Mark Terry

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Job Titles For Writers

I've been meaning to write more here and for some time I've been meaning to write about the topic of job titles. Which is to say, for freelance writers going through job postings, and, I imagine, for full-time writers looking for jobs, there are a lot of different names for types of writing gigs, not all of which make sense, or that seem to have become coded within the industries they represent and not necessarily to writers. Feel free to add yours.

Technical Writer - This once referred primarily to writers who wrote technical materials for engineering and manufacturing areas. Even though I am, technically, a technical writer in the area of healthcare and medicine, I'm not really a technical writer. Because, as I said, this tends to refer to engineering, manufacturing, and increasingly, computer/IT-related writing gigs. Being "technically a writer" is something else and probably applies to people like Dan Brown and James Patterson for two very different reasons. (That's a sarcastic joke, in case you didn't get it. Although I will say, I have, from time to time, enjoyed both of their works. One, for Dan Brown before he became DAN BROWN, AUTHOR OF THE DA VINCI CODE, and James Patterson, before he started handing off the actual writing duties to other people).

Medical Writer - If people press me about my writing and what type I do, I usually say medical writing because it gets them to leave me alone. Yes, I write a great deal about healthcare and medicine and biotechnology. But, technically speaking, a medical writer writes high-end medical materials, typically for pharmaceutical agencies. At least in terms of what sorts of job postings you see, that's mostly what they're referring to. And although I have a medical background, these gigs are more commonly looking for MDs, PhDs, or people with life science degrees who have had specific training in writing the regulatory materials needed get a drug application to the FDA. If you can do this type of writing, there's a lot of work and it pays a shitload of money, but alas, it's a bit above my pay grade, so to speak.

Copywriter - This one is tricky, but usually refers to people writing some version of advertising copy. These days that can mean print ads, radio ads, TV ads, or a variety of marketing materials that include white papers, market research reports, press releases, etc. I do a lot of this, but, again, within the industry, there is a "copywriter" and there is something you almost never see advertised, but is what I am: a "technical copywriter." A "technical copywriter" tends more toward white papers, market research reports and less toward website copy and advertising copy. Most of the website copywriting I do I refer to as "technical website copywriting" because it's, well, technical, like product descriptions for a clinical lab or a biotech supply company.

B2B and B2C - I wanted to throw these out because they're common in business and technical areas, but writers off the boat, so to speak, may not understand. B2B = business to business. B2C = business to consumer. I write a lot, mostly I would say, B2B. That is to say, I write for professional audiences. Even when not writing white papers and website copy, most of my article writing is for trade journals, i.e., publications about a specific trade. For instance, Podiatry Management, which runs business-y articles about how to run your podiatry practice.

Content Writer - I would want to make sure you understand that "content" refers to, well, the stuff you put into an article, as opposed to say, "he was a happy and content writer." I figure this one to be a catch-all phrase for people that don't actually know any of the other terms. Mostly I see this advertised by "content farms" that want to pay writers $5 to write 400 words or that want to give you a piece of royalties based on how many click-thrus you get on your article. I suspect very few content writers are content with their pay and when it comes to content farms such as Demand Studios and their ilk, well, fuck 'em, they suck. Or as I heard Joaquim Phoenix say on Fresh Air today, "The Internet is a big place and needs a lot of content." Which is apparently true and it's also apparent that there are very few standards about the quality of it, but there you go. Writer beware!

Any others? I'm sure there are.

Mostly, I prefer to myself as a "writer" or a "freelance writer."

Monday, March 10, 2014

What I've Been Reading

What I've been reading so far in 2014.

Timecaster by JA Konrath
I would say pretty typically Joe Konrath, even though it's SF. Fairly imaginative, filled with over-the-top violence, sex and humor. I enjoyed it for the most part, was a bit pissed off that it didn't end, but leaves you on a cliffhanger for the follow-up book, which I haven't read, but might. In this near-future world crime has more or less been eliminated due to Timecasting, which allows certain trained people to view recent events using a special kind of time-travel equipment. So any time a crime is committed, all the cops have to do is view backwards, see who did it, track that person back, and arrest them. Except the main character views himself murdering a woman.

