Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Tale of the Christmas Tree Massacre

As expected, Kirk looked great in a tree

But who, I did ask, will represent TNG?

Picard is a safe bet, but seems to lack luster

Riker instead is the one to pass muster

The Riker ornament came, but its weight brought surprise

How could the uniform hide so much heft for his size?

I hung it carefully on a tree slightly weird

Believing it was a safe home for his beard

As Kirk looked on, Riker weighed down the fir

His weight pulling it down in a deafening blur

Broken glass covered the floor, with Riker to blame

My opinion of him will never be the same

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Donations- Want an Ebook?

If you read The Bloggess, pretty much the best blog ever, you may have seen her amazing Christmas donation thing going on. She committed to giving out Amazon gift certificates to people who simply said they needed them. That has blown up into a snowballing network of people who are donating gift cards to people who have asked for them on her blog. Today that has apparently snowballed into other blogs where people are doing Bloggess-inspired giveaways. My funds are pretty well allocated for the next few weeks, so I've been trying to figure out what to donate. It occurred to me this morning that I could donate emailed copies of my ebook about how to sell on eBay.

This isn't really as stupid as it sounds. I sell the ebook for about 10 bucks through my own website and I believe it costs a little more than that on Lulu. I've heard from many buyers that it has been quite helpful to them in starting an eBay business. It's also specifically written for people who have very little money up front to get their business going. If you want a copy, just contact me through here however you do that and I will email it to you. It may not be a gift that you can buy presents with, but it is something that can give you hope for creating a better new year. That hope may be just what you need to get through the holidays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cave Men, Writing Time, Asimov and Captain Kirk

I once read a short story by Asimov called "Writing Time" that I really found fascinating. I mean, most of his short stories were pretty thought provoking, but this one really struck a chord with me as a teenage wannabe writer. The gist is that there is a guy who is constantly waiting for cabs, waiting in line for elevators, walking home or to the store, etc. His dearest wish is to have more time to write. He happens to have a friend with a sort of genie, so his friend makes a wish that the guy will have plenty of writing time.

Suddenly, he never has to wait for anything. There are never lines, cabs follow him around in case he needs a ride, every appointment is on the first floor, doctors take him right away, etc. The result is that he can't write a word because during all of that waiting and drudgery he was doing the real work of writing in his mind. Without that time to stand around with nothing else to do, he had no ideas and stopped writing completely.

I think that dissecting that situation and looking at my own has taught me a lot more about what and how I write than sitting and staring at a computer has over the years. That's one reason that the excessive use of cell phones really gets to me. It's stealing your writing time. No more, no less.

Over the past few weeks, it's started occurring to me that we really don't have much more real time than cave men did. Now, I think about cave men a lot, and I mean a lot. I actually think about them more than I do about Captain Kirk, which is probably way too often for good mental health. I've started thinking that the time we spend on staying alive longer is waaaay more than we realize, and that if you take away all of that time, what you really have left is the time that cave men had because they didn't have very many strategies for that. Buying and taking supplements? No. Getting car checked out, strapping on seat belts, going for checkups, picking up prescriptions, getting the heater worked on, paying the insurance bill, etc., etc., etc. take up a lot of our time each day. If you don't believe it, for one day pay attention to everything you do to stay in good health and/or to live longer. If you subtracted all of that time from your life, you'd pretty much be left with the 25 or so years that cave men had. Cave men!

What is the moral here? I really don't have one. Sorry about that. Maybe only that time is a funny thing. Whether it's dealing with garbage collection/washing vegetable/insert other good habits or standing around thinking or wondering what Captain Kirk would do, your lifetime will be spent somehow. It's up to you whether you spend that time getting some decent writing done or simply dealing with life in an effort to get more time to write.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Gifts for Writers

This is the third year in a row that I've been making a Writer's Journey list of gifts for writers? Why? Because I'm avoiding work right now. No offense out there, but I didn't get a single thing from last year's list. Just saying. But, if there is a writer on your Christmas / Chanukah / Ramadan list and you don't know what to do, here's what they want:

Writers enjoy bacon. Why do you think they work from home? So they can eat more bacon! With a bacon wallet, they can take their beloved bacon with them even when circumstances force them to leave the house. Also good during those times are bacon-flavored mints.

What better gift for a writer during the holidays than a festive Captain Kirk nutcracker? He's got his communicator out to communicate just how much he'll be appreciated.

Fancy writers will want to get all dolled up for the holidays with a shiny new cocktail ring. It's the kind of thing you can wear with anything, to anything.

For that editor on your list, this is the perfect gift for making edits a little faster and easier.

If your writer is a Twilight fan and you understandably don't want to support the Twilight franchise, you can get that writer a wolf for the holidays. No, Amazon doesn't stock wolves. If only it were that easy, dear holiday buyer. If only.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Writer's Journey = LOSER

Now that NaNoWriMo has come to an end, you see how many people won and what an incredible job they did as far as word counts. Some reached 100,000+ words, and I know of one that ended with more than 150K words. Me? Not so much. I'm not even going to cop to my word count, but I will say that I am very proud of both the pages that I wrote. How many people can say that they are proud of every single one of their pages? Probably not many.

If you win NaNoWriMo, finishing with at least 50K words, you get to download the winner's badge and display it on your online stuff. Since I can't do it, I made my own stinking badge.

Ok, so I'm not great with badges either. Sue me. I was also invited to a local party for more than 600 local participants. Not attending. There is probably a bag of free money and a sammich for anyone who stayed motivated enough to finish, and I'll have to miss out. On the bright side, my book came out in Canada today for some reason, though it's listed as coming out next year in the U.S. I have no idea why. Judging by the placement numbers, several were sold today. So just to top off my loserness, it's now out of stock. Oh, and I sold it outright and don't make any royalties anyway. There's also that little gem. And, I just noticed that it's been a month since I've updated my blog. All in all, I'd say that no matter what you're doing right now, I am likely a bigger loser than you. You're welcome.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Writing 50,000 Words

So, NaNoWriMo started 45 minutes ago. The Halloween frenzy is over (though the candy will linger for a month), and now I'm expected to write 50,000 words in one month while also writing my regular, paid work and taking care of familial commitments. I was excited to start it, but now that the time is actually here, I'm looking for other things to get done before I start. Write a novel quickly? Erm, I think I'll update my blog...

Before starting the book, I've learned two things:

1. High school never, ever ends. Ever. The cool kids still think they're the cool kids and still cling to each other to exclude others. This is true even if you never went to high school with these people. It makes no difference.

2. There is an actual product now that combines chocolate and wine. No kidding- it's basically liquid chocolate mixed with red wine. I can't understand how this was never invented before. Don't believe it? Believe it! Behold:

So, if you have a novel in mind and you need that kick in the ass to really get started, this might be the thing. Not the wine, though that would probably help, but using this arbitrary schedule to get over starting jitters and get a novel going. Writing the whole thing in one month as fast as you can may not sound practical, but who knows? It just may work.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I'm doing NaNoWriMo. No kidding. I am actually going to do it. It's a great concept if you've never looked into it- you write a novel in a month, ignoring that internal voice that tells you that what you are writing is ridiculous and weird. You just write it. Just write. You write and write and write, getting all of those characters out there and creating the entire framework, 50,000 words, within one month. Once it's done you can go back and edit and pull out the ridiculous passages. It's a great idea, but it's intimidating enough to have kept me from it for the past few years. Every year I hear about people doing it but have never jumped in there. This year I'm in it to win it, bitches.

