Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holy Crap

So, last night the big threat of the swine flu was that there was a big outbreak in Mexico and people are warned not to go there right now. Check. I wasn't going there anyway. Then a few minutes ago I got a call to tell me that all of the schools in the area are being shut down until next week because two kids that go to a school five minutes from my house both have swine flu. Seriously. So, we're pretty much going to die. Or take Tamiflu. Either way, I can see that I'm going to get much less writing done this week than I had planned. Thanks, pigs!

UPDATE: Ahhhhhhhh! I'm getting emails, phone calls and Gmail Chat pings about the swine flu. Thank God I don't have Skype. Schools, daycares and businesses that cater to kids are shut down and now other businesses are closing. My brother has to work from home tomorrow because his whole office is closed. Local museums and other things are announcing closings until at least next week. People are freaking out and sending me press releases about hand washing(?) and articles about face masks.

I'm pretty much thinking pandemic barbecue- let's all get together and roast the bastards that started all this.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Blogs and Blogs and Blogs

So, I was a blogger for Today dot com for awhile. They eventually let me have two blogs and were paying pretty well for the posts. After awhile they started lowering the price for each post. Then it happened again. And again. After awhile, they stopped paying for them altogether and went to a pay-per-pageview model, though they never bothered to email me to tell me. I had to email them and ask why I wasn't being paid.

Since that time, I have heard from at least 30 or 40 other people that this has happened to. And like many of them, I am not being paid for the posts I made after the cut-off time, even though they didn't notify me about it ahead of time, because I didn't make their minimum payment amount during that time. The minimum payment is very high- far higher than on any other site I have ever written for, and I can't legally prove that the site knows that its bloggers will likely not reach it on the current payment schedule. No! They probably have no idea at all and would be shocked if this were called to their attention.

Ninety percent of what I do is ghostwriting. Most of the stuff that I put up under my own name was started so that I can show clients- "Hey, see that? I wrote that stuff and I can write your stuff too." I don't worry about rights that much because ghostwritten stuff is sold for full rights, and I don't call attention to it or anything because that's just rude. I hate it when ghostwriters do that- I see some who actually link on their sites to stuff they've ghostwritten, and I'm thinking, does your client know you do this? Maybe they want people to think they wrote it. Maybe that's why they bought it!

Anyway, the question of rights has really struck me now because the rights to that entire blog are gone. And, it's under my name. I can't keep building on what was there and expect anything in return, and they can do whatever they want to it like put bacon on it or unicorns. I'm seriously considering starting another Blogger blog on that topic just because I can. That way I could keep adding to it and create an impressive body of information on the subject, or, you know, a big ole wad 'o posts, that might actually bring in something. But I already have blogs that are neglected, and I lost the password to one that I love, so I'm not sure what will happen there. Taking on a new blog is like taking on a new puppy- be sure you know how much time it will take and how much whining will be involved.

If you are thinking about blogging for Today, I can't prove that the owner is a jerk. That's simply my opinion. I can't prove that he has been nasty to his bloggers in his own forum, since "nasty" is subjective. I don't whatsoever think that people should avoid the site like the plague until they treat writers like real humans. Writers are filth and should be treated as such. I've heard that the owner eats kittens, also, but I don't believe that whatsoever.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


The insecurity that comes with writing, well, that I sometimes get anyway, has a few cures. Unfortunately, the only one that I know of is alcohol. I have noticed over time that when I've had a few I actually write pretty well. I have fewer stilted sentences and the whole thing flows pretty well. Too much of course, and you forget about what you're doing and wander off to see what's in the freezer. Cake! But just one or two and suddenly the fear of shredding a sentence is gone and you don't develop that stiffness that can sometimes occur with too much thought put into exactly where every word is going to go.

There has been the odd time, however, when too many did indeed occur and I wrote something that ended up strange and yet not as strange as you might think. I literally don't remember writing this. That's a weird feeling. You log into your Blogger account and think WTF? Have I been hacked? By someone who loves Shelley? Probably not.