A Feast For Crows by George RR Martin
Probably the most exasperating of the Game of Thrones books, because few of the main characters are featured in it. Ultimately I enjoyed it, but I was very frustrated at the beginning because the storyline has spread out so far and wide that I was having trouble tracking what was going on. But it sets up a lot of things, so there will undoubtedly be a big payoff.

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons by Lawrence Block
Ah, Bernie Rhodenbarr, aka Bernie the Burglar, is back, this time stealing spoons of historical importance, and a manuscript by F Scott Fitzgerald, and numerous other amusing twists and turns. Block's a master and he plays with his narrative timeline. I really enjoyed this book. It was great to have Bernie Back.

iSEAL by Jude Hardin
I reviewed this at length earlier, but suffice to say I enjoyed this tech-thriller.

Innocent Blood by James Rollins & Rebecca Cantrell
The second book in the Sanguinists series, which features a group of vampires who work for the Vatican. I think I liked the first one a bit better, but this was really enjoyable, and has Judas Iscariot as a major character, as well as a returning Rasputin, among others. Highlyl recommended, albeit a bit weird. If you haven't read the first one, this one will make zero sense, though.

All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sazurazaka
An SF novel. The upcoming Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt film, The Edge of Tomorrow is based (loosely, presumably) on this novel. In the future the world is under attack by geoforming monsters and the main character is fighting them (in Japan) when he is killed and wakes up the same day. He finds himself in a time loop, ala Groundhogs Days, where he continually sharpens his skills and eventually teams up with a female special forces soldier who is renowned for her ability to kill the aliens. I liked it, but thought the third act was a bit rushed. And it's possible readers might find the conclusion to be not quite as satisfying as they had hoped because it works against expectations. Enjoyable, though.

Standoff  by David Rollins
Another book by Australian David Rollins features USAF special investigator Vin Cooper. I love these books, but every single one has at least one over-to-top sequence that makes me go, "Oh, gimme a break," and in this one it's sort of the premise. After encountering a a serious incursion into the US by a Mexican drug cabal, Vin is, without much backup or preparation, thrown undercover into the group, which involves a crazy Mexican drug lord who wants to invade the U.S. A lot of fun, but it also requires a fairly major suspension of disbelief.

Deep Storm by Lincoln Child
A re-read. In Deep Storm, Dr. Peter Crane is invited to work on a top secret military installation in the North Atlantic that, he finds, is trying to recover Atlantis two miles deep at the bottom of the ocean. People in the cutting edge facility are exhibiting a strange set of medical symptoms. But Crane soon finds that the Atlantis story is just that, a cover story, and that the purpose of the Deep Storm facility is far more strange and dangerous, that they may be attempting to recover weapons or technology left there by advanced alien races. It works pretty well and I've enjoyed it every time I've read it. Very exotic locale. Child is really good at creating exotic self-enclosed environments and putting his heroes into them, ala Utopia, Deep Storm.

Storm Front by John Sandford
A Virgil Flowers novel, also a re-read, because I was in the mood for something relatively light and well written, and this book fit the bill. A minister and archaeology professor from Minnesota apparently steals an artifact from an Israeli archaeological dig that might overturn Middle Eastern history as we know it. State cop Virgil Flowers is told to accompany a woman from the Israeli Institute of Antiquities to recover it. But the minister appears to be attempting to sell it to the highest bidder, which may include Hezbollah, a couple of radical Turks, and two TV stars that operate independent Indiana Jones-like shows that want the publicity. Find out that the woman might actually be Mossad and Virgil has his hands full. Really a ton of fun.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

iSEAL by Jude Hardin

iSEAL by Jude Hardin
I recently read iSEAL by my friend Jude Hardin. A little bit Michael Crichton's "Terminal Man," a little bit "The Matrix", probably a little bit "The 6 Million Dollar Man," if you're old enough to remember that TV show. This short, fast and action-filled thriller is about a Department of Defense project to have a microchip implanted in an soldier's brain, allowing the soldier to instantly access the Internet, as well as download programs to teach things, i.e., martial arts or flying a plane, etc. The main character washed out of the Navy SEALs program and volunteers to be the first human test subject. Part of the testing, however, involves temporary amnesia in order to test the device's effectiveness. But shortly after the device is implanted, an assassin kills the head of the project and "Mike" finds himself on the run from a mysterious assassin, the CIA, the DoD and law enforcement.

iSEAL is probably more of a novella than a novel. I think I read it in 3 or4 hours and it races right along with no padding whatsoever. Jude is a fine writer and he's become very deft at creating memorable characters with broad strokes, and his sense of pace—if you're a fan of the mad-dash style of storytelling, which I am—is pitch perfect.