My novel is weird and has too many genre concepts in it, but it has all of the aspects that I like and that makes it worth writing. All of the writers that I have admired admit to writing the things they like to read. That's what I'll do and we'll see. We'll see.

Meanwhile, my gardening book is selling steadily. It is number 662 in books right now on Canadian Amazon. That is truly, truly freaky.

Update: A day later, it's at #2,364. I have no idea why it would fluctuate so much in a day. And that picture is there just because I thought it looked pretty cool.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Holy Crap

I did my once-in-a-great-while Google search on myself just now and guess what I found? My book.It's already listed on Amazon, and it looks like it's already been pre-ordered by at least a couple of people, judging by the placement number. I don't even know how to get my mind around that. I really, really don't.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Class Action Suit Against Mahalo

If you were a Mahalo writer or manager, someone is finally getting a class action suit together to throw at them. The full information is here. If you were burned by Mahalo when they decided that they didn't feel like paying people anymore and decided to change their terms from "you own all of the rights to your work and you will be paid as long as your work is on our site" to "nener neners," the lawsuit may need your input.

This year has seen a rash of content companies who have pulled this, from eHow changing its rights statement from writer ownership to complete eHow ownership to Mahalo firing thousands of people and flat out stealing their work with no notice. They were pretty classy and moral next to How to Do Things, however, who simply stopped paying people and didn't bother to even send an email about it. After being burned by all three companies, content sites are now guilty until proven innocent. I don't care how great a company sounds, they will screw you in the blink of an eye if they can. And they can. So if you were screwed this time around, please help send the message that every company, even large and well-funded ones, is expected to conduct business honestly and without making a profit from screwing over other people with dishonest practices.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

DragonCon, Creativity and Double Chins

I attended DragonCon last weekend and have just recovered from the sleeplessness (and drunkenness). If you've never heard of it, it's a massive science fiction and fantasy convention held in Atlanta every year. I hadn't been in more than 10 years, and was pretty astounded at how enormous it's gotten. Aparently it's no longer embarrassing to be a sci-fi geek or a writer- it's swelled to more than 30,000 con-going geeks, about half of whom wear costumes.

DragonCon is many things to many people, but to me it's always been about writing and being creative. There are always dozens of writers' panels that bring in well-known writers to dissect technique and to talk about their own works and genres. I got to meet several interesting writers, including Mike Resnick. During his panel he mentioned that he had "won several awards." Studying the DragonCon book later I discovered that he's been nominated for Hugos 34 freaking times and has won five Hugos. My biggest dream in life is to win a Hugo. I mean, have healthy offspring and be nice and all, but yeah, mostly to win a Hugo. Being able to meet such epic writers and listen to them discuss their methods of creation was truly mind blowing. My conclusion? I need plots.

Warning: Double Chin Ahead

One of the highlights of the four-day sci-fi experience was to get my picture taken with various Star Trek personnel. Spouse had sprung for me to get my picture with Denise Crosby and Jonathan Frakes (thanks!). No lie- Denise Crosby had a fight with Jonathan Frakes and she left the pictures early before people could get their photos with her. I got mine with Frakes first, and told him that the offspring love him. His reply? "Well, they have great taste."

Ok, so in two years I have never posted a picture of myself here, but I have to now. Just try not to look at it. I now present: Tom Baker meets Jonathan Frakes:

When it was time for the second picture, freaking Tasha Yar was nowhere to be found, so I was offered Marina Sirtis in her place. That was fine with me, she's pretty awesome, so I agreed. What I didn't realize is that all of her single pictures were already taken. By the time I got up there, I was told that only the group shots were being taken. The group shots were with every Star Trek person there, not including freaking Denise Crosby. I kept trying to tell them that I only had a single shot (the group shots cost five times more). They were trying to figure out how to get only Marina Sirtis out there, and then I saw them. Star Trek people.

Geordi LaForge was standing right in front of me trying to figure out what my costume was about. Then, BRENT SPINER came out and looked at me with a sweet smile on his face. He was walking toward me and I totally froze. I squeaked a tiny "hi" in my saddest fangirl voice. He stopped and squeaked "hi" back at me ironically. It was probably my best experience of the con. Tons of Star Trek folk came running out- even Q was there. It was so bizarre and surreal, and the shot or two of vodka I'd swilled beforehand wasn't helping a lot. I'd show the picture, but my smile is crazy and my double chin is way more pronounced, so I won't.

Conclusion: Geek Is Good

Other than Wil Wheaton not appearing (Wheaaaaaaaaton!), the trip was an effective effort to get a get a quick booster shot of creativity. It was amazing to see the creativity of ordinary people who aren't ashamed of being intelligent and fanatical. Everyone is fanatical about something, and if it's about Firefly or Ghostbusters or writing about new worlds that you've just created, that's fantastic. I actually met people there who had dressed up in elaborate costumes based on short stories that they had written. If I could, I would do that every day. It's hard to re-enter the real world after a few days like that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jobs, Writing and Vampires

So, my spouse actually got a job this week. He's been out of work for almost two years because his industry has pretty much died in this country. Thanks, China! Anyway, with him soon to be employed, that means that I don't have to write full time anymore, though pretty close to full time. The first thought in my head was, holy crap, I get to write some fiction.

I have been writing a lot about online publishers for Suite101, and every time I write one I wish I had something completed that I can submit for consideration. I have a half-fleshed-out vampire story in mind for an online publisher, a weird past-life story hopefully for print and about a dozen sci-fi stories bouncing around my head. Most of them are finished in my head, but the time to actually get them down has eluded me so far.

Is it possible that now I will be able to finish one of them outside the realm of my cloudy head? I can't even dare to get excited about it. Getting time to write the fiction you want to write is like slipping into a big bathtub that is just the right temperature. It's feels effortless and sensual. It lets you take all of those weird things that wander around your head and tell them that they are real and interesting. They get to exist in the real world instead of being stuck inside you in between the worry about website design and the worry about the landscaping. It lets them free to wander in the actual world, free to be rejected or accepted by the world at large.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Demand Media Isn't Profitable. No Biggie.

There is wave of panic rolling across the freelance Web writing world right now because of the news that Demand Media isn't actually profitable. Multiple stories have come out touting the company's lack of profits, as announced during the company's IPO, as a sign that they will fail any day and that the entire business model is obviously an unprofitable one. Here's why they're wrong.

Profits Often Happen Years Down the Road

It's not at all unusual for a company to make no profits in its first few years, or even longer. Amazon showed no profit for its first 10 years. Now? Not so much. During the last quarter, its profits were $207 million. NetFlix, now a giant in the movie rental industry, showed no profits for its first six years- a year after it's IPO. What do they have in common? They're both large, online companies that grew quickly and expanded into new areas of their industries. Sound familiar?

They Don't Actually Need Profits Right Now

If this was a mom-and-pop operation, they would need profits immediately to stay in business. But it isn't mom and pop running Demand- it's a large company with scores of investors who have pumped hundreds of millions into the business. Even if they never make a dime, they have enough to stay in business for at least the next 10 years and even longer if the IPO generates the $125 million they're seeking.

It's Losses Are Shrinking

The gap between what they make and what they need to make isn't growing- it's rapidly shrinking. According to Daily Finance, during the first half of 2009, Demand lost $13.9 million. During the first half of 2010, it lost $6.05 million. At this rate, they could be profitable within a year.

