How Long Should I Wait For A Reply to My Query Letter?

It depends. Do you have another title in mind for your proposed article? If so, give your first magazine two months to respond and then mail off an inquiry letter. If you have only one publication as a target then you can wait a little longer than two months. In today’s market, though, you may not receive any reply, to your first letter or your second. I know that sounds terrible but I’m being realistic. Editors are busy and they are swamped. There are things you can do while you’re waiting.

The first thing is to keep at it! Keep writing, even if it is only for your own blog. Keep researching new topics. Send letters to a newspaper editor. Offer to write for your home town weekly. Keep reviewing freelance job sites and Craigslist. Don’t sit by the mailbox waiting for just one query to bear fruit. Plant a dozen trees while you wait for one to grow. I do have some practical advice.

Many editors still allow queries and materials in hardcopy. A few, but some, like National Geographic Traveler and Outside Magazine. These people require an SASE if you want a reply. For those companies, you can send your materials by UPS with a postage paid return envelope. Make sure the return envelope has tracking. You’ll get an e-mail if that letter starts its way back to you. That may be a way to know when your query has been rejected. Or, accepted, perhaps. Also, when you write your follow on letter, you will have a tracking number to give them. Less chance of them losing your materials in the mailroom. Good luck.




Get Your Local Library Card!

Although I have lived in Las Vegas since December, I hadn’t yet picked up a local library card. I did so last week and I was very surprised.

My local branch (external link) doesn’t have any special in house resources, but they give you an amazing library card. For free.

The card allows you to log on to all sorts of databases that would otherwise cost you a great deal. Among them, the entire collection of the New York Times, a hundred years of the Los Angeles Times, and access to Gale’s NewsVault, which contains four hundred years of newspapers. It gets better.

Unlike the Old Days of a few years ago, the library does not require you to query databases from their building’s terminals. Instead, you are free to go home and access everything remotely. This is a big change.

I used to have to establish a researcher card at a university library before I got to go online with these kind of resources. Today, that’s just a memory. I’m still going to UNLV, to see what a library card there offers, but for right now I am doing fine.

If it’s been a few years since you visited your local library I would urge you to go. You just might be amazed.


Magazine article

New Magazine Article Coming Out

I’m happy to say that Rock&Gem Magazine (external link) will publish another one of my articles. It will come out in May. I can’t yet say what I wrote about but I discussed preparations for it in a previous post. (internal link). Think rural Nevada.

It’s always thrilling to appear in a national magazine. Look for the May edition at any Barnes & Noble. For now, I am hard at work on an article for COINage, also a Beckett publication. It is, again, another article written on spec (internal link); I hope to submit it in two or three weeks. Back to the writing . . .

Update: Background on my first Rock&Gem article (internal link).


Newspaper article

Chando’s Tacos Expands to West Sacramento

This article originally appeared in the March 9, 2016 edition of the West Sacramento News-Ledger (external link).





Chando’s Tacos Expands to West Sacramento

by Thomas Farley

West Sacramento’s tradition of fine Mexican food continues with the arrival of Chando’s Tacos. Chando’s Boatman Avenue building will house a restaurant and be the base for a dining dynasty. Besides the eatery itself, the location will house Chando’s Enterprises, offices and ovens to serve “Chando” Madrigal’s growing chain of restaurants and food trucks.

Chando’s has renovated and repurposed the United Bakery building north of Industrial Boulevard. It will now prep food for the West Sacramento restaurant, as well as the Roseville, Power Inn, and Arden outlets. The individual locations, however, will still barbecue their own chicken, fish and carne asada. Looking ahead, Madrigal envisions diners in Folsom, Carmichael, and Elk Grove. Perhaps beyond.

Madrigal’s family is from Michoacan, Mexico. His father owned and ran a tortilla factory there, and now things are coming full circle. The West Sacramento facility will produce 100 percent stone-ground corn tortillas. It will also bake them along with all the bread needed for each Chando’s Tacos location. Food storage and vegetable preparation will also be a function of the building.

Chando’s is located in a mostly triangular area that is rapidly becoming a West Sacramento foodie district. Yolo Brewing, Bike Dog and Jack Rabbit are three craft breweries located among warehouses, corporation yards, and document storage companies. In the shadow of the Rice Farmer’s Cooperative silos, new people and new energy are coming to an area that offers affordable space and room to grow. Helping that growth is everything mobile.

Three high end food trucks make up Chando’s fleet with a fourth a possibility this year. These $100,000 kitchens on wheels are more than just taco trucks. And Chando’s is also mobile in cyberspace. They’ve developed an app lets you call in orders before you arrive. Customers may also go mobile if Chando’s plans for drive-through kiosks take off. What’s on the menu?

Chando’s Tacos presents their own take on Mexican food. Not entirely traditional and not yet not Americanized, the food tastes lighter than that served in most Mexican restaurants. Meatless options are also presented, including mango ceviche tostadas and tacos de Papa, or potato tostadas.

