Friday, March 28, 2008

Back Again

When you're self employed, it can be pretty rough to take even one week off. I was out for eight days and had to prepare for it for weeks, taking care of work plus advance work plus notifying people plus planning and packing. I did work for regulars in advance, but had to end up turning away some work because there simply wasn't any way to take on more work at the time. I hate to turn away any work, but there are only 35 hours in a day.


I was in Orlando visiting the parks during my vacay, and it was a very different experience than it had been the other times I've been over the past 20+ years. Back in the day the park were insanely crowded with American families that rushed the park with their kids and grandmas. Since 9/11, the parks have been far less crowded. Chatting with employees last year I was told that the Disney park empire had not recovered since that time and that the parks were getting desperate to attract tourists. People have been much more hesitant to fly and the international tourists they had were simply not showing up.

This year was a whole new ballgame. I've never, ever seen the parks so full of international tourists. Actually, I've never seen anywhere so full of international tourists. I've been all over Hawaii, I've traveled through Japan, much of Europe, most of the major cities of the U.S., the Caribbean and Canada. In all of those travels I have never seen such a mix of cultures as I did during this trip. There were several days when we could count on one hand how many times we heard people speaking English. We heard Russian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Hindi regularly. There were also quite a few Scandinavian, Eastern European and Arab languages being spoken.

The whole experience was interesting in the mix of cultures and the variety of languages we were exposed to. But, it was sad in a way. The many languages kept families to themselves, each family group talking only to each other. There was none of the camaraderie that used to be present. While standing in the many lines, families used to talk, commiserate, compare notes, etc. I can only think of one time that we stood next to an English-speaking family during the entire week this time- and even they weren't American. Ironically, that was on St. Patrick's Day and the family was Irish.

Why the International Set?

I think the reason for the cultural shift was twofold: the failing dollar and the recession here at home. Americans aren't able to afford the trip, but to those outside the U.S., it's practically free. The question I had was why so many people had come from Europe and Japan- they have their own Disney parks. It might have simply been a good excuse for an exotic vacation abroad.

Cult Morons

On another note, while leaving Orlando, the traffic was horrific. We figured something odd was going on, as police cars and TV news trucks crowded the highway. A wreck? A shooting? No. It was a-holes. The people from that cult that protests funerals was randomly protesting outside a Catholic church. Why? Judging from the signs they were holding, they think Catholics are gay. Apart from the insanity of protesting nothing in particular, they caused us to be quite late on the way back. I won't name the cult or its leader because I don't want them getting more publicity. They are insane and stupid people who should never be taken seriously by anyone.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Writing While Away

In theory, it should be fairly simple to keep working while on vacation. I'm currently in Orlando for spring break and purposely stayed in a place that has high-speed internet just for that purpose. Unfortunately, when you aren't at home, there are far fewer factors that you can control. The main issues are:

Internet access has been intermittent, as the hotel is new and they still have some kinks to work out.

There is some kind of insane firewall here that is making it difficult to do much.

The schedule during vacation is not as easy as sitting around at home, and some days the time to complain about the internet access and to try to conquer the firewall is just not there.

My Spanish is not that great. Most of the people that are here to complain to can't speak fluent English, and some not at all. My Spanish is fair but not good enough to communicate seamlessly.

So, I am available, sort of, if a client has a problem and needs to get ahold of me. But, getting real work done is difficult enough to make it worthwhile to wait until I get home. That's the only lesson I have about freelance writing from a hotel- you can try, you can plan, but ultimately you are at the mercy of hotel employees and wiring.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weird and Not About Writing

I saw this footage the other day and keep thinking about it. It's the kind of thing you see and then desperately want to know answers about, but there may never be any. Is it real? I think no one but the one coming out of the bushes knows for sure. It could be a prank, it could be someone who was simply misunderstood or it could be something else entirely.

I showed this to my spouse, who decided, sight unseen, that it was a fake. Yes, before even viewing it. I think that says a lot about the general lack of open mindedness that's the norm these days. If it's not explainable, it must be fake.

I've seen people all over the Web say that the people in this area are poor and uneducated and that's why they believe this. Are they poor? It's pretty likely that most of them are. Are they uneducated? Probably. But, what kind of effect does that really have? People who have a great deal of education sometimes start believing that they know everything they need to. With that mindset, it's easy to dismiss anything that doesn't fit into what they already know. But I think that really being educated means knowing that you don't know everything and never will.