So, are Demand Media and I best friends? No. They're dead useful, but they definitely have issues, as anyone who has ever worked for them knows. But, the sky is not falling. It remains in place just in case you need it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Still Alive

I think that was the longest break I've taken from blogging since I started, but my schedule has been so difficult that no other option was possible. Last week, I wrote more than 32,000 words, including two mid-sized projects and most of the last third of a book that is now (mostly) completed. Final edits will be coming back soon, but for the most part I never have to look at the thing again.

I've back on the 'ole freelancing train now, taking care of my PR work and looking at ads in an attempt to avoid the content mill work that pays most of the bills right now. Here's basically what freelance writing ads have to offer:

Generic Ads: We need people to write stuff! We need stuff written, and we need millions of people to write that stuff! If you know what stuff is and you can make words, you can write our stuff. We may or may not pay, we'll tell you after we find out after you sign up and fill out five contact information forms.

Laundry List Ads: We need everything in the world: Literally- whatever it is, we need it. We will sit on our backsides while you will run out business with little direction, writing everything and then marketing it through 225 different social bookmarking and networking sites. You must have a PhD. in douchebaggery and at least 17 years of experience. We don't pay much, but you will get a Zen satisfaction from working for us. Zen!

One Guy in a Million Ads: We need one person to write about purple squash that grow on one specific bank of the Amazon. If you have five years of experience in writing about that squash (the blue ones from the same bank don't count), feel free to send in at least 10 clips that are exclusively about that type of squash. There will be four levels of testing to determine your squash knowledge. Pay is $12 an hour.

Half-Assed Ads: We think we need something written, or maybe we need something else. We're not sure yet. We think that once we get started, maybe in a few weeks, there will likely be money coming in. This is an amazing opportunity! You can get in on the ground floor of whatever this turns out to be! We don't have any money, but if you create the content for our websites, then we will and we might pay you. Imagine the exposure!

In the meantime, I found this:

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Content Hell

Content writing is a temptation that is hard to fight sometimes. It's pretty simple to do once you get the hang of it, but the pay is pretty average. If I want a kick-ass pond in the backyard and some days off every month, content writing needs to go. Unfortunately, I do have some contracts and I do get bogged down in writing content for content sites out of simple laziness. Normally, this means a boring week that pays ok and little more. This week sucked. It sucked the big one.

When it all began, I was pretty happy with doing some marketing this week, throwing together a PR document and doing some content writing when time allowed because it's easy and people pay me. Here's how I started the week:

Then, one of the content sites that I occasionally writer for decided to lay off more than 4,000 writers and may not pay me a thing for the work that I've done for them. That was less fun.

I got bored one night and thought I'd write a few articles for a cheapie content site that is always a quick buck. A short article about affiliate marketing was sent back as "good, but not funny." It was an article about affiliate marketing. Seriously. It was supposed to be funny? Why??

Then, another content company sent an article back because they "forgot to add" that their new articles are to be written in a specific style that they never put into their style guide. I have to redo it after emailing some obscure person to get the new style guide that is so important that they never gave it to us.

THEN, another content company gave me new, more complicated guidelines that tripled the amount of time that their articles take without raising my rates by a penny. This was already my lowest-paying client, and now their articles pay about a fifth of my normal billing rate. No apologies from them and no acknowledgment of the extended time and expense.

Some weeks are good, some weeks make you want to swing a big fat tuna at the idiots who waste your time with incompetence. I can run a content company far better than most of these people because I have this crazy thing called common sense. I think I'm almost done with writing anything at all for content mills. They've been getting far to much from me for far too long.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cars Actually Need Oil - Oil Change Giveaway

Ok, so I’ve mentioned here a few times that I write a lot. It’s my job, my hobby and all that I care to do most of the time. So, it might not come as a surprise that sometimes other things get put off or forgotten.

So, I got asked if I wanted to participate in a giveaway for Shell Lubricant and through MyBlogSpark. I was thinking, um, oil? I guess cars need oil. Don’t they? Since I couldn’t remember the last time my oil had been changed, it occurred to me that it’s probably been a little while since I did any of that. I ran out to check the little sticker that oil changing places give you, and yeah, it had been awhile. It had been 11,000 miles. Oops.

So, I was sent a gift card and the ancient oil in my car, if any was even left in there, was changed. I *think* that may have been what the “check engine” light was about that was on for so long.

So, any other freelancers (or anyone else) who may not have made car maintenance a priority, I’m giving away one $35 gift card to Jiffy Lube. That should be enough for an oil change. Here’s a store locator if you aren’t sure if there’s one near you. According to them, right now the average age of cars is older than it’s ever been. My car is certainly getting up there in years, so I probably should have been thinking about stuff like that before I got that email. But, I always think of “check engine” lights as being kind of like UFOs- you don’t know why they’re there and they might just disappear at any time. That probably isn’t the best idea.

If you want the gift card, leave a comment about what weird ideas you’ve had about cars. The weirder the idea, the more you probably need the card and an oil change.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Content Writing

There are a lot of types of writers, and most of them look down on the other types. There are fiction writers who write books and short stories. They have day jobs and don't believe that it's possible to actually make your entire living through writing. I want to be one of them.

There are copywriters, who make a nice living at promoting random companies and stuff. They take great vacations and rarely have to stay in nondescript Disney suites. They get the penthouse, baby. I'm getting there right now.

Then, there are content writers. The part timers bring in the money they need and don't worry about their next payments. The full timers make a decent living writing the random crap that content mills ask them to write. I've done this for years, and I want to leave. I'm actually good at PR and copywriting and another one of my efforts has lead to a magazine article about a client. I pretty much rock. I can leave if I want.

So, the fiction writers look down on content writer because they think content writing isn't very creative (it is) and it's ultimately forgettable (of course it is). Content writers look down on fiction writers because they can't make a living through their writing. Copywriters look down on all of them because they can afford to. Taking a week off is no biggie and the penthouse calls.

I'm stuck between worlds, finding content writing comforting, finding success through copywriting and wanting desperately to concentrate on my fiction. What a world.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Website Design

Me: Ok, so I need this website to do a lot more than it did before, and not be lavender. I'm rebranding and I want to start completely from scratch.

Engineer: Fine. What should it look like?

Me: I just want it to look like it wasn't made with one of the free templates that comes with website hosting.

Engineer: Um, ok. So what should the design be about?

Me: It should have none of those smiley people at the top that way too many sites have. I hate those people.

Engineer: Ok, so not look like a free template and no smiley people.

Me: Right. And no lavender, even if lavender is pleasant and restful. And it should have a lot of pages.

Engineer: How many pages exactly?

Me: Well, it needs a lot of pages because I have a bunch of stuff that I want to put on it.

Engineer: Yeah. Um, maybe you could look through some templates?

So, the website is taking a little longer than I had hoped. The engineer that I have on it is a consultant and kind of ran screaming from the fire that is my idea of website design. I decided to just use any template that didn't have those smiley people. I finally found one and put it up to see how it would look, and it's really pretty horrible. Then spouse wanted to tinker with it because after days of trying out this and that I pretty much have an ugly template that I hate and some vague ideas of how many pages it will actually have. This could take awhile.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Business Name

I need to come up with a business name, and I am seriously drawing a blank. I need suggestions from the Interwebs like nobody's business. This is all I've been able to come up with:

Writing Company
Company That Writes Stuff
Stuff-Writing Company
Business That Creates Words for Stuff

I just can't come up with a thing. And I've been drinking rum for the past two hours, so that might be a factor? Anyone who has suggestions, please chime in. The business will write stuff for people who need stuff written, take care of corporate communications, write press releases and create media kits. So I should be called...?


