Monday, December 31, 2007

Being a writer is an actual job

One of my pet peeves, something that I have probably have mentioned before, is the simple fact that many people do not consider writing as a real job. This irks me.

My mother never considered it a real profession; in fact, she considers writing to be a sin (that last point I can see--it is a theological issue that I might talk about someday). Of course, this is the same woman who believed me babysitting my brothers and sisters was more important than me passing my Freshman Composition class in High School (I took it twice, but never had the time to write the term paper, hence me being a High School flunk out).

I have noticed a lot of other people do not consider writing to be a real profession. The only reason I started to consider it a real profession was that I was forced to make money doing it (for myself that is, I was always able to consider it a real profession for others as soon as I learned that it was possible to get paid to do it). Which is probably the nicest thing that I can say about the bad economy, it forced me into my real profession. Or what I always to do for a living.

But because people do not consider it a real profession, they have no qualms about interrupting you while you are writing. Take this week for instance, the wife is home on break (she is a substitute teacher) and she has the home remodeling bug. Not bad in itself, but she expects me to drop everything to help her. Some of the things that I am working on have actual deadlines, so I can't just drop everything to remodel the house.

And even if I didn't have deadlines to met (they are not important deadlines, but I do want to finish the work in a timely manner), I won't want to quit writing for a week just to make her happy. I have only so much time before the next semester starts, and I don't want to lose any of it to having to warm back up; if you take a long break from writing, it takes awhile to get back in the flow of things.

I am not sure if the wife is one of those people who does not consider writing a real job, but she sure acts that way. Then again, it could just be that she is self-centered and bossy (yes, I said that). But that is a whole another pet peeve of mine.

Well, I would like to complain some more, or at least slip in some more writing time, but the wife is asking when I am going to come and help her. Oy vey.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Leapfrogging on Helium

One of the quirks of Helium, one of several online paid to write sites that I belong to, is the ability to “leapfrog” one of your own articles. Leapfrogging involves replacing an article that you are unhappy and not earning anything from, with an article that is you believe is better. Leapfrogging is a necessary option given the Helium system.

Helium, named for the concept that the better articles in a title will rise to the top, uses a rating system. It is an old fashioned system in the sense that it uses writers to rate the work of other writers. It is a new fashioned system is the fact that the ratings are ran though an algorithm to figure out exactly where your article should end up in the stack. Thanks to the combination of fashions, one’s article can sink in the ratings like a stone, or rise very rapidly to the top.

The rating system is one of the most hated things about Helium. Given the fact that many writers don’t really understand how the system works, and that it is based on other writers’ opinion of the merits of one’s work, conspiracy theories arise about it.

Quite honestly, given the randomness of the selections that are presented to rate, I doubt that anyone is gaming the system. I will admit that it sometimes moves very slowly, especially when it comes to contest entries; but given enough time, at least for myself, my articles end up exactly where they are supposed to be. Others may disagree with me on this; after all, we all think that we are the best writers in the world, therefore rightfully deserving the number one slot.

Besides egos, there is also the small fact that Helium pays writers using a revenue sharing system. (Other revenue sharing sites include MyLot, Yuwie, Associated Content.) In the interest of attracting users, and keeping them, some web sites are beginning to share some of the ad revenue that they collect with the people using the site and providing useful content. On Helium and Associated Content, that content is articles.

Many people prefer Associated Content over Helium, due to the fact that Associated Content does not rate articles in the same manner that Helium does. On AC, each article is rated only against itself, and it has no bearing on your revenue share (AC calls it “Performance Bonus). Your rating on Helium does affect your earnings; even if only because the top five articles in a title get seen more than the others in the title.

So in light of this, writers on Helium are allowed to attempt to replace an article with another version; hopefully, one that does better in the ratings. It does not always work, causing many experienced Helium writers to wait until their work hit rock bottom before they attempt to write a better version.

This year, during my winter break from college, some of the writing that I am doing is revisions of my bottom dwellers. Not all of them. Quite frankly, some of my lowest rated articles are there simply because I don’t care enough that they are sitting on the bottom (if I think the shelf-life of an article is over, there is no point in wasting time rewriting it).

And besides, some of these articles are no longer current with my skill as a writer. Thanks to college, a couple of novel rough drafts, and just sheer experience as a writer, many of the articles I wrote there when I first joined are articles I now am horrified to have written.

Say what you will about Helium; but at least they allow you to replace your trash with something more readable. I know that many people prefer Associated Content, due to the lack of a rating stack; but considering that an article there is forever and non-replaceable, perhaps Helium is the better vehicle for your writing if you are getting better as a writer.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

And they look the same to me

So today, I was leapfrogging one of my articles on Helium.

(For those who are not familiar with Helium and the term leapfrogging, it is a process where you replace one version of an article that you wrote with one that you hope will do better in the ratings.)

Then, as is my custom, I started to rate articles. My theory is that is I do some rating, that means that my article will proceed though the rating system there at a faster pace than if I did no rating at all.

Besides, I am still trying to get back into the flow of things; call it a productive way of goofing off (it was either rate or do postings on MyLot). Either way, I figure I wasn't going to get much paid writing done today.

So there I am , rating away, trying to be useful to myself. And because I am rating, I am seeing the stuff that other people are leapfrogging (to successfully leapfrog one of your articles, the raters have to decide that it has as much merit or more than the original).

Maybe it is just me, but so many of these leapfrogs looked exactly the same. If there was a difference in them, I sure couldn't spot it. Now the leapfrog I am attempting (at this point, it is still pending) is a completely different version. It is not me trying to correct some small mistakes; it is me trying to get the article to sound more like me. So the raters that see my attempt are going to see a big difference.

And that is because there is actually a difference between the two versions. Even if it lands exactly where the previous was sitting, I figure I will be happier with the newer version (provided that the raters agree with me that it is the better version).

But this does make me wonder what is the point of leapfrogging an article that looks exactly the same as the original. Now, my crooked mind does tell me that perhaps they are exactly the same, and the writers are merely trying to get them rerated against the rest of the stack. In which case, I have to ask, "If you are unhappy with its placement in the ratings, don't you think that it will land in about the same position again if it is still the same article?"

In my mind, if you make no actual changes, then it should land exactly back where it was to begin with. And several of these leapfrogs could have used formatting changes at the very least. There was room for improvement.

I am pleased to note that one writer on Helium was leapfrogging for format changes. I could tell. I rated the better formatted versions higher than the originals (they were easier to read). And considering I tend to rate articles that have bad formatting down (if it is hard to read, it better be a really good article to stand a chance, or up against pure trash), they desired another go at being rated properly.

But outside of that, most of the leapfrogs I rated today seemed to be merely an attempt by some of the Helium writers to have another go at being rated without actually doing any more work. I wish them exactly the luck that they deserve; now, where is that eye of newt?

Vacation has been a bust

So far this winter break has been a bust. I have done very little, if anything, from my list of what I wanted to accomplish during this break. That includes writing.

The primary problem was that it took me a week and a half to recover from the semester. I know that I was recovering when I finally started to get bored. Boredom always drives me to cleaning, writing, and other assorted projects.

Unfortunately, about the time I got bored, the wife's vacation started. Originally, this was not going to be a problem (she has a list of remodeling that she wanted to work on); and considering that she wants to do it her way, I was off the hook to pitch in.

The plan of wife and mice went astray when she came down with the flu (or was it a cold). So she is still hacking up stuff (yes, it is that lovely), and is just thinking about starting the projects. She better hurry, she only has a little over a week left before she goes back to work.

In the meantime, I need to get back in the mood to start writing again. Wish me luck.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is commenting necessary?

The other day, I was reading a friend's blog. He was posting about the attack on Pearl Habour. I read it (sort of--I was tired) and looked at the pictures. But I didn't leave a comment.

Now, I did leave a comment on his post on why TV shows go bad. So, he does know that I was there. He sends me a note asking me why I didn't leave a comment. I sent him some answer back (basically I was tired that day), but it did get me to thinking.

What is the proper etiquette for reading blogs? Should we post comments to everything we read? Or is the mere fact that we are reading the blog be enourgh?

Both me and my friend came out of the Amateur Press Association scene. One of his pet peeves was the fact that many members would just write "RAEBNC." For those who haven't been a member of an APA, that means "Read and enjoyed, but no comment." Now, this was one of the reasons that he got out of the APA that we mutually belonged to; I left because I saw the writing on the wall (I had started to write about Golden Dawn in my zine) and realized that it was the wrong audience for me. That and I was starting to tilt at the print market.

One of the reasons that I don't leave comments often is that a lot of them would boil down to RAEBNC. I don't even leave comments for the writers who take part in the Weekly Page View Reciprocation List. I figure if I make time to read the articles that should be enough to satisify them. I never actually bothered to ask the members there exactly how they feel about this notion of mine.

Truth of the matter is that I have a hard time coming up with useful comments. What use does RAEBNC have to your typical writer or blogger? And if I can't help you write better (and some people really don't want the help), why should I leave a comment? Oh, occasionally, I will leave a "Wow" on some people's work because they wrote something that I wish that I would have done.

I am not the only one that has a hard time leaving useful comments; the Creative Writing class I took a couple of semesters ago was full of people who had to learn how to give useful comments (there was one student that never did learn the knack of that one).

