Friday, August 31, 2007

Site outage

The Bast Temple website currently seems to be experiencing a temporary problem originating with the hosting service. Sorry for any inconvenience that this causes.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The semester has started...

Well, the Fall semester started Monday. Still don't have all my textbooks yet (I am missing a workbook). And I am already short money with not a clue how I am going to survive budget wise.

I am taking Microeconomics, Astronomy 101, Intro to Philosophy, and Intro to Political Science. Call it getting as many of my requirements for my Associate's out of the way.

Microeconomics is being taught by Marty (Martin Sabo); I took his Macroeconomics last spring. I figure that it should be an easy A, or at least a class that I look forward going to.

Astronomy because it is the science I am most interested in--biology sounds so boring.

The Philosophy class doesn't have a textbook--we have six books (novels) to read for the class, starting with 1984. I am glad that I read it this summer (of my own free will); it helps being ahead in one class.

It is the Political Science class that I am worried about passing. Much of the grade depends upon the work of our assigned group. Oy.

Of course, true to form, I have fellow students asking me why I am taking a class that doesn't count towards my degree (Microeconomics), and what use is a English degree (not alone my long term goal of getting a PH.D. in the literature of Kabbalah). The bottom line is that I spent twenty-two years in the real world; if I am going to go to college, I don't want to be bored completely out of my mind. Besides I have written things about Economics and Kabbalah--it is related to my profession.

In other words, in summary, this semester is the same old same old. Same problems. Same questions. Same concerns. Same sigh.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The sad state of book stores today

Yesterday, I was in a bookstore looking for a book. An occult book that I know exists. And it being big name chain store, naturally they did not have it.

Now those who know my tastes in occult books and the state of the book business will not be surprised by this. The occult section of big bookstores has descended into new age, sun sign astrology, and the fluffier wiccan books.

This very bookstore chain has actually canceled book signings that might offend people.

I won't name the bookstore chain; you can guess who they are. The odds of me having to do a signing for them is nil next to none; but there is still a slim chance, so I prefer not to burn any bridges.

But it reminded me of the sad state of the book market for writers of my irk. I write books on ceremonial magic--books that only a few online publishers will touch nowdays. The big pimp of occult books, again no names mentioned, a few years ago cut loose everyone who was writing the heavier, and therefore less read material. If you can't or are unwilling to write new age material, they don't want to waste their time with you.

And for me, that is a problem. Because I am an expert in the deep end of the pool, and the shallow end does not interest me that much. I would sooner consider writing a college textbook (that day may come) than writing fluff bunny material.

I am an initiated wiccan (witch) of the old school, besides being a card-carrying member of a Golden Dawn based lodge.

A lot of the stuff that I would find interesting is not being written becasue it is not economically feasible to do so. For instance, one of my favorite series was Mercedes Lackey's Diana Tregarde series. But because of poor sales, this series will never have another addition to it.

How many good books will never be born because of the state of the current book market? I fear a lot.

But it is not all gloom and doom for the niche books. Thanks to the internet, webpages and POD (print on demand) publishers are cropping up. The internet could save niche publishing. And with companies like Lulu and Google Adsense, one can get paid something for one's niche writing--provided of course anyone can find it or cares to read it.

I, myself, have resorted to putting something up on Lulu. My revision of the Golden Dawn Neophyte Ritual for Three Officers is such a niche of a niche type of work that I felt that it was unlikely that a publisher would ever include it in their catalog. And considering that I feel that it high time for more Golden Dawn lodges to arise, I chose to get the information out there, even if only a dozen people ever saw it.

My visit to the bookstore yesterday was a sad reminder that I am pushing a large boulder uphill. I wonder how many other writers are struggling with the same burden.

This post also appears on my unofficial Golden Dawn blog.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Using school as a setting

One of the things that used to bug me is the number of writers who use school as a setting. Like for instance, in science fiction of a couple of decades ago, school and colleges were a common setting. Every fantasy series seems to use school at one time or another. There is also that tendency in military stories to use boot camp as a setting.

As I said, it used to bug me. Not any more.

I think that my change in heart about it is that I became a college student myself. Until that point, I did not realize how life changing school could be. Especially college.

Nor did I realize how deeply set the imagery of college could be set into a person's brain. At least once a month I dream that I can't find the room where a class is taking place, or that I forgot my locker combination and need to get my homework out of that locker right now.

I have also came to the realization that people must be curious about how certain profession are trained, and what makes them react the way that they do. Soldiers, spies and magicians all are molded into something not quite normal (compared to normal human reactions and behavior) by their training. Seeing their training allows us to add another layer to their character.

Whether it is Camp Arthur Carrie or Hogwarts, using a school or bootcamp as a setting does have certain points to be said for it. Having the character be a student allows the author to be able to expound on technology or the philosophy that drives a profession without having to resort to the device of having characters explain things to one another that they should already know. "As you know, we must recover after every spell we cast. The more powerful the spell, the longer we need to rest. Therefore after we cast the lightning bolts at the enemy formation, we fall back leaving the field to the infantry..." It is better to show a character passing out in boot camp after attempting to cast a second lightning bolt than to subject the poor reader to the rather dry technical explaination.

Despite its uses, there is a major drawback to using schools as a setting. Quite simply, everyone has been in school (or almost everyone--there are the home schooled, though they are extremely rare). If you do not portray it right, you have destroyed your reader's suspension of disbelief. A hard enough blow in the form of a fundemental mistake and your reader will put your story down--a fatal mistake for a writer. Which is why I won't be writing about the horrors of being a grad student for several more years.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Results of last month's experiment

As my regular readers know, last month I attempted to write 50,000 words in the space of one month. I failed. I got to a little over half that amount done, at least on the novel I was hacking out (I might have written that much if everything had been all on the same project, but true to form I was doing other writing also).