After making lists and staring at names and even having a dream about them, it came down to Content Summoner (thanks, spouse), Content Creations (thanks, Russell), It Came From the Sky (thanks, Schrode) and the name of the used book store I used to own, Waxing Moon. I finally decided that having the word "content" in the name might limit to too much, since copyediting and PR will be a big part of the restructure. And as much as I like It Came From the Sky, it's kind of long and doesn't describe any of the actual services. I have finally decided on Waxing Moon Marketing. It's not too descriptive, but it's short and easy to remember and the word "marketing" encompasses all of the tasks that I offer.

While I REALLY want the tagline "When you don't want your website to suck," it has been pointed out to me (a few times) that if I'm going after larger businesses, that isn't the best avenue to go down. I still think that a company without a sense of humor isn't necessarily one that I want, but I am trying to change things, so I'll go with a more descriptive tagline. It's just a simple "Content, Copywriting and PR."

So, now I need a logo. I'm really going to try not to get carried away.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Motto Ideas

Ok, so I need to organize a new way of doing things, complete with an actual business name and some type of slogan. I've noticed that all of the content sites have a short slogan that is memorable and descriptive. I'm starting with slogan ideas first before I start thinking about a business name. Here's what a have so far:

Business X- When You Don't Want Your Website to Suck

Incompetent? Insufferable? I'll Write For You Anyway

Need Content? I Need Cash. Win-Win!

Content That Won't Get You Arrested

If You Need Content, I'll Put Up With You

Turning Your Site's Crap Into Gold

I just can't choose from among them. And don't even get me started on the logos...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Coming Back and Letting Go

I got back from out annual trek to Disney World a few days ago. It's an easy vacation that's appropriate for everyone, so we go. I hate it, but we go. So, I guess I mean it's appropriate to everyone but me, so we go. Personally, I hate crowds, I want to go up to people in tube tops and ask them why, and occasionally I get into a fight with people flashing cameras in my face, but I go. Where do you even get tube tops? I didn't even know they still sold them, but apparently there is a big supply of tube tops out there that are highly sought after by people who start getting dressed and then think, eh, screw it, I'll just do this.

So anyway, I actually went away for over a week and DID NOT TAKE A COMPUTER. That's the first time in at least seven years that I've done that. I went to a lot of trouble to notify every possible person who needed to know that I would be gone, got someone to take care of some of the things that couldn't wait and took care of everything else in advance. Over a week with no computer, no writing and no business. It gave me perspective, just as I'd hoped.

It's time to let go of some things in order to regroup and re-engage. I've been holding onto anonymity and staying in the shadows of the projects I do out of fear that I suck. I've been taking on work from people who have nice, solid content businesses and have been happy doing it. Meanwhile, my writing site doesn't even have my name on it. It's time to suck it up and create a real website that has an actual business name on it. It's time to let go of invisibility and stop relying on work that other people have the guts to go out and get. I need to go out there and get it myself.

It's time to let go of some of the anger that I have toward a certain party who needs an ass kicking. Oh, I still intend to kick his ass, but I can plan for that and work toward that without holding onto the anger. I'm coming for you, sweetie. Don't forget it.

It's time to let go of some of the crap that I do to stay out of the limelight and away from notice. I think I've stayed overweight for a long time just to have an excuse not to participate in things and to be invisible. I'm letting go of it, letting go of carbs and comfort foods. I've lost 22 pounds and there are still more to let go of.

I think letting go of old things is just as important a step as embracing new things, or maybe it's the same thing. Letting go of invisibility and complacence is embracing a new perspective. Maybe by letting go of that comfortable complacency I'll actually reach out for something better and start feeling like I don't suck as badly as I've always suspected. Maybe? Maybe.

I'd like to challenge anyone reading this (if anyone actually does) to find something they're complacent about and let go of that comfort zone. Stomp it down and try to grab something better. Even if it's just a tube top- let go of it and put on an actual shirt today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Web Writing and Business Ethics

Apparently, a lot of people consider it fine to have no ethics and to consider anything that makes them money to be ok simply because it makes them money. I'm hearing this sentiment a lot more lately, and it's kind of disturbing. I'm actually doing pretty well now in PR, Web writing and my niche sites. But, I don't consider bending my ethics as a way to get there. I don't care how fashionable it is to leave ethics behind, I never will.

I'm doing a major business revamp at the end of this month (which I'll get into soon), but I'm not leaving my standards behind. Here's a few things that stick in my mind:

If you ghostwrite, don't, as Wil Wheaton says, be a dick. Don't broadcast that you've ghostwritten someone's work if they haven't given you permission to do so. I see that sometimes and I just find it disturbing. If you sell the rights, then you sell the rights. No one needs to be outed as having outsourced the work that they put their names on.

Don't write people's schoolwork. I don't care how much it pays- don't do it. Seriously. I keep hearing Web writers go on about how convenient it is to write papers for college students through one of those "academic papers" websites. It's unethical, it's sleazy, don't do it.

I won't write about scams. I don't care what you want to pay, I don't care how super special you think your scam is (believe me, some of these people are hyperdelusional), I'm not going to help anyone scam anyone else. Your "diet supplements" and "male enhancements" are crap, and no one wants to sell your timeshares or seminars. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Pay people that you outsource to. For God's sake, don't ever make a writer beg for their pay. I've outsourced twice and likely won't ever do it again, but I paid on time and paid extra to offset the PayPal fees. Every week I hear about Web writers who have outsourced and then can't or won't pay the writer. If you do that, you suck. There's no way around it.

Oh, and if your business is run in an unethical manner and may have happened to fold today, you might regret having told me that "anyone off the street could do your job" when my job was highly skilled, hyper-tense technical writing. You might wonder why your business folded. It folded because you are idiots. You didn't recognize the few talented people that you had and instead rewarded very unintelligent people with over-paid positions that did nothing for the company. I'm glad that I bailed, and I'm glad that you're gone.

And lastly, check out this drumming:

Seriously. The hotness of Sting often obscures the talent of the other two, but that drumming is phenomenal.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Avoiding Work

When there's a lot of work piling up, pretty much anything else seems super entertaining.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

That's My Name There

The first time I ever had a byline was in the local newspaper, The Huntsville Times. It's actually a fairly prestigious paper in the Southeast, and I wrote an entire blurb of my own in order to get that byline. I was a teenager doing an internship at the newspaper, and I was unsure whether I was even going to get a byline for the ridiculous thing that I did. It was the 90's and I wore rayon all the time because it flowed and I thought it made me look thinner. After spending days in the library and the courthouse with various reporters, I put on a pair of black rayon pants with HUGE white polka dots and a blue rayon shirt that didn't match but that flowed. I looked like a low-rent clown with acne and big hair.

So, instead of going to the courthouse to go through records, I was told that I was going to a meet-and-greet with the prince of Belgium. No lie. The prince was super hot and single and gave a short speech, after which he shook my hand. I then shook the hand of the Belgian ambassador of the United States and had zero answer when he asked me who I was. But, I had furiously taken notes throughout the whole affair and was able to put together an entire article. The result was a weird clown with her first actual byline.

Since then I have had hundreds of newspaper articles published, most with bylines. I even had columns in two different papers, complete with my gross picture, big hair and all. It ceased to be a big deal. I stopped caring much whether my name was on something. My happiness was seeing what I had done and knowing that it was awesome.