There is also that whole backlinking to one's profile. I understand that it does help your ranking in the search engines, but when does it become spam (remember spamming gets your links slammed by engines; they have limits and then they declare it foul play) and do you want to look like a spam artist?

But ultimately, I think that comments should be restricted to Wows and useful comments, not RMP (read my page) and RAEBNC. Besides who am I really writing for? If I am just writing for myself, comments are just going to be generally ignored anyways. And most of the time, my writing better be pleasuring to me because that is the only audience that I am sure to have.

I am not sure who he thinks that he is writing for. I am also not sure what he thinks being a blogger is about. In my world, comments are nice, but they are not really necessary.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Aarrgghh! Is that a Black Widow?!

Today started off with an aaarrrgggghhhh! The wife on the way out of the house spotted a spider by the stove. Taking a closer look at it, she woke me up to take a look at it.

Now, spiders are one of her totem animals. So we have a general rule of not killing spiders in the house. We made an exception for this one.

It looks like a Black Widow. I could be wrong; after all, I have never seen one up close and personal before.

To my own amusement, I was more interested in taking a picture of it than I was whacking it. I have been taking pictures of all the spiders in the house lately because I swear we have a dozen different types around the house.

In the end, I did spray the whole area down in bug spray. I don't want the cats to get poisoned--they like to stalk and eat spiders (yes, my totem animals eat hers). But why do I have to collect the bad mojo?

Friday, December 14, 2007

No Child Left Behind

I have been uneducated most of my life, at least by the formal standards of the education system. I had more of an education than my dad did (he did not finish Junior High), but not by much. I became a High School dropout, being short one class, and deciding to leave town rather than do summer school (not that I would have passed the class--Freshman Composition on the third pass--my home life was pretty bad).

Because of this I ended up working for twenty years in food service, along with the occasional side job that required a warm body and no piece of paper. The fact that I did not have a piece of paper, and that it was a writing class that I was short, always came to be a surprise to many of the people I worked with. I was always writing something, or reading a book; at the job, I was normally the best educated person there.

Ironically, this included college students (the Burger King I worked at was across the street from the campus). This puzzled me for some time. Ok, it still does. I sit in the classroom today, a forty-two year old college student, and am amazed that some of my fellow classmates actually managed to get into college. Maybe, it is because it is a community college; nevertheless, there are still times where I am the most educated person among my peers (my fellow students).

It was in philosophy that I finally figured out the reason for me being appalled by the education and general lack of knowledge exhibited by my classmates. Or rather, I was outright told by the professor. It is the "No child left behind" act.

No child left behind was a wonderful idea, maybe, on paper; if you are willing to ignore the fact that you can't force kids to learn and school districts to increase funding. Lack of interest on the part of students, and on the lack funds on the part of the schools, is the coffin of the no kid left behind act. In the end, all the no child left behind act has done is to cause school districts to rewrite the tests in such a way that any monkey, randoming filling in circles, could pass the test and earn a diploma. In essence, the no child left behind act has resulted in lower standards; it hasn't helped anyone.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Writing about fruitcake

So yesterday was the first day of my winter break. I hang around the internet, did some cleaning around the house, generally just goofed off.

I did one short short yesterday about an unwanted fruitcake. While doing it, I realized that I spent too much time this last semester in philosophy; I ended using a Voltaire reference. It is not bad enough that I am writing about fruitcake; no, I have to say something that only makes sense if you have read Voltaire. I keep telling people that college is not good for my writing style.

The Dreaded Beast--Fruitcake

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Last final of the semester

Well, today is my last day of college this semester. I have my Political Science final today. It should be interesting to take considering that it is an essay style test (must answer five of seven questions), and use two quotes from the textbook in each answer.

Then starting tomorrow, I get to spend an entire month repairing things around the house, working on this and my Golden Dawn blog, and trying to bash out some articles and short stories. Basically, my vacation is not really a vacation; it is a month of intense work as I try to make up lost ground (opportunity cost).

And in a month, I get to start it all over again. I have signed up for one Literature class, one Humanity, one Psychology, and one History class. Should be an interesting semester, especially considering that two of the classes are going to involve lots of reading (they are taught by the same professor that I had this semester for Philosophy).

Friday, December 7, 2007

Carson Daly--bad news for striking writers

Last week, Last Call with Carson Daly announced that they were going to go back to work, despite the Hollywood Writers' Strike. Reading the article, my comment was "Carson Daly uses writers?!"

I have seen Last Call; there is no evidence that he uses writers. If he does, I am shocked. Do these writers stand outside Home Depot, or whatever one would find day writers (probably Dunking Donuts), because the writing on that show has never been very good.

And having watched a few of the espisodes this week, I find that Carson Daly without writers is as good as Carson Daly with writers. There is a reason why he is on so late. It is either him or an infomerical.

Not that I am saying that he is bad. It is just that occasionally I ask how much he is paying his writers. The skits he does sometimes stink. And their function seem to be burning up time.

His improv this week has been just as effective at burning up time. And he is not paying writers to hack it out. He may want to consider not bringing the writers back after the strike is over.

And yes, I realize that I should support the Hollywood Writers' Strike. After all, they are my brothers in arms. Well, not really. I am not a member of the Union. Nor am I ever likely to be a member.

Nor am I likely to be famous enourgh to ever be on Last Call, or any other talk shows for that matter. It is not that I won't like to be on such shows; it is just unlikely to happen.

I understand the complaints of the Hollywood Writers. If I was a member of the Union, I would be fighting for the same income. But I would be worried about my job, if Carson Daly can survive without writers, imagine who else can also.

Just a link to my Helium profile

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Results of National Novel Writing Month 2007

Yesterday was the last day of the National Novel Writing Month. Many people, myself included, attempted to hack out the entire rough draft of a novel out in the space of a month--fifty thousand words worth of writing in thirty days. Some people succeeded; I was not one of them.

Yet while I did not reach my goal, I do consider last month’s effort (on my part) to be a success. I finished closer to the goal than I have ever came before. I ended up writing 41443 words to be exact. More if you count the amount of wordage I wrote last month on the various term papers I ended up completely.

If I could have gotten all the writing I did to go all in the same direction, I would have crossed the line this time. Unfortunately, term paper season ate me alive. In the end, I wrote over ten thousand words spread over a couple of papers--so far, one of them has turned out to be an A, still awaiting further grades to be reported.

And I consider parts of the rough draft that I wrote to be useable; or at least, parts will be usable after some revisions. Whether or not, it turns out to be a novel or just a short story (or perhaps a novella) will depend a lot on what can be fixed.

As always, this writing project was a learning experience for me. What I learned this project was the strange things that occur to me when I am trying to make an idea fix into a novel. Perhaps some of the strange ideas are good, I need to let the story sit awhile before judging parts of it. Then again, I have to finish a dozen scenes before it can be set to rest for awhile--as I said term paper season was a conflict with National Novel Writing Month. But I should have those scenes written by the first of the year--at least, I can say that I wrote the rough draft of an entire novel this year; and that makes me a winner despite not hitting the goal of fifty thousand words in thirty days.

Another thing I learned was that I can still surprise myself. At the end of this long stretch of writing, I find myself busy outlining another novel. That surprised me, I figured that I would not want to look at the keyboard for a good month afterwards; instead I find myself working on my next novel already.

For many, this will not be a surprise. In my case, it is. Sometimes, I forgot that I am a real writer. If nothing else, this last month was a good reminder that despite the expectations of those people around me, and society in general, that at heart, I am best at being a writer.

So here is to the end of National Novel Writing Month, while I did not write enough to make the goal, I am still happy with my results--and here is to next November, when I get to do it all over again.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Excerpt from Death on Mars

As I stared at the candle, I tried to come to a reason for the existence of crime. From a kabbalistic viewpoint, or at least one school of it, crime was merely the repaying of debts from past lives. I couldn’t imagine what I did to deserve being almost killed in a hull breach, or how the people of an entire colony could be guilty of something that would warrant repayment in the form of missing supplies. And what did the Director do in a past life that he deserved to have his head bashed in during this one? I wasn’t sure that I believed in the theory much, it sounded too much like the Eastern concept of karma. I have struggled with it for years.

Once back on Earth, I had been in a burger joint. You know the type of places where the goal is to get you in and out as quickly as possible. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised about what happened; after all it was a bad neighborhood, being right next door to the parole office. I had brought my burger and drink, and one of the people in the next line asked me if I had a dollar to spare. I told him no, but he could have the loose change I just got back. We both drifted over to the pickup area. “Thanks, I just got out of jail,” the black man told me. I shrugged my shoulders and went back to reading the kabbalistic text that I was studying. The server called an order exactly like the one I ordered, and the black man said it was his. I wondered if he was lying. But I figured it was possible that he ordered the exact same thing; after all, I had paid absolutely no attention to what he had ordered. I waited, and learned that he had taken mine, for when the rest of the orders were handed out, there was only me waiting. The shlepper had stolen my burger. I offered to pay for another one; the server replaced my order, but told me to make sure that I spoke up the next time.

For many hours afterwards, I wondered what I did in a past life that the theft of a burger and drink, and a handful of change, could make right. In the end, I could think of nothing. Possibly, it was just a senseless event without any mystical meaning whatsoever.