This is a lot of fun, and clearly we'll be seeing more iSEAL books in the near-future—better sooner than later because iSEAL 1.0 (for lack of a better term) ends with a cliffhanger and I don't want to wait a year for iSEAL 2.0. If action thrillers are your cup of tea, this is your kind of book.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Freelance Writing #1: Revenue Streams

December 19, 2013
I've been wondering what, if anything, to do about this blog. I think I will try to write some useful content. (At least once a week). That means, for me, at least, to focus on things I know a fair amount about: freelance writing, novel writing, with, perhaps, some forays into healthcare, fitness, martial arts, and, you know, daily life. Maybe. So in the interest of trying this, here's some thinking about freelance writing that also, I believe applies to writing fiction.

Don't put all your eggs into one basket.

Over the years I've often puzzled about the novelist who wrote a single novel a year and made a living off that. It took me years to realize that, well, most of them didn't. It's been fairly recent that authors have cranked out multiple books a year and their readers don't care - partly because more and more of them are self-publishing in some fashion.

But my bigger expertise is in freelance writing, and it is my opinion that if you want to survive as a freelance writer, you need multiple revenue streams. One example, for me, is that several years ago I had a big client that accounted for about 70% of my income, primarily writing massive market research reports. Then the company's umbrella company cracked down on their revenue figures, the guy who brought me on left, the company changed directions, and I was essentially out of work. I did a little bit of work for the next guy, but he left within a year. And the company changed hands two more times, finally landing as part of Bloomberg's collection.

And although I have tried from time to time to work with them again, I don't have a terribly good relationship with the managing editor (I don't know why, I even asked, but just plain don't know). So for a while there, I was sort of screwed. So I've tried to diversify my income sources and not get too beholden to any one client.

So, as an example, here are some of the things I've done this year:

-editor of a technical journal (I've done this 13, going on 14 years)
-novels (a bigger part of my income than before; this year I co-published a novel with my son, MONSTER SEEKER 2: Rise of the Phoenix King, a Derek Stillwater novella, GRAVEDIGGER, and a novel featuring CIA agent Monaco Grace, CHINA FIRE.
-I wrote several articles for a trade journal
-I wrote website copy for several different clients
-I wrote several white papers, with related press releases and website landing page content
-I edited and/or critiqued novel manuscripts for several writers
-I've had a big ghostwriting gig this year, which will carry over for a while into next year
-I've edited content for a medical database website
-I've written paid blog posts
-I write a regular 6X yearly column about newsworthy people in the childhood obesity research field
-I wrote some e-newsletters for a company (and edited some by other people)

And in there I also wrote a nonfiction book proposal, which didn't go anywhere, although I think it could if I had the time to research it better and expand it more.

The point? If you're going to be a self-employed writer, make sure your income comes from different places.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What I've Been Reading

What I've been reading lately.

THE HOUSE OF HADES by Rick Riordan
Another stellar outing from Rick with his various demigods teamed up to defeat the titan Gaea from returning. I found the parts with Percy and Annabeth trudging across Tartarus to be the most effective, especially the part when they came upon some, uh, witches, I suppose is the easiest description. Whenever they killed one of the witches, a curse that had been aimed at Percy or Annabeth by monsters they had killed over the years, befell them. So at one point Annabeth killed one of the witches and she was blinded and convinced that Percy had abandoned her alone in Tartarus. Really a terrific book.