Enter Web writing. I hate having my name on anything. The only sites that I have my name on are ones that expressly require that your actual name has to be on the articles. I hate that and wish I never had to use my actual name on anything. That's been my reality for the last three or four years, ducking bylines and trying to enjoy a few things that I've done without anyone actually reading it or knowing that I did it.

Again, that is changing. I'm writing a print book and got my first check from the publisher this week. It's an actual payment from an actual publisher, and it is changing a lot of things for me. Every time I send something in to my editor I expect her to send it back with SCREAMING ALL CAPS!!!!! telling me how much it sucks. Apparently, it doesn't. It's tough, it's hard work and I've thought seriously about throwing in the towel, but I really, really want to see my name on a print book. The contract is terrible and the pay is low, but that will be my name right there when people pick up the book. If it sucks, they will know who sucks. I will not hide and I will not pretend that it was all just some crap that I threw together and didn't put any effort into. I tried at something. I put myself into it and it's going to be out there. With my name. For anyone to see.

It's scary.

Monday, April 5, 2010

No. I Am Not on Facebook.

Am I on Facebook? No, I am not. Aren't I on Facebook? I aren't. Have I signed up for Facebook yet? No. Do I have Facebook? I don't think so. I can be found through Facebook, right? Not really.

These are actual questions that I have been asked in the past month. I am not on Facebook, just in case there is any doubt. I suppose I do "have" Facebook, since it's there and it's available if you want it, but I don't.

But how, you may ask, can I be found on Facebook? The answer is pretty simple- I can't.

Twitter lured me in. Wil Wheaton and William Shatner are there. What can you do when you face those odds? You just have to get sucked in and hope your screaming soul isn't viciously and painfully eaten. But Facebook? I will prevail. I don't care how many times I am asked. I don't care what kind of names I am called. I don't mind being ostracized and having to move to my own island where the non-Facebook people have to go to live in shame.

I can't come up with any more excuses though, when one of the real excuses is just pathetic. I don't like pictures of myself and I don't want to make excuses about why there are no pictures. Yes, it's true that I hate trends that are so big that people DEMAND that you join in on them. Yes, there is a point at which something is so big and pervasive that not belonging just feels right. And yes, I do worry about privacy and my potty mouth being found by people who already disapprove of me because my hair is weird and I'm overweight.

But mostly, I don't give a rat's *ss. I don't want to talk to anyone I went to high school with (with two exceptions, and they are awesome). I don't care about what people I went to elementary school with are doing. People I dated long ago can suck it. Anyone else that I've come into contact with that needs to talk to me can pick up a phone.

But, you have to have Facebook to promote your work. Really? So, when people want to read some informational article or bad vampire novel they go to Facebook to find it? They search through Facebook for writing blogs, how-to articles and rude articles about celebrities? I don't think they do.

If the site is fun, then great. Some people report playing games there, but there are games available elsewhere. Mostly what I hear is about people posting their moods and "status." I don't want anyone knowing either one. I don't know that I even know either one.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What You Mean to Write When You Write and What You Actually Write

Anytime I try to take on some fiction endeavor, such as my new, cheesy vampire novel that will test the waters of the many online publishers that I write about, the words tend to come off just a little different than they were supposed to. That's been going on with my fiction for longer than I'll admit to, and I'm hoping that it isn't just me.

Here's what I want to say:

Cheesy Vampire is interesting, and is so captivating that Character is drawn into the world of cheesy, small-town vampires.

What the words actually convey:

Cheesy Vampire walks around, talks a little and buys toast.

What I want to say:

Cheesy Vampire is super dangerous and could kick you through a brick wall just for asking him whether he's on Facebook.

What the words actually convey:

Cheesy Vampire says a few menacing things and continues walking around.

What I want to say:

Cheesy Vampire and Assorted Characters are worthy of being published by an online publisher so that I can see how well that does and decide whether it's worth the time to create more cheesy work to make some money to buy a super-rad backyard pond.

What the words actually convey:

Holy crap, another vampire novel. This one isn't Twilight-like. It must be destroyed. Get the flamethrower. The one on the wall! Now! Now!

Foiled yet again.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Editors and Editors

I always feel like I am strugling to say something, something that I am not quite saying. No words seem exactly right. When you add editors into the equation, it becomes even worse. I have been through periods when I thought that editors were just frustrated writers who hated people who could actually write. Then there have been periods when I have been glad that they were watching out for my interests and making sure that the typos are gone. But most of the time, I have questioned why they exist and how I could avoid them.

I have one editor that I adore (Suite101's fair Julie), one editor that I hate (I'll never tell!), and many editors that I tolerate as long as they are helpful and not a hindrance to what I am trying to do. It seems as if many of them feel they are above writers, as if they are the watchdogs of writers or somehow babysitters that make sure we aren't inciting riots. Many times I end up having to train them because they seem to have no idea what they are doing. It's annoying and insulting to end up with an editor who thinks she is your boss when she is really just a low-paid proofreader. I actually do have a fairly prestigious editing job, so I know how it feels to see other people's mistakes and wonder why they don't see them. I still don't feel superior, though, so maybe I'm not properly embroiled in editor culture.

Sometimes I wonder how necessary it is to have so many editors out there. Then, I witnessed something that needed an editor so badly that non-writers were telling me how badly the item in question needed to be edited. It wasn't just me. Homegirl needed an editor in the worst possible way. Being a witness to this taught me two things: I don't suck as much as I thought, and an editor is really just a person who comes between what you want to say and what an audience wants to hear. That is actually a great thing to do- to carve an audience-specific work out of one that is just an expression of the authors creativity.

Editing is an important step that is noticed mostly in its absence. If something isn't edited well, it look naked and revealed. If it is, the writer's idea comes across without anything getting in its way. Judging from what I witnessed last week, more people should consider professional editing to avoid people wondering afterward what in the world went wrong.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How Not to Make Money From Your Blog

I write SEO stuff to generate profits, ebooks with SEO'd titles and descriptions to generate profits and I ghostwrite blogs that are created to earn a profit for the owners. This blog, however, is not one of those. I make almost nothing from it, and I don't care that much whether I do. Out of all the work I do, I want just one space that is not devoted to generating a profit. It's just a spot to say what I want to say without having to count keywords or look up CPC rates. So, here's how to avoid making money from your blog:

Don't bother to SEO anything. Write whatever you want and write cryptic titles that no one will ever search for. Don't worry about the CPC rates for any of the words you do use.

Throw up any ads you want without any concern about their placement. From what I've read, ads that are placed on the right side of a blog tend to do get more clicks, generating more earnings, but ignore that. Do whatever you think looks less tacky.

Don't bother to sell your own advertising. Rely on Google and Chitika to supply your advertising and never solicit for advertising in order to keep all of the ad earnings for yourself.

If you do bother to put in affiliate links here and there, don't worry about talking about them or trying to market them at all. Just throw them in there randomly and hope someone will click on them and earn a commission for you. No one will.

Don't promote your blog. If you do leave comments on other blogs and put your own blog name in the Web address thingy, make sure the comments are weird and possibly obnoxious so that no one will want to look at your blog.

Put in pictures only when you feel like it, and don't worry if they necessarily relate to what you're writing about.

Create a blog abut a topic that a million other people write a blog about, ensuring that yours gets very little attention. Don't network with any of the other people who write blogs about the same topic in order to get guest blogging gigs or blogroll links. Figure that if you deserve links, they will find you.