Luckily, having a few too many only occurs during those rare recreational times and not when I have client work to do. I do love creating weird essays and Hubs for my own amusement, though, during those occasions. I think they're actually a lot closer to the type of writing that I'd eventually like to do. Don't we all get into this because we eventually want to write fiction? That seems to get further and further away as time passes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Freaky Sunday and Blogs

Ok, so you think you pretty much have the contingencies covered most of the time. You try to get your research done early in case a home emergency comes up. You keep an extra, crappy computer on hand in case your first one self-destructs, which has happened twice, and an even-crappier computer waiting for when the crappy one blows up. Check. You have steeled yourself to work through household commotion, screaming, the flu, strep throat, two bouts of head lice (What? When you have offspring, it happens!) and slumber parties.

So, I had a nice long list of stuff to do last night, all scheduled out nice and neat on a scrap of paper, and then a FREAK WINDSTORM blew up suddenly and knocked the power out for more than three hours. Seriously. Even a cat 1 hurricane rarely knocks out the power, but this sucker was merciless. I've never seen anything like it out of a hurricane, and it lasted just as long. I figured the gods didn't want me to keep my schedule- they wanted me to pace nervously for an hour and then read a book by candlelight. So, I paced nervously for two hours and didn't read a damn thing.

On the upside, I was able to interview the Fug Girls recently! I got their final responses back today and put it all onto a Suite101 article. I freaking love the Fug Girls. I actually sent them a fan email about a year ago, which they were kind enough to answer. I am also happy to be back doing a few interviews, which I have missed since leaving newspapers. Most Web articles come from Web research and perhaps your own knowledge on a subject.

Q: Why put it in question/answer format? A: Because like I said, most Web articles don't rely on original interviews. Putting a few quotes into a Web article, as is done with newspaper articles, can make it appear that the quotes are lifted from other articles or from press releases.

The article is part of a larger series of articles that I've been working on about bloggers who get book deals. I have a list of some of the blogs that have been turned into books and I have another blogger interview here.

My point with these is to counteract the notion that you have to have serious subject matter or that your blog has to be informational in order to have a blog that is hugely popular. I was inspired by a particular blogger who continually tells her readers that you should never start a blog without carefully researching the subject matter first and then must engage in non-stop promotion of that blog if you want to be successful. The more I delve into the subject of popular blogs, the more I find out that this couldn't be less true. All of these bloggers start with an idea to amuse themselves, they never research it beforehand and they never engage in promotion. If you wonder about the success of your own blog, you may find some inspiration in them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pen Names and Privacy

I have been writing under a number of pen names for as long as I've been a Web writer. I didn't think it was that unusual at first. I usually choose Beaker or some variation of it whenever I can, and that's worked fine so far. Many times I choose Beakerwriter, which is my user name on Elance, RentACoder and Constant Content.

While a lot of Web writers were discussing using their name as their brand, I figured Beakerwriter was my brand. I even put pictures of beakers on my accounts instead of one of those gross business pictures that so many people use. On one site I wrote over 125 articles that are all attributed to a random letter combination that I came up with. The only time I've used my name has been when a site disallows the use of a pen name. That has happened with two sites that I write for, and one of those sites gave me permission to use my first initial instead of my first name. It's been fine.

Of course, that's the thing- it's been fine. It hasn't been spectacular, well, perhaps once in a while it has, but on the whole, I can't seem to grab those big whales. Is it the pen names? Is it that people are seeing my work and not connecting it to the cheesy person who comes knocking and asking for assignments? Are the pen names holding me back? I've seen people link to my blog posts and mention that they don't know whether I'm male or female. Is that wrong?

I sincerely don't know. I value my privacy dearly. I think that's it, anyway. Am I just hiding? Am I so afraid of people knowing who wrote something that I am keeping potential clients from seeing something that might be good for my career?

I've been seriously considering letting go of all of the pen names. Perhaps for some it wouldn't be a big deal, but to me it would be like parading down the center of town naked. Trust me- no one wants that. Or would they? Are our flaws really so terrible that we have to hide them in perpetuity? I may have a bad article here or there and occasionally espouse politically incorrect ideas. Does that mean that I should hide it all lest it be ridiculed and used as proof of my incompetence? Ick. I really don't know.