And the breach and the murder of Director Robinson were probably also meaningless. God knows that I am not enlightened enough to came up with a spiritual reason for the events. I am not sure anyone could.

So barring any mystical revelation, I mediated on the possible mundane reasons for crime. Greed was obviously the sin behind the missing supplies; the breach was just a rather extreme way of covering it up.

If the Director’s death was tied into that, then I knew the motive for his murder. If it was an unconnected crime which I doubted, then there was all the emotional sins--envy, jealousy, lust, rage; it was a rather long list. I would have to check them out, but I was positive that the Director’s death tied into the breach and the missing supplies.

Cheese assault and other misdemeanors

Yesterday was a strange day. I was sitting in the “lunch room” in the South Classroom (at the Community College of Denver), talking to my friend Susan when a small ruckus occurred. Joanne, one of the workers at the little store there, walked up to one of the neighboring tables and started to talk to the lady that was sitting there. Turns out the lady was guilty of ripping off the store, and this was not the first time either. The woman got upset (protesting her innocence) and as Joanne walked away, the lady threw her food at Johann. Unfortunately, she missed Joanne and hit me instead. Yes, I got assaulted by nachos.

My classmates thought it was a little strange that I didn’t seem upset about it. Pangloss, a name for our current reading assignment, was applied to me. They might be right, but I chose to blame it on being a manager for so long--after all, I had to learn to be calm in that job.

It is not the only strange crime to happen to me this month. Earlier in the month, I had a person steal my order at MacDonalds. That incident annoyed me more, so much it ended up in the rough draft of the novel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tired and--oh, look shiny

So I have fallen greatly behind in my quest to write a novel in the space of a month. In large part, this is due to the terrors of term paper season. For some reason, writing a couple thousand words of research paper just saps all the creavity right out of me.

But on a bright note, I did get my microeconomics paper back yesterday, and I got a hundred on it. A large part of it, I was talking about the writing business and its nature, was about my own top earning articles on Helium.

I am still working on the rough draft of my political science paper, and have finished my philosophy paper (though that one was short, and I have one more philosophy paper to go).

I also have to type up all the bullet points that I wrote in group during political science. One of my fellow group members believes that my handwriting is unreadable. Hey, I can read it perfectly fine--they write in block letters; feel free to draw your own conclusion here (I have).

So I am really tired. And I can foresee having to finish the rough draft of this novel sometime next month. Besides the politicial science paper, I have astronomy homework to do.

And have I mentioned studying for finals?! No. Well, there is that too.

I am so tired. So much so that I have already wasted an hour looking at shiny things. Yes, I am one of those people. When I am tired I am easily distracted by bright shiny things, or just things in general.

Today's tour started off with me viewing a slideshow of the ten worst keyboards of all time. Hey I used to own one of those. I won't tell you where I went from there, but one shiny interesting thing led me to another, just like a magpie. An hour later, I realized that I was wasting time. Sigh, that is a sure sign that I am really tired.

So I would like all of you to do me a favor. Go take a hour long nap for me. Thanks, I need the sleep.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A good day yesterday

Well, I managed to hack out 3249 words yesterday. That brings my total up to 26,668. If my term papers would count towards this, I would have a little over thirty thousand words.

I fear that if I do end up with a shortfall of words, that it will be close to the amount of words that my term papers chewed up. Sigh.

Happy thanksgiving everyone. I am hoping for another three thousand word day, though I am not going to hold my breath on that one.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holding the line; And a book review

Well, I have been hacking out at leat 1667 words a day for the last couple of days, which is good. I am doubtful that I am going to make up the shortage of words I have before the end of the end of the month, simply because I am not doing that much more than the daily amount. If I had started the week only slightly behind, I would be ok--but my shortage was such that I need to do a lot more than I have been doing.

And I have yet to even start on the homework that I need to bash out this week. So I am not going to hold my breath.

Besides working on the novel, I did a book review of Janet Perr's Yiddish for Dogs, which can be read over on Associated Content.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Plot problems

A remark that was made by one of the Nanowrimo-ians was that one of the reasons that week two (or was it week three) was so hated by those who attempted to write a novel in the space of a month, is the fact that you are trying to cope with a year's worth of plot problems in the space of a week.

I can see where they are coming from. I am surprised at some of the solutions that I am coming up with. And I am not sure if I would have figured a way around them if I would have just worked on my plotting ahead of time. I am happy with the solutions that have came out of my writing, but I have serious doubts that these ideas would have even occured to me if I would have been approaching this the old fashioned (take nine months to a year to write a novel) way.

And yesterday, despite errands, I managed to hack out 1720 words; some of which I think are going to survive the later revision. That makes me happy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Holding the line

Managed to get 2093 words done yesterday. So while I gained very little ground, I didn't lose any either. Though I must admit that it was a debate there if I was even going to hit my 1667 for the day or not. I started the writing session off feeling rather cruddy.

Quite honestly, I was more interested in selecting my classes for next semester than I was in writing. I also researched a question that an Order member asked me. But in the end, I did get down to it and write for a couple of hours. So all is good.

And I am feeling better than I did yesterday. I think that I am finally getting over this blasted cold.

Oh, and joy, this week's pep talk for NaNoWriMo was by Neil Gailman. I realize that everyone gets the same pep talk, but it made me so special. Especially to know that I am not alone in some of my feelings as a writer.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Excerpt from Death on Mars

“Death was common on the first extraterrestrial colonies of man. The colonists and the crews of the pod ships grew so accustomed to it that they got to the point where they barely noticed it. Besides, the bodies of the dead were promptly disposed of in a manner that earlier civilizations would have objected to. Given the lack of organic material on the colonies, and the expense of shipping the bodies back to earth, the dead started to be looked upon as a viable source of organic material for the budding eco-gardens that were the heart of the new colonies. Basically, the colonists decided that the dead were good compost, something that would have appalled previous civilizations.”

--Chapter 13 (Composting the Dead). Life and Death Among the Stars--The Starfaring Citizen’s Guide to the Ethics of Life and Death. S.L. Spokane.

Lost some more ground

Well, I lost some more ground (word count) on trying to finish a rough draft of a novel this month. On Thursday, I only got 578 words done. But on the bright note, I got 2184 words done yesterday, so don't count me out yet.

I have noted several scenes that I am still missing, so I don't have to worry about not having any direction for the next couple of days. There are some things that I am wondering if I made the correct initial decision on, such as the time period the story is set in. There is also the fact that I haven't done any research for this story.

Given my ability to be distracted easily, doing research is a hazard for me. On several occasions, I have (in the past) went to look something up and hours later, still had not learned what the answer to my original question was despite spending hours on the interent or with my nose stuck between the pages of books. Call it ADHD--everyone else does (though in my defense, I have never been formally diagnosed with it).

Anyways, I am making progress still; I am just falling short of the ideal 1667 words a day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Falling behind on word count--blame college

Well, I am falling behind on word count something fierce this week. I only did 83 words yesterday and none the day before. I am not really surprised, after all this is my fifth semester of college and I knew how busy it was going to be walking into the month.

On the bright note, I turned in my economics paper yesterday, which means that after he grades it I should be able to pass the class even if I don't hand anything else in. And my political sciene paper is not due for a little over a week. My philosophy paper is going to be an easier one than the last one, so I should be able to get that one done in a timely manner. Sure, I have two books to read over the break, but what else is new?

Ultimately, I was planning on being behind on my word count going into this week; I didn't see any way around it. Now I am off to study for an astronomy test.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day twelve

Well, I didn't get a lot done on the novel yesterday--a mere 345 words were the final count for the day.

But that was better than I expected. Yesterday was one of my "recovery days." Something I learned long ago is that I have certain limits as a writer; if I surpass those limits I suffer for it.

Yesterday was one of those days. The limit I surpassed was I wrote too much for too long without a break. I really had no breaks during the writing of my economic term paper; it was done in two days, with no breaks in either day's work batch. Basically, I was like an over-cooked chicken nugget.

I couldn't even summon up the energy to do simple editing yesterday. Susan asked me to look at her English 121 paper, and I am not sure if the writing was that rough, or whther I was just that tired. Either way, not much got done yesterday.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day eleven

Did absolutely nothing on the novel yesterday. Was slightly sick, still am, due to the fact that I got the cold that the wife had. Did manage to work on my term paper for economics, finishing out the rough draft of it.

So I don't feel too bad about not completing a single word on the novel yesterday.

After all, in the space of two days, I completed 4348 words of economic rough draft, which I don't consider too bad for an English major.

Now onward to the political science term paper rough draft...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day ten

Well, I only did 313 words yesterday. A large part of the shortage is the fact that the wife decided that she was sick. Basically, she is a big baby when she is sick.

Today, I still got a ton of homework to do. Bright note, I have got two pages of my microeconomics paper done. Sad note, now I have the bug that the wife brought home. Sigh.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day nine

Just did 767 words yesterday, which was more than I expected to do. Especially after getting sidetracked into PR. I don't plan on getting a lot done today, I have to hack out a couple of papers (term papers no less) because I need the rough drafts done by Monday, plus some homework, and studying for two tests.

On the bright note, I am not going to lose any writing time to my sister's visit. Not by complete choice, it is just that I am not going up to Brush Colorado to meet with her. With moving vehicles being one of my migraine triggers, I can't afford to take the risk while still in the midst of the semester. I am not sure if she understands--I hope that she understands. Besides the wife is pretty booked on time also.