Keep the focus of your blog scattered between the stated topic and anything else that you think is interesting. Irritate most of your readers by talking about how much you hate cell phones.

Occasionally drink too much and try to write a blog post which then has to be deleted because it doesn't make any sense the next day.

What results can you expect if you follow this plan? Well, I don't want to brag, but so far this month I have made about $2 from this blog. I'm gonna buy me a big 'ole Moon Pie.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Elusive Day Off

When you freelance full time, an entire day off is a pretty rare occurrence. I've been thinking all week that I really want one day off this weekend. That means not working all day- not working small amounts here and there or working away from the computer instead of on it. I want an actual day in which no work is done.

I thought that Saturday would be a good day to take off. Most of my work for the week is done, and the things I have to do over the weekend are mostly tying up loose ends and emailing colleagues about work that was done. So, there's about an hour of work right there. Then I remembered a page that I haven't finished yet that should be finished before the end of the week. So there's another hour that needs to be done. And once that is done, I should await feedback to make sure that the client is happy. So, I could work two or three hours and have the rest of the day free, or have free time all day knowing that I have hours of work hanging over my head for that night.

Ok, so Saturday is out. Maybe Sunday I could have an actual day off. I could finish everything on Saturday that should be completed this week. Then I could make sure to check mail late at night so that I don't wonder the next day whether I've missed some important communication. Of course, then on Sunday there may be clients trying to contact me. And what if my careful scheduling left something out that I should have done?

Ok, so I could check my email late at night, then check it in the morning to make sure no one is trying to contact me. Then, I could check it every couple of hours in case there was anything I missed so that anything lacking could be completed before the end of the day. Maybe I should set aside some time on Sunday to complete anything that might come up for me to do. And then, in between email checks and that set-aside working time, I would have my completely free day.

It sounds so relaxing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What to Write?

That's the big question, isn't it? What indeed. I know what I like to write, and I know what kind of books I like reading. Unfortunately, those aren't the easiest kind of books to sell. Agents usually have no interest in hearing about them and publishers only want to hear about books being represented by agents. So, here's how it breaks down:

You need an agent. So, you must write something that is easily publishable. That means a genre that is popular and profitable. In the U.S. and Europe, that means either creative non-fiction or romance novels.

Which to choose? Creative non-fiction is tough to break into, especially if you don't have a recognizable name and/or a Ph.D. Romance is the one genre that new book writers are most likely to get into. The genre makes up about half of the paperback book market, and you don't need an agent to break into it. So, romance novel it is.

Uh, oh- they suck. And detour- you don't know how to write one. So, you have to read a few to figure out how to do this.

Problem- they're boring and there are so many different sub-genres that even if you could think up a boring story, you have to make it fit into one of those sub-genres. Many of the sub-genres are bizarre, like medieval Scottish lord stories and NASCAR romance. Those are seriously both sub-genres.

So, you take a look at what is actually being published. That's what every book tells you to do, so you do it every so often to get a feel for what's being released. You know what's being released? Vampire romance books. Every major print publisher and every major ebook publisher is being dominated by them. If you want in, you have to have a damn vampire in there somewhere.

So, what do you get? You get Twilight, that's what you get. You get this instead of this. It's not even this (which is now available in two languages). It's more like this. Foiled! I think I'll mostly stick to my own creative projects for now, even if they don't sell.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Demand Opening to U.K. and Canadian Writers

If you're pretty happy with your writing and feel like you've struck a balance between what is good and what is salable, you now have the opportunity to throw that away and start writing for Demand Studios instead. I know there are a lot of people who live in the U.K. or Canada and have felt that their options are limited because a lot of the U.S. content companies weren't open to them.

Well, now you too can write soulless articles that will be mangled by editors who talk to you like you're garbage. Hooray! The pay is actually pretty good, especially if you're coming from a journalism background. It's also extremely flexible. If you've read about writing for Demand Media before from people who say it takes hours and hours to write an article and you have to interview people and you get paid .01 an hour, that's all crap.

It's Web writing. It takes about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the topic and the format. And, it's not all for eHow. They supply content to a lot of different sites and have varying pay available for different projects. If you are a competent Web writer, understand Web formatting and how to write and organize quickly, you can make a decent amount of money with them. Some people unfortunately have categorized this work as journalism that is extremely low paying. It isn't. The only thing it has in common with journalism is the speed. If you take 20 hours to write a badly researched article, as the fellow in the link did, you're not up to the task. And if you're not up to the task, there's a world of hurt coming.

Here's what gets me, though. As a journalist who was trained to double check facts, to keep my opinions out of it, etc., both of the articles above simply don't cut it. If I had turned in anything like those two articles, complete with inaccuracies (both claim $15 to $20 an article, which is wrong), they would have been thrown back at me. Literally so, in one case. I actually Twittered the writer of the first one to tell him that Demand wouldn't have accepted that article from him. And you know what? It's true. Somehow, such shoddy work has resulted in a few highly-paid writers who think they can never be replaced. I don't really understand the world we live in sometimes, but I do know this- if you want to write for a living, get with the program. If you can't write for the Web, you're going to have a tough road ahead. I see a lot of writers who look down at Web writers and simultaneously declare that you can't make a full-time living by writing. You can.

Here's what you need:

Diversity- Keep several companies on tap and write for each so that no one company going under means the end of your job.

Skill- You need to be able to organize your thoughts quickly and write your item clearly and correctly the first time.

Reasonable Expectations- I see a lot of writers who want to get into Web writing and expect $100 or so per article. This isn't print. I have gotten that before, but it isn't reasonable to expect it most of the time. There are people out there who spend weeks looking for high-paying work because anything else is beneath them. Those people have day jobs. Don't price yourself out of the market and your job will always be there.

Am I a crappy writer because I work for market prices and don't assume that I can't be replaced by someone else if I don't? No. I'm a crappy writer for a number of other reasons. But, I don't apologize for taking on full-time work even if it isn't work that makes me feel super important. If you want to work for Demand, then work for Demand. You can make a lot more an hour than you can working for a newspaper, and there are a few perks here and there. New York Times writers may look down on it, but when those reporters are out of a job like the rest of us and can't get hired by Demand, they may have wished they'd kept these three principles in mind and moved with the industry instead of assuming that they can't and won't be replaced.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Writing for BellaOnline

If you're a Web writer, chances are that you've considered writing for BellaOnline, or that you thought about it and ran the other way. If you haven't heard of it, here's what it is- a big 'ole site about pretty much everything. It's the "second-largest site for women," according to the owner, and it hires category editors to take on each of the topics. It's not just for innies- outies can also apply to be category editors and write about whatever it is they get hired for.

You don't get paid for writing, per se, but you make money on affiliate sales through the site and can sell stuff through the site's store. Since I rarely make anything on any of it, I assumed no one was reading it. And since no one was reading it, I stopped taking it very seriously long ago. My writing went from being serious and informative in 2007 to being mostly there to amuse myself in 2008 and to pretty much phoning it in by 2009.

Being a giant dork, I either didn't know or forgot, I'm not sure which, that your traffic numbers are available through the huge, complicated admin area. I don't think I'd ever noticed them before until earlier this week. After assuming for the last couple of years that no one was reading it, I actually looked at the numbers a couple of days ago. More than 10,000 people a month are reading these. Seriously. About 10,000 to 12,000+ people every month are reading about fictitious Bob Dylan translation devices and saw me make fun of poor, innocent Art Garfunkel. I kind of want to crawl under a rock right now.