Monday, March 10, 2008

How People Get Here

I check every once in a while, ok, every day, to see how people are getting here. Some people have subscribed, some people click on links, but the vast majority get here through a Google search. Sometimes I see a search and I wonder if that person got the information they were looking for. In case they haven't, I'll try to help. Here are some of the searches that have brought people here:

Elance sucks
Yes, I actually get people coming here regularly after searching for this term. For awhile I was #1 on Google for this phrase which is kind of a sad claim to fame. I'm happier with the site than I once was, especially since the price hike got rid of so many people that there is very little competition for projects. They made a mistake raising rates, and they have a few other flaws, but for right now I don't think they suck too badly.

The Writer's Journey
I thought that sounded like a fun title for this here blog, but apparently there is a book by this name. If you have come here looking for it, I didn't write it and I've never read it. You can, however, get it right here.

Writers Residual Income
I get this one almost daily. I do have a post about that here. But for a short answer, web writers can get residuals from Triond, Squidoo, HubPages, eHow, Associated Content, Suite101, Helium and HowtoDoThings. Some are better than others, but most have a lot of potential if you spend a lot of time writing quality items that have a lot of reader appeal. Triond and Helium aren't really worth bothering with, but the others have real potential. I think the best idea is to pick two or three of them and go at it full force rather than getting involved with too many sites and getting very little from any of them. For most residual sites, the more you write, the more people will look to your other items to read. This increases your page views per article and results in more residuals for the same amount of work.

Elance Fees

I get this one a lot. I'm not sure if they are looking for the exact fees or the amount of the fee increase. The actual fees you pay depend a lot on what kind of membership you have. A free membership is useless and a waste of time. I had one for awhile and the site wouldn't let me bid on a single project ever. Get a paid Elance membership if you plan on bidding. The new memberships are more expensive than the old ones, but that's mostly because you have to buy a lot more "connects" to bid now than you used to. That brings me to...

Elance Connects

This is just Elance's new word for bids. Elance connects work in much the same way they did when they were called bids, but there are more of them required for higher-dollar projects. Under the old system, one bid was enough for any project. Under this system, it can take up to four connects to bid on a project. And, the memberships come with far fewer connects than they did bids.

THE letters from everyone
I have no idea what this means. Whatever they came looking for, they didn't find it. I don't send letters to everyone. Actually, I don't send letters to anyone.

I have the flu and I'm thirsty
Yes, one guy came here by searching for that. I feel for you, dude. Get some rest and visit here when you feel better.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Freelance Writing Roundup

Today was the day that Elance dropped all of the people that they had invited to be in their Premier program but who didn't meet the guideline of having two verified credentials. I only have one, so I was dropped a few minutes ago. Yes, they did invite me to be a premier member, knowing that I didn't have two verified credentials. Why? I have absolutely no idea.

I've gotten a little more serious about my Suite101 articles lately. My readership was nil for awhile, but it seems to be picking up now. That has gotten me a lot more interested. I don't mind talking to myself. Heck, I write this blog, don't I? But like a lot of sites these days, their payment is based entirely on page views.

One interesting site that I have never mentioned here on the ol' blog is EditFast. This site allows clients to find editors that have the type of experience they're looking for. I have a profile set up here.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sci-Fi and Jane Austen

Yes, it's a weird title, but hear me out...

I know I'm not alone in my sci-fi/fantasy obsession, nor in my obsession with Regency/Georgian fiction. The thing is, it has occurred to me over time that they're pretty much the same thing.

The thing that interests most readers in sci-fi and fantasy is that a book in either of these genres is a world unto itself. It has its own rules, etiquette and reality that you simply don't get in everyday life. The same is true of period fiction. In its day, Pride and Prejudice was a fairly simple tale told eloquently. The same could be said of the rest of Austen's works, Thackeray's and most of the Bronte novels.

But, 200 years later, they are something else entirely. Entering that world is much like entering a Star Trek episode or a Pern novel. You get accustomed to the world over time, but it's not anything you are ever likely to see in real life.

Every great work of fiction is like that- a world to itself that is unlike any other. Some worlds are full of humorous mishaps, some of constant mystery and intrigue. That's what I think fiction writers should be striving for. Rather than just telling a story, try to set up an entire world. It's a tall order, but it's by far the best aspect of any type of fiction. If a work of fiction is too standard, too interchangeable, the world just doesn't need it.