So I am off to do college homework, and hopefully slip a thousand words in on the novel.

Friday, November 9, 2007

My best earning articles on Helium

One of the things I am doing for my Microeconomics term paper is to look at my own freelance writing; why not use my own business as a company to look at.

My very best earner, if you include income I earned from Associated Content for it also, is What is Golden Dawn (retitled A Brief History of Golden Dawn for AC). It did very well for me before they did away with the Occult Channel. Now, it only earns a few cents a month; I think it is because no one would look for it in its new channel, New Age Groups. Golden Dawn is not exactly New Age.

My second best earner, which at its current pace will surpass the Golden Dawn article is How to Flip a House. It has slowed down a little lately, due I presume to the mortage market.

My third best earner is The Importance of Teamwork in the Company. I am proud of it, for it has managed to stay in the top fourth of the articles under that title.

My fourth and sixth best earners are both in the Wicca and Witchcraft channel--in fact the articles are related to one another: How to start your own Wiccan Book of Shadows and An introduction to the Wiccan Book of Shadows.

My fifth best earner is a TV review of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. I think the reason for its high earnings is the fact that the title made the Helium homepage a couple of times this year, including once when mine was the highest rated article under that title.

My seventh is a Golden Dawn article listed under the Wicca and Witchcraft channel, The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram--I am not happy with that placement, but there is nothing I can do about it.

All of these articles, except for the last one have earned me at least a dollar this year. The Pentagram ritual article is currently at 91 cents, so it may break a dollar this year.

If I could write more articles that make a dollar or more a year on Helium (the real estate article is only six months old, and has earned me $2.24 so far this year), I would be very happy.

So far today

So far today, I have only done 45 words on the novel. Sad, isn't it?

I have spent most of the day, doing basic PR work for myself, updating blogs, posting links back to this one, things like that.

I also spent some time today trying to figure out how the adult webmasters do what they are doing. Hey, someday, I might attempt to do it for the money.

Day eight--the start of week two

Well, I managed to write 1702 words yesterday. Not that all of them should be in the novel--I had a writer's rant and am too conscious of my word count to cut them out. If at the end of the month I go over, then I will crop them out.

The important part is that I kept writing, even if it was just talking to myself, despite the fact that I felt a freeze coming. I hate writer's block.

Part of it is that I only have a couple of more scenes to write, and then I am out of plot (outline). This idea may have only been enourgh for a short story.

And the sad part is that this weedend and most of this coming week, I got to read a whole book for philosophy, study for two tests, do two homework assignments and write two term papers. And the two term papers are equal to two days worth of rough draft on the novel, except that they have to be edited and usable words. So the novel is going to have to be backburnered for a week.

Fortunately, I am not too far behind. So far I have 11143 words wrote. Which is good, if I wanted to catch up completely today, I would only have to write 3860 words. There are some people who are at less than a thousand words (I was talking to one of them yesterday), and there are some who are halfway to the finish line. But it is not a contest, except with oneself--the goal is to finish 50000 words in thirty days, not worry about other people.

So I am now off to do a few vital tasks, and then work on housework and homework and possibly the novel. It is going to be a long and busy weekend.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day seven

Well, I am slowing catching up to where I should be at this point of National Novel Writing Month. I am currently at 9441 words, having wrote 1777 yesterday.

So I am only behind 2228; if I want to be where I should be by midnight tonight, I need to write 3895 words. I do not see much more than 1667 happening today--after all, it is Thursday and that means political science.

Learned yesterday that my sister, Mary, is coming to Colorado thanksgiving week. I think I better gain a headstart because I am sure to lose a thousand words of my lead that day. Good thing I am a self-employed college student.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Excerpt from Death on Mars

Looking around the office, I had to admit to myself that I had no the slightest clue where to begin. Well, I knew that I was looking for clues. Having a thought, I looked at Patrica.

“What were the results of the DNA tests?”

Patrica choked. “We didn’t do any.”

“Why not?” I asked feeling brilliant.

“Because we don’t have the equipment to conduct such a test.”

My heart sunk.

“Why not?”

“My guess is that they didn’t think that we needed a test kit for DNA. The same thing goes for fingerprints. Who would have guessed that someone would get killed on Mars?”

“Hmm, there is that,” I admitted.

“If you don’t mind, I can see that you have this under control, and I got a lot of work to do, so if you don’t mind…”

“No problem,” I said.

Actually there was a problem, but I really didn’t want any witnesses to watch as I struggled with it--quite honestly, I had no idea how to solve a murder.

Day Six--a good day

Well, I was right. Yesterday turned out to be a good day. I managed to write 2111 words for the novel yesterday.

Also met a couple of the other college students who are taking part in National Novel Writing Month this year. Nice to put a face to the lunatics. LOL.

And I learned that my Hillary Clinton article on Associated Content is picking up some page views.

All in all, it was a very good day for me as a writer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day Five

Didn't get a lot done on the novel yesterday. Only 541 words---yikes.

It was just not a good day yesterday. Got my philosophy paper back--only got a B bleeping minus. Of course, that is not really a surprise. I had a dozen false starts on it. And it didn't help that it is the first graded assignment for that class this semester. In theory, I should get a better grade on the next paper--now, I know some of what he is looking for.

I have put off the latest hunk of lodge business until Friday. Time issues, it is not that I don't want to attend to the latest business; it is that I do not want to fall any more behind on my word count on this novel. After all, I only have until the end of the month to hit 50,000 words.

I got 31 words of outline written today, so that is something--three scenes. So today should be a good day.

Spent some time on Friendswin today, approving friends. Did the same on Yuwie the other day.

Ok, it is not writing. But I had to do it sometime. Yeah, I know that just sounds like an excuse.

Well, I am off to school and the novel. It should be a good day. We will see later if it is.

To join FriendsWin, click here.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Day Four

Didn't get a lot done on the novel yesterday. A mere 411 words. *sigh* But it is not really surprising, considering that I had a lodge meeting to attend yesterday.

The issue of importance was if we were going to continue operating as a lodge or not. The vote was positive, so that means that we will continue operations. Whether we are going to change the meeting day or the focus of the lodge is still up in the air.

Plus, the lodge advanced one of the members to Zelator.

All in all, a busy day.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day Three

I didn't accomplish as much as I should have yesterday on the novel. Only got 1374 words done, and some of them were me making a note that I found the whole idea of writing the planetfall sequence to be boring.

Now, if the killer does something to prevent the hero (or is it antihero) from arriving, then maybe it would be interesting. Unfortunately, I am not hundred percent positive who the killer is. In fact, we (me and my pretend audience) just know the crew of the incoming rocket to Mars, and considering that they were inbound on the rocket, we know that all of them are innocent.

In fact, the hero doesn't even know if it is actual murder yet; as far as he concerned it may have just been an accident. (It was a murder--that is the whole point of the story; though Accident on Mars sounds pretty neat to write about too, much like small accident at the power plant threatens to wipe out the entire town--maybe I watch too much Simpsons).

Did another chapter of Economics homework last night, and some study for the upcoming quiz. And some research for one of my term papers.

Got a lodge meeting today--big vote due today--do we continue to exist? Going to be a long day. *sigh*

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Day Two

So I completed 1769 words yesterday, if I can maintain that pace I will actually complete 50,000 words this month. I am just a touch behind where I should be at this point. 107 words to be exact. That is based on the word count that my Neo coughs up, which is slightly different than what Word gives me. It doesn't really matter; Word says I have fifteen words more.

So yesterday, I ended up with my first borderline sex scene. It didn't develop into one, or rather I started it after sex and faded to black before more sex occurred. Was it a necessary scene? I am not sure.

It is not like I am writing back in the fifties. Today, we just presume people are having sex. And it did gave the reader more information about the characters, three of which have yet to be introduced.

Of course, that brings up a problem. According to the "How To Write A Mystery" books I have read, people are supposed to know and care about the person that got whacked. I am not even sure that I agree with that, and considering that I am writing this story in first person and he never meets the victim, I am not sure how to do that.

Oh well, this is just the first draft. I can figure out how to fix that later.

Not a sex scene, but close--excerpt from Death on Mars

“I knew him,” Lucy said.

Running my fingers down her neck, I asked, “Who?”

“Tim, Director Robinson,” she said. “I served with him on Mars a couple of runs ago.”

“What was he like?” I asked.

“Passionate,” she said. I must have cringed for she quickly added, “Not like that. Well, like that also, but I mean that he was very passionate about the possibilities that Mars had to offer mankind.”

I nodded.

“So what happened?” she asked.

“He died,” I answered.”

“Sparky, I already know that. What I don’t know is how?”

“I am not sure,” I paused. “It might have been an accident.”

“Right,” Lucy sat up. “So why did they need to create a law enforcement branch if that was the case?”

I traced a gaggle of goose in her freckles flying in a giant V south. “To be on the safe side.”
“You are a terrible liar. There have been accidents on Mars before and they have never felt the need to invest someone with a badge. What is different this time?”

“He was the Director of the whole Mars colony; the Agency probably just wants to ensure the public that everything possible is being done to ensure the safety of the colony.”