But here's the biggest question- where's all the hate mail? Normally with those kinds of numbers you can expect some regular hate mail. Not only are people not buying through Bella, they don't even care enough to send a little hate mail? Thanks, Bella readers.

Friday, February 19, 2010

SEO Fail

I seem to be good at SEO, but the problem is often that what I choose to write about has a fairly small audience. People who are searching for the stuff I write about can find it, but not many of them are searching. I never choose those trending topics that everyone is supposed to go for in order to get big numbers. It can get frustrating to see useable information not get big numbers because it's not about car chases or whatever it is that's trending right now. So, let's just try a little experiment, shall we?

Twilight is a movie. Twilight is a book. Twilight, right? Have you read Twilight on your Kindle or Blackberry or watched Twilight on your iPhone or iPad? The iPad does exist. You can watch Twilight while holding an iPad with Steve Jobs. Edward Cullen! Edward Cullen is a character, don't you think? I'll bet that Edward Cullen has both an iPod and an iPad. Video game hacks! Aren't video game hacks grand? Edward Cullen from Twilight uses video game hacks on his iPhone while listening to his iPod.

I feel dirty now.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Freelance Writing Roundup

Everyone once in a while I do a round up of what's going on in my corner of freelance writing. Since I am a Web writer and PR specialist, it is inevitably pathetic, but here what's been going on this month so far:

I started with Break Studios. I don't know if they hire outside the U.S., but anything I can do to keep from relying on Demand I will do. The pay is about the same as DS but the hassle factor is supposed to be better. We'll see. You can only grab five articles at a time from them instead of the 20 that I can with Demand, and I did five one night just to see how it will go. It seems like a long lag time for review, but if the hassle level is low, I'm sold.

Went on Atkins. Lost 14 pounds.

Dealt with two horrible, national-news-headline shootings, both within minutes from my house and avoided writing bad poetry about my cynicism and distrust of people. Yay me!

Worked on my book about gardening that is under contract with Atlantic Publishing. The contract isn't great, but it's a print book that will likely be a nice little resume booster. It's been an interesting experience working with them, and I am enjoying working on such an enormous project instead of my usual 500-word bites of knowledge.

Worked super hard on a press release that is so specialized and technical that I have to call engineer relatives every five minutes to figure out how to proceed with different aspects of it. On the bright side, my PR efforts yielded articles in both Popular Mechanics and Design World this month.

Had a query turned down by Dog Fancy. Growl.

On another note, it's Valentine's Day, or it was a couple of hours ago. I am a creature of habit and of odd, drunken fascinations with geeky things. I write all the time, sometimes 12 hours a day, and take little interest in other things. Despite this, I have a spouse who understands it and even supports it all. Happy Valentine's Day, spouse. You are a special person for dealing with all of the idiosyncrasies and weirdness without complaining. When I told you I got in a fight at the Sam's Club last week, you didn't bat an eyelash. Thanks for being as understanding as you are.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I got home from an errand a little while ago, and heard an enormous chorus of police cars when I got out of the car. The last time I heard so many sirens a policeman had been shot, so I was a little concerned about what might be going on. Maybe it was just an accident nearby? Maybe it was a robbery? No dice.

The local university was attacked by a shooter, possibly two shooters, and at least six people were shot. Three have died and several are pretty bad off. That's bad enough- to happen so close to where I live and to have the community rocked by yet another shooting (last week it was a school 15 minutes from me).

But, this particular building is where my spouse attends courses. He was not there at the time, luckily. The campus has always felt pretty safe to me. I have taken courses there before, and I go to regular events there. It's unbelievable that this would happen here- and it's not even some over-stressed student who lost it. A professor? At UAH? I don't understand any of this.

And btw- no student alerts were sent out. There was no student notification of any kind, even when the campus was on lock down. Spouse and friend of spouse, both of whom attend courses in the building, got no email, no text and no phone call. Great job, UAH.

Update: 2+ hours after the shootings, the emails are just now being received.

Update: Amy Bishop. From news reports, no implications, no malice. Just information.

Friday, February 5, 2010

DS and Frustration

If you write for Demand Studios, you know the good and the bad. They are flexible, you can have as much work as you want and the pay is pretty good. They have a lot of types of titles to choose from, and they pay often. However, the frustration level when you deal with them can absolutely and without question drive you over the edge. I often have to take a month or two away from them and do client work because I can't take the frustration level for very long.

If you work for them or have been thinking about it, this is all you need to see:

It's like someone opened a window into my soul.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Salinger and Seclusion

I was pretty surprised to find out that Salinger was 91. I've always admired him for his reclusive tendencies, probably because that's kind of my ideal life. I've always wanted to be able to write and not deal with very many people. The reality is that to be able to make a living by writing, the work has to be out there for public consumption and it has to be something that will attract readers. But when they do read in large numbers, I get a little squirmy. I can't imagine things on the scale of Salinger's readers and critics.

If I even have a day when the blog has a lot of viewers, I immediately know that there is a link somewhere that is pointing people to the idiot who is talking such nonsense. Imagine someone of Salinger's caliber attempting to deal with not only his legions of fans but the literary critics and people who wanted desperately to find something wrong with his work so that they could feel important. Yeah, I think his lifestyle made perfect sense.

I actually read this article about a week before Salinger died. Most of them have good reasons to avoid a constant onslaught of critics trying to make a name for themselves by picking them apart.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Product Testing, Free Stuff and Blogging

Ok, so I had mentioned a few weeks ago the new FTC ruling about blogging and product promotion. Ever since then, I always look for the disclosures on blogs. Some of them have them on posts when they are reviewing an item and some of them have a general page that says that some product opinions are the result of a free product to test, which seems to meet the guidelines of disclosure.

The interesting part is that some bloggers are saying exactly where the got the items from, which led me to MyBlogSpark. One blog that I read frequently disclosed that a product had come to them through MyBlogSpark, and I have a blog, so I thought- hey, why have I not tried to do this? So, I signed up, and pretty rapidly I got an email saying that they had a General Mills cereal thing going on, and did I want a bunch of cereal to test.

So that led to one thought- Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Next to C-3POs and Smurfberries, which they don't actually make anymore, Cinnamon Toast Crunch is one of the best cereals ever made. So, testing CTC was no problem whatsoever. I actually got several coupons for the really big cereal boxes- not the tiny ones that they keep on the bottom shelf- from General Mills through MyBlogSpark. And yes, they were tasty. And yes, I probably ate too many of them because there were four giant boxes full of CTC sitting there staring at me.

So, the real question then is how to blog about them. Do I just do a review about the cereal? That's not really my style unless it's a review article. Do I just talk about getting free items? That's probably not what they had in mind. Do I just talk about disclosure and then disclose that I got some stuff? That's really has nothing to do with the thing that I was reviewing. So, I figured some type of hybrid was pretty much what I can do. I hope you liked it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Two Years

I seriously want to take in a Haitian orphan. I don't know how to go about doing it. I found out that I do meet the legal requirements, but I don't think they are being taken out of the country at the moment. It seems like if they could airlift them out, a lot of people would be willing to adopt then and there. Here's info on adopting from Haiti. According to that, it can take two years to complete the whole red-tape process. It seems like a crime to make them wait so long. Surely they will change this in the wake of what's happened? It would be easy to airlift kids to Florida, I could be there in a few hours and then we'd go home. How do lawyers and politicians succeed in making everything so much more complicated than it should be?

