Yesterday I submitted my final reviews of the invasive species manuscripts I wrote work-for-hire. I did four of these: Africanized honeybees, red imported fire ants, zebra mussels, and kudzu (the vine that ate the south).

These were very short books for elementary school reluctant readers, so they had to be at a specific reading level. The process necessary to get them there turned out to be the most difficult job I’ve ever had, and if you only knew the behind-the-scenes stories of some of the projects I’ve worked on in my years in this business, you would fully appreciate that statement.

OK, one story: I once worked on a book that the author submitted hard copy. I had to arrange for someone to key enter the manuscript into Word. At one point the author submitted changes, including inserts where he had cut manuscript pages in two and taped in new typewritten passages. Now that was old school! Great guy and a great book, but . . . wow.

Back to invasive species: the ratio of hours of research, writing, and revising to the final word count was off the hook. I only barely crawled across the finish line thanks to my editors on the project. The finished books will be another strange addition to my scattershot publishing resumé, which includes Star Trek stories, a Led Zeppelin discography, and poetry (with one poem given an honorable mention on Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year list in 2010).

I’m looking forward to sticking to one freelance project at a time for the foreseeable future. This will give me time to get back to some long-neglected writing projects of my own. At least that’s the plan, but . . . did I mention we’re house hunting?

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