“Not good enough, your average Joe could care less about Mars. Unless you have a relative on Mars, you don’t care about the people on Mars. And a decade ago, this would have been a cry to bring our people home. Nowadays, no one believes that the Agency gives a damn about public opinion. So what is the real reason?”

I sighed, “They, the Agency, believes that there may have been foul play involved.”

“He was murdered?”

“Perhaps, I won’t know until we get there.” I shook my head. “If I am capable of figuring it out, that is. Why don’t they just send a real investigator?”

Lucy closed her eyes; I watched her lips move as she quickly calculated. “They would have to wait another three years, one month and seventeen days, even if there was an investigator willing to join the Colonization Service.”

“That still doesn’t explain why me.”

“Simple, we are just three weeks away. And they figure given your lack of charm that you are not going to make any friends.” She looked at me. “Oh my god, that is why they picked you, isn’t it?”

“They said it was because it was my first tour on Mars, so that I would be the least likely to be biased.”

“Honey, I love you. But I suspect that they read your jacket, you are not the most social animal around. Heavens knows that I would have never given your anti-social ass a second look if I wouldn’t have been cooped up with you for two years.”

“You could have always hooked up with one of the other crew members.”

“Like who? Harris is married to his dissertation. And the twins are happier with one another than they ever would be with me, besides I find a man to be more fulfilling than a woman.”

“So you are with me just because I am the only available man?”

“That is right. What are you going to do about it?”

I pulled her down, and kissed her hard on the lips. A laugh escaped her lips, before she dragged me closer. Lucy was a big talker, but she knew that she was mine. At least, for the moment.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Day one

So I actually worked on the novel yesterday, despite a pile of homework that needed to be done for class.

Got 1463 words done. A little shy of the 1667 that I should have finished with.

I created a lot of quotes. It is something I like in the stories that I read. There are quotes in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Agent of Chaos, Myth-Adventures, and a few other of my favorite books.

I find that quotes can give another viewpoint to the reader without having to switch viewpoints, or do flashbacks. In my case, I am using them as hints and hooks.

When I did my attempt in July, I resisted putting these types of quotes in. Mistake on my part. I was trying to write what I have been told is a good novel, rather than the type of novel that I would actually read left to my own devices. Live and learn.

Well, I am off to work on the novel; see you all tomorrow with my results.

Excerpts from Death On Mars

“The human race, as they left their ancestral home, took all that they were with them. All their virtues and vices, they transplanted to the stars. It just a shame that like cockroaches, they had more vices than virtues.”
--Black Badger Woman, Twenty-second century philosopher

“Mankind hoped that crime would not exist as they moved out into space. It took them awhile to realize that crime had its roots in human nature. Much to their horror, they realized that they needed law enforcement in the far reaches of space.”
--“:The Early Years of the Star Cops.”

“For years, it puzzled me where the term ‘Star Cops’ came from. It hardly seemed reasonable that mankind would willingly choose such a term. Finally, I traced it down to a journalist, who was also a reader of that prophetic type of fiction that was called science fiction. One of their forgotten entertainment programs was called ‘Star Cops.’ As a joke, he had referred to the High Justice Corps by this forgotten reference, and it stuck. Ironically, he fulfilled the very prediction that was made by the prophecy.”
--“:The Early Years of the Star Cops.”

Interesting malfunction

That was an interesting malfunction. I just had the same post appear thirty times. Moral: Neo (a type of portable word processor) are not compatiable with Blogger. I will have to do it the old fashioned way, because uploading it directly from my Neo sure messed things up.

Hillary Clinton speaks at Auraria campus

As some of you may know, Hillary Clinton spoke at a political rally at Auraria Campus on October 23rd. Thanks to the fact that I am currently taking Intro to Political Science, I ended up being able to attend.

I have mixed feelings about Hillary. She seemed to be promising a lot that I am not sure that she can actually accomplish. After all, we are talking politics here; other people have a say (vote) in what is actually going to happen.

Anyway, I wrote up an article and submitted it to Associated Content. They offered me five dollars upfront payment for exclusive right. Yes, it was a low amount and I took it.

Was the article worth more? Maybe. Maybe not. If you like you can read it, and judge for yourself.

Hillary Clinton Talks About Her Goals for America at Auraria Campus in Denver, Colorado.

The issue I would like to talk about is "Was it correct to accept the five dollars?"

My answer is yes; it was the correct decision to make. My reasoning behind this is that one I spent the time listening to the speech, and I did take notes.

In part, that was because Roy (he wants us to call him Roy), William Staliwe--my political science professor, was willing to give us extra credit for a one page summary/reaction paper. I am all for the extra credit. So I had notes from that.

And I figured that the worst that could happen was that I would have to settle for performance pay only. So five dollars, though I was hoping for more, was better than nothing.

It only took me a couple of hours at most to write. So less than minimal wage unless I get a lot of page views.

Yet, I have some friends who would automatically say that I shouldn't have accepted this offer. And whenever I talk to them, I sigh. Because as much as they want to make their living as writers, I am not sure that they understand the concept of treating writing as a business. These are the same writers who have given up on Helium, and view Associated Content with some contempt. They are looking for the big score, rather than focusing on what they can already accomplish.

It is not like I didn't get paid for it. I recieved five dollars though paypal for my effort.

And it was a sunk cost already. For those who have not taken economics, a sunk cost is time and money that is already spent. From an economic viewpoint, sunk costs should not have any bearing on correct decisions. If you spend a couple of hours writing a piece, after a hour of listening to a speech, and they only offer you five dollars, you should take it. Unless you know of other markets for it. In my case, I couldn't think of any markets that I had an in with already, so I had a choice between five dollars, or nothing, for a story that had a limited shelf life.

I took the five dollars. Because some money is better than no money.

No one said that being a working writer was going to be easy (except those who have never been working writers, but that is a whole rant for another time).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It is time for National Novel Writing Month to start

Well, it is almost time for National Novel Writing Month to start. It is just a four more hours here in Denver; and then at midnight, the fun begins.

I got my Neo in the mail today, so I don't have to write any of this by hand and type it in later.

I am both excited and nervous. Comfort food has already been indulged in.

Friday, October 26, 2007

To delay payment or not

Today, on MyLot, I responded to a discussion about whether or not, someone should raise their payout from the standard ten dollars to a higher amount (ex. twenty-five).

Now, due to my experience running a business (a restraurant in a chain), I approach it from the viewpoint of a business owner. Being in a second economics class this semester just amplifies that tendency.

Personally, I set all of my payouts (the amount that one must earn before a company mails you a check or paypals you) to the lowest possible amount whenever I have a chance. It is my money, and I want it in my grubby hands as soon as possible.

And not just because I am a straving college student either.

If one has earned enourgh to make payout, and rises the amount of their payout threshold, what happens? The company that owes you the money holds it in their bank account. Standard business practice is for this account to be an interest bearing account. I watched my bosses depositing money into their bank as quick as they could, and then take as long as possible to pay their expenses (labor, rent, suppliers, etc.). This practice earned them a lot of interest income off of money that rightfully belonged to other people.

Paid to post sites, and other online work sites, want you to raise your payout amount. They give you the option because it benefits them. It is not for your convenience; it is for theirs. They hope that you set your payout thresholds to a higher amount, so that they can hold your money longer and earn interest off of it. Essentially by setting your payout threshold to anything above the minimum, you are giving them a free loan.

(The other type of free loan that people are fond of doing is to have more money withhold from their paychecks than necessary--yes, a big income tax return is nice, but why give the government an interest free loan. If you want to loan the government money, invest in government bonds instead.)

The only time when rising your payout threshold makes sense is when it is close to the end of the business year and you are trying to avoid slipping over into a higher tax bracket. And that is a very rare situation for most of us--so do yourself a favor, collect your money as soon as you can and deposit it in your own saving account.

After all, the money is going to be earning interest anyways, so why shouldn't it be you that collects it?

To Join MyLot, click here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Helium's new look

Helium introduced a new homepage look today, along with some new features. In my opinion, it looks better than the old version. And they have introduced bigger ads, hopefully we get more revenue from them.

My Helium Profile

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Origins of words--Beautimous

One of the things that writers are fascinated by, or at least I am, is the process by which new words come into being. And while there are a couple of countries where the government has a say in it, Isreal and France, most often it is speakers and writers who coin new words.

For instance, the word Utopia was coined by Thomas More. I know this because of my college philosophy class. It actually means "no such place" being a nod to the fact that More was writing about a place that did not exist; much like Plato used Atlantis to talk about his idea of the perfect society (detailed in The Republic)--of course, I have to ask if it was so perfect, why did the gods decide to destory it?

But outside, of the language committees (meant to keep the language pure) and the occasional writer who coins a word, most new words come from the spoken language. They come out of the way that people talk. When we see a dictionary that traces the first known instance of a word, you have to remember that they are tracking written instances of the word--if it came from the spoken language, it was properly being used in conversation long before (or at least, a decade).

The written word is conservative. It is slow to change. The proof lies in the spelling of Knight--pronounced nite. We still spell it with a K, despite the fact that none of us have pronounced it that way in centuries.

The makers of dictionaries are especially conservative. They have to be. It would serve no one if they allowed every bit of slang into dictionaires. Because of that, words have to prove that they have staying power; they have to pass the test of time.

In our modern time, this test of time has gotten shorter, but that is a subject for another day.