So did I fail? The answer to that depends on what you consider success. From my viewpoint, it was worthwhile. I learned more about how I write. And I ended up with a character and some supporting cast that I think will work in a better plotted story. I also ended up with some background for that type of world (urban fantasy/alternate history) that I can use for that character and one of my preexisting characters.

So while I did not cross the finish line for a whole rough draft of a novel, I did accomplish a lot that I can use for a foundation in other works. And that is good enourgh for me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My averages on MyLot

Today in reply to a discussion, I figured that I have been on MyLot for 84 days (since May 18th). Not counting for the days I have not logged in because of other things (visiting friends, lodge days, etc.), I figure that I am averaging eight cents a day, which is about six discussions a day.

Sounds worse than it really is--I just use MyLot to warm up for other writing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

MyLot vs Helium

A question that I have seen show up a couple of times on various member forums is which is the better site, MyLot or Helium. Quite often, this question boils down to which one is the better money maker. Unfortunately, it is like comparing apples and oranges.

An overview of MyLot

MyLot is a paid to post forum. You get paid to start and respond to discussions. The earnings update every twenty-four hours. Based on my own postings, I figure that one recieves between a half penny to four cents based on the length of the posting. There are certain types of discussions that are not allowed there and will get deleted as soon as they come to the attention of the management of the site; the smart person will learn not to post to anything that looks like an ad, or a flaming argument--upon deletion, any earnings you made on such discussions will disappear.

The payout on MyLot is ten dollars, paid though paypal and paypal/moneybookers. There are people that claim to make payment every month, but given my busy schedule I doubt that I would ever be one of them. Basically, the more and longer your postings the more you get paid. There is also an option to post pictures (after you have taken part in 500 discussions), but it currently seems to be a less reliable way to make money; the general census is that they are only paying one penny for the first photo uploaded by an user on any given day.

An overview of Helium

Helium is a paid to write site. There are thousands of titles available to write to, and also an option to create a new title if your article does not fit one of the existing titles. Articles need to be at least one hundred words in length, soon to be four hundred words. Ideally, the articles should be well-researched and/or based on personal experience.

Payment is based on a secret formula--the writer gets a part of the ad revenue that Helium is getting. The better the ads around your articles, the more your potential payment. It is also based on how many people that read your articles. But one should keep in mind that payment comes after people read your article--think royalities--and is slow going at first until you build up your stock of articles. One way to earn more is to write about subjects that people are more interested in. Payout is set at twenty-five dollars.

All the articles on Helium are rated by one's fellow Helium writers. Unfortunately, Helium is still a young site, and its writers run the gamut from seasoned professional to rank amateur--the ratings reflect this fact. It may take days for a piece to reach its natural place in the ratings, and there have been a couple of time when I have looked at the material above mine and wondered how it got rated higher than mine (but that is another subject for another day).

Fortunately, Helium does provide the option for the writer to replace one of their existing articles with another verison (provided that three random raters consider it to be better)--leapfrogging. This allows one to replace a low rated article and take another shot at getting a higher rating.

Getting your articles into the top five is very desirable (though leapfrogging is risky; I have experienced some of my leapfrogs tanking worse than the originals). The top five articles are more easier found, therefore they get more readers (hence you earn more).

Comparsion of MyLot and Helium

The problem with comparing these two sites is quite simply that one (MyLot) pays you an one-time upfront payment for your contribution while the other (Helium) does ongoing residual payments.

Both are "user-generated content." Both provide a writer a place to practice their craft. Yet given the style and goals of different people and their payment methods, one or the other will prove to be a better use of their time.

For my own purposes, MyLot is a handy warmup site, a place to post a few quick responses as I look around for my daily inspiration; Helium, on the other hand, is more useful for my timeless fact-based short articles.

Comparing MyLot and Helium in the end is like comparing short and long-term investments.

Happy posting and writing.


Well, I discovered another paid to post forum today--MoraChat. I will post more about it as I figure out its system.

To join MoraChat, and get paid to discuss

Thursday, August 2, 2007

My Plans for August

One of the things that I find useful to do as a writer is to make a list of the projects I intend to do at the start of the month.

This month, I am not planning on getting a lot of writing done. A couple of articles for Helium is pretty much all I intend to do.


Because 1: I have a major amount of work to do on the behalf of the Golden Dawn lodge I belong to; and 2: College resumes on the 20th, so I have a lot of stuff to do around the house and on the web before college starts.

The Golden Dawn stuff (mainly) involves typing in the documents I currently have for the Theoricus Grade, and making a list of all the apparent holes in the documention. This list in turn will become my work list for the next several months as far as my local lodge work is concerned. Plus I have my normal Adept Minor subgrade work, the maintaining of the websites and blogs, and the bimonthly meetings to attend to.

I have to pick up books, and do at least one bank run to get my ducks in a row for college. It is just too bad that I can't find a row of ducks to actually take my classes for me.

The housework is mainly gardening and repair work.

The web stuff is primarily finishing the base necessary to do my writing in the fall while attending classes. It is part of the burden of being a forty-one, about to turn forty-two, year old college student. I have got to finish setting up my promo page, and complete the market research I need to do.

The goal is to have all the really time consuming stuff out of the way before classes start. This is very important because I have to make a living as a writer inbetween classes.

Wish me luck--I am going to need it.