STORM FRONT by John Sanford
A Virgil Flowers and what a fun one. A professor of archaeology who is also a minister is working an archaeological dig in Israel, and he apparently steals and smuggles a relic out of the country back to Minnesota. Virgil is supposed to team up with an Israeli agent with the Israeli government, but things spin wildly out of control. The minister, who is dying of cancer, intends to auction off the relic, which has the potential to be, at the very least, a propaganda tool for anti-Israel people, and has the potential at some level to totally undermine Israel's claim to the Holy Lands. So the potential buyers include Hezbollah and some Turkish mobsters, as well as some questionable Israelis.

MUSE OF FIRE by John Scalzi
A short story about a physicist who is either nuts or has discovered Haestia living in the flames. Rather creepy and dark, but good.

BLOOD BROTHERS by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell
Also a short story, this revolves around the Sanguinistas, or whatever they're called, the vampire cult of the Catholic Church. It's a setup for their upcoming novel, the second one in the series. I loved the first novel and am looking forward to the second. This was an interesting short story, although the narrative structure was a little weird.

An espionage novel taking place primarily in Azerbaijian. The main character is a former CIA Station Chief, Mark Sava, who is now a college professor. But when a former agent of his is arrested and he is called to help, he gets dragged into a very complicated plot against the US involving a possible nuclear warhead and oil, oil, and more oil. It's the first book in the series and I'll definitely read the second one. Some of the transitions between chapters left me with a raised eyebrow and a, "How did they get there so easily ?" response, but a terrific debut.

ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
The movie looked interesting and despite Card's abhorrent politics, I decided to read the book and make up my own mind. It's good. Probably not as great as everyone makes it out to be, but I thought it was fairly involving, at least up until the end. I didn't like the epilogue much and the big surprise wasn't much of a surprise, but from talking to people about the book it seems to have enough in it and written in such a way that people bring their own issues to a discussion of its themes. Some people claim it's an anti-war novel (I don't think so); some people claim it's a good psychological portrait of an abused child (I can see that); some people claim it's all about technology, etc.

HARDCORE by Larry A. Winters
I'd heard about this book on JA Konrath's blog and thought it sounded interesting. Basically the main character is a former porn starlet. She left the business a couple years before. Her sister was still in the business and apparently commits suicide. Returning to California for the funeral, she begins to question the suicide story, thinking someone murdered her sister, and since she can't get the police to cooperate, she investigates. I liked this quite a bit, actually. The view on the porn industry was interesting and very matter-of-fact, the mystery is actually pretty good, and the main character was pretty convincing. However, apparently Winters plans it to be a series, with the character teaming up with an FBI agent (one of my issues with this book, actually), and I'm fairly skeptical about that setup. But as a one-shot (so to speak), it was quite good.

MURDER AS A FINE ART by David Morrell
Okay. Wow. I've long been a Morrell fan, although I haven't read any of his stuff in a couple years. So when I heard the guy who typically wrote espionage-type thrillers had written an historical thriller/mystery taking place in 19th century London, I was intrigued. David's a big researcher, so it's a good fit. He uses a lot of different narrative devices here, including epistolary style as well as an occasional omniscient narrator that gives the book a decidedly different feel. It's very layered and atmospheric and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Learned a lot, too. Highly recommended. [He's just finished a sequel and I'll be on it like a pike on a minnow when it comes out].

Yeah, I know. You might have heard of this one.

CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
Being somewhat ambivalent about THE HUNGER GAMES, both the book and the movie, I had put off reading this. But my wife recommended I did, so I did, and I liked it, possibly more than the first book. So I'll read the third book. It's an odd book, though. Much less detailed than the first book, probably because she's setting up the bigger picture for the third book, MOCKINGJAY. Which I'll read fairly soon, I would imagine.

I must confess, when Felix was writing books with his late father, Dick Francis, I thought the books were generally pretty good. Then Felix's last book that he wrote by himself (the first he wrote by himself), I really didn't like, especially the ending. So I wasn't sure I was going to read this. But I sampled the first chapter, found it compelling, so I bought it. And I read it. And it's good. It revisits one of the few characters Dick Francis wrote about more than once, Sid Halley, and I find that Felix does an excellent job of writing in a style and voice very similar to his father's. I also admit, he really nailed the "don't make life easy for your main character" thing. It occurred to me that I really had no idea how he was going to unravel the story at the end, and I was pleased with how he did it. Recommended.