Seldom do we know who coined a word because of this. For instance, today on one of the MSN groups that I frequent, one of the wonderful ladies there used the word beautimous to describe a graphic that someone made. It is a wonderful word (personal opinion). Yet if it stands up to the test of time, no one will know who or how it came to be.

In this case, Gina admits that it she was tired and trying to amuse her fussy baby when it came out of her mouth. Her daughter likes it when she makes up songs, and the occasional word. I find it a charming story; but if the word survives, the story will be forgotten. For that is one of the property of the spoken word, the origin of a word must be forgotten before it is allowed into the written language--if it has not been around long enough for people to forget its source, it has not been around long enourgh to allow into the dictionary.

Sad, but true.

Friday, October 19, 2007

No sympathy

Yesterday, one of my classmates was complaining that he had a five page paper to write in one class, and a ten page paper to write in another.

And I felt absolutely no sympathy for him.

I am not sure when I became a heartless B, but I feel no sympathy for those students in college that complain about how much writing there is in college. There is writing to be done out in the real world also--get used to it.

Of course, it might be easier to feel sympathy for them if I won't have hacked out 25,000 words in one month earlier this year. Or chose not to engage in National Novel Writing Month this November. I am the one that should be complaining about the amount of writing that is on my desk. Besides the 50,000 words for NANOWRIMO, I have two term papers and four finals to study for in Novemeber.

Do I complain? No. Or at least, not that much.

So quit complaining about how much writing you need to do--it could be worse; you could be me.

Yuwie page views and its earning potential

Looking at my Yuwie page views, I realize that I am making progress there. There has been 124 views of my profile this month. And I have racked up 1708 page views so far.

But what I am really impressed by is the 155 friends. That is an one hundred and fifty people I can give a shout out to about whatever the next project is that I decide to crow about.

Nevertheless, I will admit that there are people actually doing much better than me. There is one guy (Vic) who earned $2.97 in July, $96.13 in August, and $166.90 in September. Of course, he has 13,646 members in his referral tree, but it just goes to show that if someone is good at getting referrals (or able to get just a couple of people in their tree that are) that Yuwie does have a lot of money making potential.

(Thanks for my friend CatAnne for sharing his blog entry with me; actual screenshots are nice.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Looking ahead

Been thinking alot about what I want to do for my novel next month; I think I have some good ideas and am looking forward to doing National Novel Writing Month. C'mon the first of November!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It is almost National Novel Writing Month

Well, the leaves are being to fall from the trees, and it is time to think about working on your novel. And I do mean work on it--yes, that is right--next month is National Novel Writing Month.

Are you ready for the joys of trying to hack out 50,000 words in the space of a month? Are you ready for your loved ones to look at you like you should be sedated? Of course, you are.

So go and register and start thinking about what type of novel you are going to hack out in Novemeber.

My Lulu Blog

And am registering my Lulu Storefront Blog right now.


So today in one of my fits of boredom, I googled blog directories. Which is how I found Technorati. Nice place where you can see how many blogs have talked about your blog.

I registered this blog and Gleamings from the Dawn with them today; I will have to do my other blogs later.

Promoting and such

I spent some time today promoting the fact that I am doing the Open Full Moon this moon. Also looked at some blog directories. Currently over at Technorati claiming my blogs.

Denver Open Full Moon Ritual October 2007

As some of you know, I am doing the Open Full Moon for Hearthstone this Friday, October 19th. If you didn't know, now you do.

If anyone wants to attend that has never been at a OFM, it is held at the First Unitarian Church at 14th and Lafayette (that is in theCapital Hill area). The doors open at 7:00 pm and the ritual starts at 7:30.

As for what I plan I doing at the ritual, I am still not completely sure. I do know that there will be some GD elements to it because that is who I am.

LVX, Morgan

This week's espisode of the Frankentrailer saga

As my regular readers will remember, the wife and I have a trailer sitting in our driveway. Mac, my father-in-law, brought it with him two years ago (a tad more if you want to be exact) when he came down to remodel the garage into a pottery studio for my wife's business.

Not only was his timing wrong (it was my first semester of college) and his bull headedness annoying (for instance, he believes that I am wasting my time in college, not to mention being a writer and that I should walk into restaurants demanding top dollar when I am job hunting--gee, I haven't been employed in how long not demanding anything, just bet that helps; plus he knew more about designing art studios than me and Toni despite never working in one), on top of ALL that he left this trailer to take up half my driveway.

He left it because he thought it would be easier to store the ceiling board in it until we used it. Surprise, two years later, the ceiling board was still there--unused.

He also wanted to give it to Scotty (a ex-boyfriend of Toni's). Scotty didn't want it.

So recently having a friend that can actually use the trailer, Toni wrote him to get the pink slip.

Guess what? He decided to mail it to Scotty instead. I wonder when this happened. I am betting right after Toni asked him for it.

(He would love to see Scotty get back together with Toni. And he has no idea why I didn't punch Scotty in the mouth--proof that I am just freeloading off of Toni, he thought--simple I have seen them together. A poisoning would occur if they tried to get back together again; there is a reason why I don't boss Toni around, other than the fact that I basically an easy-going man--I like to continue living.)

So I may end up turning the trailer (which is the back of an old chevy pickup) into a giant flower pot. At least, that way I will get some use out of it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What does the average writer make?

Today I spent a lot of time on Google trying to locate the numbers for what the average writer makes. I know that there are figures for this (though I am not sure if they are government or guild) because I saw a set a few years ago.

The reason for this egg hunt is that I might need the figures for my microeconomics term paper.

So if any of my readers know where I should be looking, please leave me a comment. Thank you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Remembering to stay active

On the note of thinking in long terms, I feel that it might be a good time to remind all my readers that most sites that pay have "inactivity clauses" in their user agreements.

An inactivity clause is designed to ensure that the users (participants) of a site remain active. Inactivity does not do the owners of a site any good, so they do their best to make sure that it does not happen. Towards this end, they really only have one tool, the inactivity clause.

Let's look at the inactivity clause from Helium.

As long as members remain active on the Site, their earnings continue to accrue. Members' Accounts become "dormant" in the event that they fail to "participate" in the Site for any continuous period of one hundred eighty (180) days. "Participation" is defined as writing an article, conducting rating or inviting additional members to the Site. If a member fails to do any of these activities for period of one hundred eighty (180) days, their Account will become Dormant and the member will cease to earn additional earnings until such time as their Account is re-activated through participation. If an account is classified as Dormant, prior earnings are not lost (other than as outlined herein), and the Account can be reactivated by the member at any time by participating as outlined herein.

Members can view their current balance by logging into their account. You hereby agree that you have no legal right, and have not earned any amount, unless and until your earnings balance reaches the minimum payout threshold ("Minimum Payout Threshold") (which is currently set at $25, and is subject to change by Helium in its discretion). Once a member reaches the Minimum Payout Threshold, he/she has earned and is entitled to receive the amount set forth in the earnings balance and may withdraw his/her earnings from his/her Account. In that you have achieved the Minimum Payout Threshold but your Account remains Dormant for at least 365 days, you understand and agree that you forfeit any and all right you have to any accrued but unclaimed earnings. In the event that your account has not reached the Minimum Payout Threshold, you agree that you have not earned any amount from Helium.

So, in plain English. If you stop participating at Helium for six (6) months, your account will stop receiving any distribution from the revenue sharing pool. If you return to Helium after six months but before 18 months, your account balance will still be in place, and you will start earning again. If you leave Helium for a full 18 months, you will lose any accrued earnings in your account.

Ignore all the legalese and gooble-gook. What you are concerned with is how to remain active with the least amount of effort. In this case, writing a single article, inviting another writer, or doing a handful of ratings once every 180 days (six months). As one as you do at least one of these, your earnings will continue to accrue.

It is just like the bank clause that says that you can not deposit a penny in a bank account and show up in a hundred years to collect the interest without doing any further business with the bank in the meantime.

Inactivity will cost you. Maybe you are rich enough to be able to afford inactivity. I am not.

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Short term vs long term goals

Occasionally, I notice that I am out of step with the rest of the world. Whether it is a result of my viewing the world differently or just not giving two hoots, I am not sure.

For instance, one of my friends has given up completely on Helium. He also refuses to join any write-to-paid site that pays as low as Helium does. Or that remind him of Helium.

I understand his distaste of Helium and if I didn't take the long view, I would probably share it.

But I don't. I think it is because I have the option of taking the long view of the potential of Helium and its effect on my bottom line.

Yes, Helium is low paying for the most part. After all, it is royalty based (ad revenue share). But that is only the short view.

Let's say that I write an article that earns ten cents a month on Helium. Ten cents a month will not make a dent in my bills. Yet over the course of a year, that will be an additional dollar and twenty cents of income in my pocket. Mulitply that amount by a dozen articles and it becomes fourteen dollars.

It does not sound like a lot. But that is exactly how the best writers on Helium are approaching Helium--by writing a lot of articles in the right categories (some subjects pay better than others there).

At the moment, I have fifty articles on Helium. That is earning me twenty-five dollars a year. It is not a lot of money, but then again it is only fifty articles. Several of them I should not have bothered writing--they had a really short shelf life.

That is one thing that you do not want to write on Helium is an article with a short shelf life. One wants to aim for subject matter that a lot of people are interested in which has a long shelf life. Ideally, one should aim for articles that will still be useful (making revenue) twenty years from now.