What is a Managing Editor?

I've seen a lot of speculation about just what a managing editor is, some of whom attribute all kinds of responsibilities to that title. In truth, however, there is no one job description for a managing editor. I worked for a paper that utilized a a managing editor as a reporter who also helped other reporters with questions. It wasn't a very big elevation of responsibility, but it was useful to have someone to go with questions besides the busy editor.

At another paper, the managing editor served as the editor and handled everything that an editor in chief is supposed to do. The title of editor was given to the paper's owner, though he rarely had anything to do with the actual content and I wonder whether he even read it most days.

While a managing editor is fairly prestigious in that land where there is air and sunlight, I keep finding that managing editors are pretty low-level editors on the Internet. They are often just over-worked editors with little responsibility within the actual publication. Then I came across the term contributing editor at a site that I'm starting with. Maybe it's just me, but that seems a little odd. Either you're an editor or you aren't. If you're a contributor, why are you editing? I thought editors were people who couldn't write and so take out their venom on people who can?

Maybe there's a need for new online titles for editors who also write, editors who actually do have some control over the publication and editors who have a need for an important title to compensate for what is lacking in their lives. How about God-complex editor, editor-not-in-chief-because-the-title-is-meaningless and editor-until-someone-will-pay-me-to-write.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nastiness and Skin

A few days ago I had a rather bad day, full of nastiness, deceit and cowardice. The thing about writing is that if your name is exposed to the masses, they see what you do and assume that you aren't an actual person. They feel the need to comment on everything, to express any negative feeling they have about anything that you wrote. Cowards sometimes send you nastiness for no reason other than that they can.

One day last week I got a some hate mail from someone who didn't like an article that I wrote about a year ago. They didn't really understand the article and took it the wrong way. I took the time to communicate with the person, explaining my position and talking it out until we both understood each other. It was fine. It was solved.

The very next day, I was forwarded a horrific hate letter from someone at a site that I write for. This coward wrote to the site to complain about me, saying that a couple of my articles were crap and that everything I did should be taken down. My attitude was bad, my ideas were bad and I was just basically a pile of crap. It was lovely.

Later that day, I found out that some cowardly asshole had linked to another of my articles on that site and called it stupid or something like that. The brain surgeon involved thought that the site, a gigantic content site that is more than 10 years old, was a blog. So, I'm getting a lot of traffic here from people who read that thing and my oh-so-nice response. Fuck 'em. If you are reading that thing, you're not much smarter than he is.

Here's the thing- writers are supposed to have a thick skin. That's the first thing that any seasoned writer will tell you. There are some people who won't appreciate you. There are some people who assume that because your name is out there you are a target for any random venom that they want to spew. You're supposed to grow a thick skin so that you can continue on through disappointments, rejections and assholes.

Somehow, this hasn't happened to me. I don't have a thick skin. I have a paper-thin skin. Someone being so nasty to me for no reason, especially when that person is completely wrong, is personal and awful. When it happens three times in two days, my confidence gets shot to hell. It's like going up against those high school bullies all over again. They all were so much taller than me and had way perkier boobs. They knew things about boys when I thought they were bizarre and possibly dangerous creatures. The bloggers and random cowards who complained about me and said rude things are nothing special. They are the schoolyard bullies who always seem to win.

So, they wanted to make me feel like crap? Well, they did. You guys win. Yay you! Do you feel better now? Do you feel important? Is everything compensated for? Do you have a book deal? Oh- that's me, sorry. I guess the time you put into your relentless complaints about my "attitude" and my grammar in a single article could have been better spent querying publishers. Pity.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year's Writing Resolutions

I didn't realize it the last time I updated the old blog, but that last post was my 200th post to this blog. I do have a few resolutions now that I've had a few days to reflect on what I really want to achieve this year versus what I really need to achieve this year.

Here were last year's resolutions, and here's how they stacked up:

"Stick to a basic work schedule." I did make a lot of headway with this, mostly by using two notebooks, numerous lists and a timer.
"Work on my novels." Ha ha, ha ha ha ha! Wow. Ha ha hee hee, ho ho. *wipes eyes* Excuse me, I'm back now.
"Read my work more often." I am getting marginally better at this. It still embarrasses me to read my own stuff, but I'm trying. I really am trying.
"Continue to build residuals." I have come a long way with that over the past year. I now have six or seven residual streams and have a few hundred a month coming in from them. That's a nice little insulator to have for peace of mind.

So this year, here's what I have:

Learn moderation. When I find something I want to do, I hit it pretty hard, time wise. I need to find better balance between personal writing projects, PR clients, content writing and residual building. I cant spend whole days writing fun stuff when there are opportunities out there that I could be missing because I've put up blinders to everything else.

Have confidence. This one I struggle with continuously and there may be no end to that struggle. I often take on work that pays less than it should because I lack the confidence to ask for more or to go after the higher-paid work. I recently had a bunch of high-paying articles and couldn't sleep a bit the night before I did them, convinced that it would all end in disaster. I go into meetings thinking that I know nothing and even when I am helpful I wonder if people weren't just being polite and pretending to think it was all useful and collaborative.

Shoot for print. Every year I say that I will, and it looks like this will be the year that it actually does happen. I do have a book deal, though it's certainly not the best one that ever came along. I may end up posting about it soon, but I haven't gone through all of the agreements yet, so I don't know what I can and can't say. Aside from that, I want to pitch an idea or two to at least one magazine and one publisher.

So, a year from now I may be laughing at this year's resolutions, or I may be wondering how I could shoot for so little. That's the great thing about the future- the anticipation of finding out is what drives us to continue on.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Putting Off Resolutions

I'll come up with them, I'll come up with them, but until then I have a rant. I really, really do not understand the constant texting and the obsession people have with iPhones and Blackberries. People seem to be aligning themselves along whether they have iPhones and text each other every five minutes and whether they don't.

I don't want to get into a lot of the bigger implicates of which is better, which actually keeps people "in contact" and whether it's actually better or worse to be in constant contact. I genuinely want to understand why so many people do this and if they understand how boring they are. I can literally no longer eat a meal with my brother because he texts people the whole time, takes pictures of what is going on around us and then tweets the pictures- all as we are eating together. Back in the day they called that rudeness and self-absorption. Today apparently it's called, well, I actually don't know. What is this called?

I went to Disney last year and I was truly puzzled by many of the people there. Here's how it works: you stand in line for 15 minutes to an hour in the heat and blinding sunlight, growing weary from standing on concrete and sweltering in the heat and humidity. When it is finally your turn, you get to sit down in the dark, enjoy cool air and experience a ride. Instead, many of the people treated the experience as an interruption of their texting time. They struggled to see their phones in the dark. They typed non-stop while on a ride, at Disney, during their vacations. Many of them watched the rides through their cameras as they filmed the entire experience.

I am very sad to see how boring many people who used to be lively, interesting and engaging have gotten. I can understand sending a text or making a cell phone call if you are looking for someone that you needed to meet somewhere and can't find them. I can understand it if you realize that you forgot to remind someone about something and need to send them a quick message. I can not understand texting people for hours a day about anything at all. I can't understand interrupting a meal, a movie or a work day to send junk messages to a bunch of people that you may not even know. If there is a real, logical reason other than "everyone is doing it- it's new" then I'd love to hear about it. Maybe it would soften the blow of seeing so many interesting people dry up and turn quiet, lifeless and just plain dull.