We’ll have to see if Chando’s popularity rivals the now gone Emma’s Taco House or the still operating Sal’s. But it’s safe to say the tradition of great Mexican food in West Sacramento will continue.


Chandos’s Tacos (external link)


Best Practices and Your Digital Life

Best practices may soon demand a move away from services like Google and Yahoo that  scan your e-mail and other content.

Google and Yahoo and others rummage through your digital life to understand what ads they can best serve up. They also leave your information on their servers which means in theory that others can access it.

At work I often deal with blogs of legal corporations. Best practices demands that when I log in I do it manually, without letting Safari or Chrome store passwords. When logging out, I clear the cache on my browser. Some would go further and clear out the history. This may not be good enough.

Since I correspond with Gmail I may be putting confidential information at risk. No matter how remote the possibility, a company I do business with may not be happy with an outside party that trolls through their material.

I have been satisfied with Zoho (external link) for some time now. They offer a suite of Google like services that are ad free. No rummaging through my e-mails or docs. But Proton Mail goes beyond Zoho, to a place of perhaps unscalable security.

ProtonMail (external link) offers end to end encryption for all e-mails passing their servers. Their basic service is good and it’s free.

You register with a username and a password like any e-mail service, but then Proton requires a third step: you add what is essentially a second password, a decrypt mailbox key that can be any combination of letters or numbers. This locks and unlocks your mail service.

This unusual step isn’t the magic with ProtonMail, it’s the encryption they enable. Even they can’t decrypt your e-mail without your passwords. And if you lose that second password? They can’t help you. Your account can’t be accessed.

Will ProtonMail become my default e-mail service? Probably not, at least for now; I am imbued with the World of Google too deeply to get out too easily. But I now have an option for my most sensitive correspondence. And using it may reassure my boss and his more conservative clients.






Finally, a Legitimate Freelancer Job Site

I’ve just started using it, but (external link) appears to be a legitimate freelancer job site. Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today all say nice things about it. My initial impression is very favorable. is not a traditional, stand by itself job board. Instead, it curates postings from various job sites and company web sites, screening them for legitimacy before posting them to its site.

There are a tremendous amount of job categories at the site, ranging from account management to youth and children jobs. Many customer support positions. The emphasis is on jobs that offer flexible work arrangements, like working from home. will save me a great deal of time looking for and vetting possible employers. The cost is reasonable, too. I paid $36 for a year’s membership, which is only $3.00 a month. Another good thing is that does not take any money from you for any job you land. You deal directly with the employer. I’ll continue to look at Craigslist, but now there is no reason to deal with places like elance or link)

Any downside? Their search engine seems to favor companies they are paid to promote but I can work past that. And there’s another thing worth mentioning.

These are the better jobs. This means they will pay better but the competition will be stiffer. Qualifications will be tougher and you might be in a larger application pool than a lead from a smaller, regional job board. Still, Flexjobs remains the most legitimate source of work that I’ve seen so far.




A New Tool: A Drawing Tablet

Yesterday I bought a drawing tablet for the first time. I’m using it to convert a hand drawn map to digital. Scanning the original won’t do since the image is so rough. It needs to be cleaned up and have all the lines the same thickness. See the first image below. That’s the original and that’s what I have to improve.

The idea is that I will put the map on the tablet and trace the lines with the digital pen. It’s working out so far, I have a good looking set of lines but the proportions aren’t right. When I go to trace a three inch line it only produces a two inch line. The line’s shape is correct but the scale is wrong. Additionally, it is very difficult to correctly to align the stylus on the tablet with the image on the monitor. What they call mapping. As with everything electronic, there’s a learning curve to overcome.















Here’s a look at my first attempt at transferring the image. Better than using a pen, but still not right.














My first scrawl on the new machine. I am far away from being an artist.











The little Wacom drawing tablet at work by someone much more attractive than myself.



Who Will Write The News?

The Contra Costa Times, The San Jose Mercury News, and The Oakland Tribune are going out of business. (external link) They are victims of consolidation, the three publications being folded into smaller newspapers and digital outlets with different names.

This is all part of a larger trend, with local papers steadily disappearing. (internal link) While I don’t bemoan a free market, readers can choose what they will, there is, however, a point at which news becomes unavailable or inaccurate.

For many of my magazine articles I have spent countless hours poring over microfilm and microfiche in the basements of distant libraries. It’s all a part of good journalism in that most stories cannot be fact checked or researched exclusively on the web. Now, with newsrooms reduced, staffs cut, who is going to pay for original research and writing? Who’s going to be down in that basement?

News reporting and magazine articles can’t be reduced to a Twitter feed or a quick look at Wikipedia. If the truth means anything, if getting the story right is important, if history is to be made accurate and solid, someone will have to pay someone to write that story.

I don’t know about the economics. But I do know that laying off staff and shutting down newspapers will not help reporting, it will only make things worse. As for me, for my next article, I’m headed back to the basement.