That same ten cents a month article if it has a shelf life of twenty years will net you twenty-four dollars. And do not worry about inflation--ad revenue shares are based on advertising rates; as they go up, so will your share.

Now, I do know why my friend has a hard time taking the long view of that site and all others that are built around the same premise. He has been unemployed for awhile and is desperately looking for a way to make up for lost income.

I understand his needs. It is just that I chose to take the long view when faced with the same problem. After almost a year of unemployment, I rolled up my sleeves and decided to go to college. Basically, I am living off of student loans and what little I make as a writer.

And for me, anything that brings in a tickle of money is a good thing. Especially things that I can do around my school schedule.

After all, I am playing the long game. If I build up enough stock, the tickle will become a river.

It is the same game when one is working on a novel or any other project. You do a lot of work upfront in hopes of cashing in later. It is not quick or easy. Yet it is the way that all people who make their living from royalties started out.

To see my Helium profile, click here.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Read the subject that you write in

Yesterday during a break, I started to talk to someone that is working on a science fiction story. Listening to them, I realized that they had not considered the implications of their idea. Nor were they familiar with the science fiction field, especially in print.

My dilemna of whether or not to tell them so was mercifully cut short by the fact that I had to get to my philosophy class.

Honestly, one can not judge the print market (whether science fiction, romance, or adventure) by what is filmed in Hollywood. Do not judge your field by what movies have came out in that field.

It is like comparing apples and oranges. Books and stories take a certain amount of time and mental effort to finish reading while movies and TV are might to be short and effortless. They are two different approaches.

And if you submit something without being familiar with what has been done in the past in your field, you stand a very good chance that you will recieve a rejection slip.

Basing your view of a field by what has made it to film (and you really should compare the film to the original printed work) is only acceptable if you are pitching a film.

The reason I know he was not familiar with the field--I read stories from the fifties on the exact same idea. And no editor is accepting stories based on the concept anymore. Onward and upward--for heavens sake, be familiar with the works in your field.

Yuwie has lowered payout to $25

Yuwie has lowered the payout amount from fifty to twenty-five dollars.

I am not sure of the reason, but I can take a wild guess--the fifty dollar payout was driving people away. It basically looked impossible to earn that much if you were an average user like myself.

And let's be honest--it is a really good move for them to take. It is good for them; it is good for us; it is good for our referrals.

It is especially good for those of us who are using the site for advertising our other work (in my case, writing). The lower payout means that more ordinary users will be on the site, and that is where our bread and butter comes from. People are more likely to join with the lower payout amount; it looks more achievable.

It also makes it more likely that they are there to use the site as a social network. That means our blog entries will get read more, and that is where most of us slip in our plugs for our latest writing.

So good for Yuwie for lowering the amount a person needs to earn before getting their check. And good for us who are actually using the site as a networking platform.

Helium is a year old

Today, Helium turns a year old.

I haven't been there for the entire year; I didn't learn of its existence until February.

Nor have I written as much on the site as other people have; for some reason doing my college homework takes priority--that might not be a bad thing.

I do know some people who are not satisified with the royality rate there. I will admit that some of my articles have not made as much as I would like them to make. On the other hand, a couple of them have made much more than I expected.

And some of the writers there are far from being professional.

Nevertheless, I am pleased with my experience with Helium. And I do intend to write more articles for them.

So on that note: Happy Birthday Helium!

To view my Helium profile, click here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bombed a test

Well, I bombed my Microeconomics test yesterday. No real big surprise--it involved a lot of equations that I kept confusing with one another. Elasticity equations (income, price, supply, etc.) mainly.

It is a good thing that Marty (Martin Sabo) allows us to fix the test to recover half the points that we lost.

Exactly why I bombed I am not completely sure. Was it the fact that I didn't study hard enough or too much (I did more studying for this test than all the ones I took last semester in Macroeconomics). Or was it that I bashed out the homework for three chapters this weekend because i am trying to clear the deck for National Novel Writing Month. Or was it that I wake up yesterday slightly depressed. Or a combination of all of these.

Oh well, I should still be able to get an A in this class if I don't bomb any of the other tests. Onward and upward.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Forgotten Words of the Day: Lodge and Order

The word lodge is one of those words that has multiple meanings. The two meaning that we are looking at today are related, and are in danger of becoming obscure and obsolete. We will also have to peek at another word, Order, that is tied heavily to the first one. For me, today's words are not forgotten, but I can see that they are definitely endangered.

Lodge--1: The meeting place of a branch of certain fraternal organizations (such as Freemasonry and Golden Dawn). 2: the members composing said branch.

It is seriously doubtful that the Freemasons control the world considering the local lodge can not even decide what type of potato salad to bring to the picnic.

A hundred years ago, these uses of the word were nott as rare as they are today. In fact, a century ago, forty percent of the adult population belonged to at least one Order.

What is an Order?

An Order is a group of two or more lodges that share the same upper-level administration and resources.

And I am not just talking about old white men. I mean the entire adoult population. White, black; young, old; men, women--if they wanted to belong to a lodge, there was an Order that would have them as members.

Depending upon your wants and needs, there was an Order to address those needs. My grandmother was a member of the Modern Woodmen, and Order that provided insurance.

(The lodges were a way to pool resources and unite in pursuit of a common goal.)

The Orders were so much a facet of our Western culture that their presence was recorded in our modern media (aka television). Jackie Gleason on the Honeymooners made fun of the lodges. Fred Flintstone belonged to a lodge. On Frasier, Kelsey Grammer's character (Doctor Crane) and his brother were members of a wine club that for all extents and purposes was a lodge (they called it a Club).

So why are the terms Lodge and Order becoming forgotten? Simply because lodge membership is becoing a rarity.

The membership of the Orders has declined because of a combination of factors. The rise of insurance companies and the welfare system has removed much of the need behind belonging to a lodge. The political movement of the sixties caused an entire generation to become non-joiners. (The effect fo the internet could go either way--time will tell.) Today, many Orders have closed the last of their lodges and have became extinct.

Others like the Freemasons are divided into two camps, the young and the very old (I would be considered young), who disagree in what the purpose of Freemasonry is. This division of purpose is driving that esteemed Order ever closer to extinction (it may be as soon as a decade if you believe certain estimates).

Some Orders, such as the Golden Dawn based Orders, have been forced to create correspodence courses and online support groups to cope with the fact that interested individuals live so far apart that assembling a lodge is near impossible.

The concept of lodges and Orders are a distinctly Western idea, one that deserves saving, so get out there and spread knowledge of the term.

Refer to your local writer's group as a lodge; annoy your knitting circle by calling them such.

Remember it is only by keeping the idea of the concept alive that we can ensure that future generations will have knowledge of it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Chores To Avoid Writing

One of the skills that I have acquired as a writer is the ability to make it look like I am busy and accomplishing a lot when all I really am doing is avoiding writing.

Actually, I learned it as a wage slave (an interesting term that first showed up in the 1900's England; Karl Marx used it in his writings, but I digress). I was working for Renzios, a Greek chain of restaurants (the type that shows up in food courts). We were told to look busy at all times; I think that I was told that at Burger King also, though I really didn't pay much attention to the statement there. After all, it was easy to be constantly busy at the Burger King I worked at; not so at the Renzios location that I was working at--there were periodic dead times in the afternoon where we were required to be open by the building management despite the lack of business at that time of day.

(Interesting enourgh the location is still listed on some internet directories--gee, it has been closed for three years now; isn't it time to remove it?)

The reason that I started to play attention to the statement "One should always appear to be working" was Chris and Tom Renzios (actually Rentzios, but that is too hard for us Americans). Even though I butted heads with them periodically, I do have a great deal of respect for them. I won't be as sucessful of a business person as I am if they won't have taken a chance on me when they did. After all, it was my first taste of running a business--something that I have to do everyday as a writer.

Their reason was that customers do not like to see employees standing around; I suspect that it was really the fact that an idle employee was not helping them make money (aka milking the clock). Becoming a manager, I started to give the statement real weight--an idle employee was one that I did not need chewing up my labor.

Not that I was the model employee. Part of the problem was that heavy duty cleaning, and dishes could not be done while keeping an eye on the counter (manning the register). So I ended up doing a lot of writing during the last hour and a half of the business hours. It was something that could be done without having customers shout to see if I was present, or be horrified about how much grease a restaurant could generate.

It was here that I first started to notice that there were days when I was much happier cleaning or attempting to forcibly drag business in. Today, I recognize it as a form of writer's block.

One definition of a writer is that a writer is the only person happy to clean the toliet. It is true; a blocked writer will do anything they can to aviod the blank page.

For me, housekeeping is a sure sign that something is gumming up the process. And with my attention span, or lack thereof, my mind wandering to the housework that needs to be done is alarming. To get up and actually do it--shudder.

Now, I have various levels of avoiding writing. Homework is not really avoiding writing. Nor is going to class--I am a college sophomore; it is expected. Doing housework is worrisome, but again neccessary. Hanging out on MyLot or Yuwie is a tad worse, yet not panic inducing, same goes for doing research (both market and regular)--refilling the pond is necessary. And yardwork is a just a nice change of pace.

