’t get approval to create a new opening). But they are restructuring the department, I was the last person hired, and when it came time to lay people off, I was at the top of the list.

There are a couple of pieces of good news: I’m still an active candidate for employment, on several lists, so it’s just a matter of time before I’m called in for another position. And, I’ve got a great recommendation from my former assignment, so I’m likely to get whatever opens up. Also, I qualified for unemployment, since losing my job wasn’t my fault, and have a little income that way.

The bad news list is a bit longer:

It will be fall, at least, before I’m hired into a new job. Maybe winter. That’s just based on the usual hiring schedule; working for the government is like working for a major corporation, in that you can’t just decide to hire, or decide to hire a specific person. You have to follow procedure.

Some of the postings due to open up require tests that I know I can ace, since I did before, but the tests aren’t scheduled yet, and might not be for months.

The unemployment payment is based on my six months, not a full year, so it’s much less than what I made at work. It’s slightly less than half of my rent, actually, which means I have to find the rest of my rent plus all of the other things one pays for in a month (utilities, food, etc) for me and my son.

I was hoping I could keep this to myself. I was doing so good the last six months. I was paying my bills all on my own, without needing help from anyone. I had just gotten to where I was paying my bills for the upcoming month, in advance, to give me a little cushion in case of emergency. I’d started paying off my credit card, too, and making plans to repay the rest of my debt. I was paying into a pension plan, union dues, health insurance… I felt safer, financially, than I had in years, and finally ready to move forward with other parts of my life, since I felt like a grownup at last. Responsible. Ready to be a partner and not a burden.

And I lost it, without having done anything wrong.

I kept myself together long enough to finish the two weeks they asked me to work after they notified me the position was ending. I’m glad that I did — it’s no one’s fault that they couldn’t keep me, but because I kept doing my job, I earned even more respect from my bosses. They thanked me for sticking around, and gave me fancy chocolate on my last day. I left on the best note possible, I think.

But the month since then, I’ve been a wreck. I’m not sleeping, and that makes it hard to get anything done during the day. I make to do lists, and I accomplish a lot, in bursts, but then realize I don’t know what day it is. I check my email sporadically, which leads people to think I’m ignoring them. I have bills piling up, another car repair that needs to happen, work I could chase after if I just had the energy to deal with it… But I wasn’t there yet. Eventually I got that point where I decided No, I can’t let my life be like this. I can’t lose everything I worked so hard to get.

I can’t lose feeling secure. I’m just not sure I have a choice.

So I took the weekend off from being online. I talked about what was happening to me. I told my mom, which makes it all a bit more real. I made a plan, some lists. I took a long nap. Tomorrow, I will nap some more. Maybe read a book. Do my laundry. Try to breathe.

Next week, I will sit down with my lists and my plan and start transitioning back to being a full time freelancer. I’ll catch up where I’m behind, and explore my options for what comes next.

I’m not giving up.

How to Pronounce My Last Name (A Guide For Americans)

Over the years, I’ve realized that a lot of people have trouble figuring out how to say my last name, Cuinn*. It’s one of those names that is short and simple, but is not common, so it gets butchered — mainly by people who are trying way too hard to say it correctly. I appreciate the effort, and don’t want to make it complicated for anyone. So, here’s a handy guide…

If you don’t instantly realize how to pronounce my last name, please use the following:


Sounds exactly like “Quinn”. Really. That’s all there is to it.

If you have an Irish/Scottish accent or are very familiar with a language that frequently uses the “ky” consonant – that sticky tongue-touching-the-roof-of-your-mouth sound which is not “kai” like in “kayak” but the initial syllable of “cute” without the “ute” part -then you may use the correct pronunciation :


Which, yes, sounds a little like Queen. Sort of. With a pause in the middle…

Please, please, do not say “Coo-win”, with emphasis on both syllables. I hear that constantly (when I’m not being asked if I’ve spelled my own name incorrectly) and frankly, I’m not sure how one even derives at “Coo-win”. “Cue-in”, okay, you get points for trying! (That’s close, if you say the “Cue” really fast, and the “in” part at as normal speed. Not that you need to!)

Really, I’m perfectly fine with making it simple. You can just say “Quinn”, and I won’t be offended at all.

* It’s an Irish name; you also see it as Ó Cuinn, and in literature from way back as Mac Cuinn. It’s a variant of Conn.