Now if I start the vacuum, that is when I should start to panic. And heaven forbid if I start to become social--like actually talk to the neighbors or wandering strangers.

A writer is only in trouble if things like this start to happen on a regular basis. It is a sure sign that something is wrong (assuming that the person is actually a writer; a writer has to write to live--it is the core of their existence).

I am not sure if I am in trouble yet. I only did some laundry, some dishes, and a bunch of hanging out at MyLot today. The last part can be racked up to me trying to ensure that I was going to hit payout this month. And the UPS man I had to talk to. I don't have an excuse for talking to the wandering produce salesman I talked to.

Of course, I can't say that I am really surprised that I goofed off today. I had a migraine yesterday, and then walked into a surprise test in Political Science (write three emotion filled paragraphs). I try to avoid writing with a migraine; it wrecks the progress for days (or at least the good part of the next one).

Hopefully tommorrow goes better. Because writer's block is the last thing I need to catch. But I am not worried too much considering the amount of interruptions I had during my writing of this entry (but that is a whole another rant).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Yuwie has doubled in membership this month

Looking at the membership figures for Yuwie today, I noted that Yuwie had added 65,218 members this month bringing the site up to 105,151 members. Not bad for a month.

Sure there has been some growing problems; I don't think that the owners of the site expected it to grow this fast--otherwise they would have had a bigger server to start off with. There are moments when the site moves sluggishly, but I figure that they will catch up eventually.

The jury is still out whether it will be a good social networking site, on par with MySpace and Facebook. I think it might get there. I am still not holding my breath on making any direct money from the site, but I do know one writer who has made some indirect money (sold copies of her lulu book) though there.

I plan on posting a shout-out there when my next lulu project is ready.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Where does it become self-employment?

Continuing on the same track as yesterday's vent, I think that one of the reasons that people do not respect the schedules of writers is the simple fact that they do not consider them to be actually working.

Sometimes this is just because people do not know how hard working a writer actually is. They think that we only write when the mood stucks us, and that the muse takes care of it all. They forget about the chores of revising, market research and getting the muse to show up in the first place.

(There is language I would like to use about that last part, but young impressible minds might be present. For that matter, old impressible minds might be present, not to mention those who would instantly condemn me for using such language. I am not sure what the muse might think about it--I have never asked her--and it is not like she doesn't already know my opinion.)

The perfect illustration of how hard the average person thinks writing is lies in the party trick of announcing that you are a writer. Note the comments you get, the average person thinks being a writer is glamourous. It is glamourous provided that you consider hanging out at home with your cats, cursing the gods for making you a writer, and staring at a blank page glamourous. Personally, I don't. I consider grave diggers to have more glamour in their existence than the typical writer.

Oh yes, there are writers who go to parties, rub elbows with the Dali Lama, and have security guards. The closest thing I have to a security guard is the neighbor's dog. Bottom line is that I am not J. K. Rowling, or any of the other writers that the patrons of the shopping mall can name off the type of their head.

(I dare the gods to give me that type of fame--I promise to use it wisely and only say nice things about the state of the United States government or whatever the pet peeve of the day is.)

Plus there is always someone at the party who will walk up to you and offer to share a great book idea with you if you give them fifty percent of the proceeds. Obvivously, this is someone who does not realize that writing is hard work (having the idea is the easy part) and believes all writers are loaded. Fortunately, most people seem to realize that writers live off of ramen noodles which unfortunately illustrates my next point.

People don't seriously think that you are working unless you are making money. And a lot of money. By IRS standards, I am self-employed. To everyone else, my income is too low to consider me anything other than an unemployed college student. My work schedule is spent goofing off and avoiding real work as far as they are concerned.

Take my wife for instance (I call her my wife due to common law and the fact that I won't put up with this from anyone else--ahh, isn't love grand), today there was that conversation that ran along the lines that she was making $400 a month (working twenty hours a week) while she was in college the first time. Therefore she doesn't consider me gainfully employed until I hit that mark.

It makes me wonder if she would hold that stand if she knew that I was considering becoming an adult webmaster. The pay is better than I make as a writer. And they do seem to get invited to better parties. But would she be willing to call that gainful employment no matter how much money I was making? I doubt it.

In the end, I guess all that a writer can do is continue to grind one's teeth. That and stand on a corner begging people to buy your books. As for the respecting of one's work schedule, I suggest insanity--after all, it does seem to work for the bums downtown.

Friday, September 28, 2007

And Frankentrailer is still here

And we have hit a wall. We can't find a ven-number on the trailer, nor do we process a title to it. So Frankentrailer will continue to sit in my driveway rusting for several more weeks. Gary can't drive it away until he gets the paperwork (DMV) and a new license plate on it.

Toni is going to have to call her dad to see if she can get a title from him.

Gary is still going to take it (though he is going to have to rent a trailer for the current job). On the bright note, we did get everything out of it; Gary just needs to come by when the paperwork is complete to haul it off.

So today has cost Gary three hundred in lost income and one hundred and fifty in expenses, besides costing me a writing day (which is worth who knows how much--call it twenty dollars) and some high blood pressure.

I should note...

I should note that getting that trailer out of our driveway is worth the inconvience that it is causing me today. It is not this incident that irks me; it is the practice of not asking me if I can pencil in this matter that irks me.

Respect my work schedule

One of the problems with being a writer, especially a freelancer, is the general lack of respect for my work schedule that is exhibited by others.

Now some of my schedule problems this semester were of my own creation, and were the result of me planning based on best case scenario. For instance, when picking my classes this semester I scheduled an hour and forty-five minutes between two classes (Tuesdays and Thursdays). Originally, I planned on doing some writing between these two classes.

Three things has changed this plan.

The first of which was that the Auraria campus library in an effort to crack down in the homeless camping out in the library is requiring that you reserve a computer in advance. All public libraries (Auraria is a Federal library) in Denver are doing this. Given the fact that the class I am getting out of is Martin (Marty) Sabo's Microeconomics, it is occasionally difficult to figure out when I am leaving class. And considering that you are only allowed to use the computers for one hour--well, it is just easier to do other things during that time period.

(*The phone rings, and Morgan ends up walking outside to look at something*--an illustration of what he is talking about today as you will see.)

So I have chosen to do the occasional bit of homework, and errands during this little slot of time. The errands tie into the second thing that happened. Toni, my wife (common law), decided that she was going to go back to college. She is aiming for a Masters in Spanish to suppliment her skills as an art teacher. Due to this, she is swamped with homework, and many of the errands which were normally ran on the weekend are now being done during the week. This second part ties into the gist of today's blog--just wait.

And the third thing that happened is that one of my class mates from the philosophy class is also free during this hour and a half. Somehow, we have became friends, and generally agreed to set aside any thought of homework and other matters unless they are urgent. A lot of our discussions end up being about philosophy and reading, so it ties into school and my writing. I am willing to pay the opportunity cost of a Helium article a week to chat with someone.

At least, it was a mutual agreement to divert this time into friendly discussion. And so, we end up back at the second thing. Thanks to Toni being back in school, I have ended up running a lot of errands that should being done on the weekend. *sigh* I have lost track of the number of bank runs that I ended up doing for her.

The sad part is that it started before the semester did. And it illustrates completely my gripe of the day (too bad it happens so often that it is a common gripe among writers), the general lack of respect that people have for the work schedules of writers.

At the root of it, I think that people consider freelance writers to be unemployed. While I am beginning to make a steady tickle of nickels and dimes, it is not large enourgh to convince Toni that I am working. Occasionally, I whine that I could be making thirty thousand a year and she would still consider me unemployed. I firmly suspect that unless the job involve being on someone else's payroll and working in an office downtown that she will consider me unemployed.

It is a sore point for me. Especially when I have penciled in a day of writing, and it ends up being wasted on errands that I can run because I am "unemployed." Even when she is home, she just generally presumes that I am doing nothing. If she was home right now, despite the fact that I am typing at the computer, she would have no problem with interrupting me.

I am not allowed to do this when she is throwing pottery (a part time business she does), nor can I bug her when she is doing homework or paying bills; her concentration is sacred, mine is not.

And it is not just her.

Today is a prime illustration of this. Yesterday, one of Toni's friends called to ask if he could borrow the trailer that we have. I said that he could borrow it if he helped me unload the stuff that was being stored in the back of it (primarily ceiling board for the studio's ceiling). I wanted to do it this weekend, instead I end up doing it today. There was no asking me if it was good timing for me or not. Fortunately, I didn't have any hot projects, or overdue homework to hack out. But it distrubs me. Especially because he is also self-employed (locksmith, mechanic and general handyman).

What makes his profession rate higher in the scheme of things? What makes his schedule more important than mine?

I don't know. It irks me.

And other writers that I have talked to are also irked by things like this.

I have no solutions for the problem. I know that someday it will become a major issue for me.

In my case, I know that the emotional side of the problem comes from my childhood. My mother used to consider her schedule and needs more important than anything that I needed to do. A large part of my bad grades in High School can be contributed to the fact that babysitting my brothers and sisters were more important than me doing homework or showing up to my first class on time. I am programmed to put everyone else's need before my own.

But it is not right that I do so. Nor is it right that others expect me to do so either. Yet it happens all the time.

I beg all of you to respect the work schedules of writers. Especially mine. If you need me to change my schedule--ask, don't impose.