Sunday, March 30, 2008

I am on the front page today

Today, one of my articles is being featured on the front page of Helium. It is about Spring Cleaning for Writers: Organizing Your Office. I wrote it last year when I was getting ready to do the annual dusting of my office. I am not the best example of organization, or tidiness. I tend to let things slide for awhile until they are piled up to the ceiling, or it has to be absolutely done (dishes, laundry, trash). It is not good if you are trying to earn your living by being a writer--the idea is to be able to find your research when you need it.

The tendency to let things pile up to the ceiling has gotten worse since I started to go to college. My recent humor piece about house cleaning did not mention that a lot of the time lately, both my wife and I have no time to clean; it is either clean or do our homework--big choice, isn't it? Yet the attitude I portrayed myself having is my actual outlook; maybe if I ignore it long enourgh, someone else will clean it instead. Often it works, the wife has a lower tolerance for dust than I do--though dishes and litter boxes would never get done if I left them to her devices.

So I admit that I have a tendency to just let things slide and the clutter to build up. Except during the spring. For some reason, spring brings about the urge to clean and organize. It is not just in the house either; the majority of the garden work that gets done is accomplished during the spring.

I have never been able to put my finger on why I get the urge to clean, organize, and garden during the spring. It is not exactly like me. Outside of spring, cleaning, organization and garden work is typically a sign that I am avoiding something--normally a piece of writing that I am having difficulty with. Writing is not anymore difficult in the spring than in any other season, so I remain puzzled by the urge to do these things.

In fact, over the lot couple of days, I have done some gardening and organizing of the computer files, plus I started to sort the piles on the coffee table. Someone please send help, I feel another case of spring cleaning coming on.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Break 2008 Part Two

As my Spring Break moves toward its swift end, I am trying to ignore how much I wanted to get done this vacation. It is hard to do so. It is even harder to be happy with what I have actually accomplished.

So far, I have read one chapter of my Psychology text and another in my World History text. Only one page of my psychology term paper has been written. And Pride and Prejudice is a slow read so far.

On the business end, I have only written one piece (it is about How to Cite Sources on Helium). You would think that I would have written more; but no, I haven't.

I should be happy with what I have accomplished. But I am not. Why? Because I am a bloody perfectist who thinks that he is Superman. I admit to it---what else would you expect from a Virgo?

But there are more important things than working one's butt off during Spring Break. Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours hanging out with a friend. And this morning, I went out to brunch with the wife. Tommorrow, I am goofing off with another friend.

There will be plenty of time to write stuff between classes next week, and I am still caught up with my schoolwork. So I can spare the time to maintain my relationships and relax a little, even if my ego says that I should be getting more work done.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Break 2008 Part One

So it is spring break, and I should be getting a lot of writing done. Right? Well, that is the theory. But in practice, the plan is not working.

The first few days of spring break I was so tired that resting was hard work. Then yesterday, a hunk of the day was spent dealing with a plumber (small water leak) and the furnace repairman (yearly inspection)--both very important things, but neither one conductive to writing.

Of course, the wife being on break is not conductive to writing either. I love her, but there are those moments when she can not see that I am trying to work. Sigh.

And I doubt that I am going to get much writing done, even though I am being to feel human again. I have a couple of friends to visit (they do not remember the last time that they saw me), and a pile of homework to do (one take-home test, two psychology chapters, a history chapter, three plays, and two novels) before classes start back up.

Maybe I should have considered going to Florida instead...

MyLot Referral Earnings Bonus Program

[This post is about a bonus prgram that MyLot did in 2008.]

One of the ways that a lot of the people who make decent money on the internet is though referral programs. Many sites pay members to refer others to the site. Most often this payment is based on the activity of the downline (members that you have convinced to join the site also).

MyLot is one of the sites with a referral program. Normally the amount MyLot pays for a referral is 25% of their participation earnings. For instance, for every ten dollars they earn, you would get two dollars and fifty cents if you were the person that referred them to the site.

As I said, normally it is 25% there--at the moment MyLot is having a bonus program going on. Between now and May 31st [2008], the referral income is 50% instead of the normal 25%.

It is all an effort to encourage members like myself to use their new flyers. An example of what they are encouraging us to use is as follows:

Meet other writing fans on myLot.

So if you are good at getting referrals, or think that you might be good at it, now would be a good time to join MyLot.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Dan Carlin--politics and history

Recently, I have been listening to a lot of podcasts. This is mainly due to Toni having to do Spanish homework, and needing me to be relatively quiet (I am never perfectly quiet or still--it might or might not be ADHD); and partially due to the fact that I have a new IPod.

I have been exploring a lot, searching the podcast library for things of interest. Looking for the usual stuff--French and Hebrew podcasts (my languages of choice)--and things to entertain me. So I started looking at the political and history podcasts; it has never been said that my idea of entertainment is normal.

One of the podcasts that I stumbled across was Hardcore History, a podcast put together by Dan Carlin. One problem with history is that it can be boring, especially when it is talked about by professors. Carlin is not a teacher of history; he is an euthastic student of history. Because of that, he talks about the parts of history that fascinates him, rather than dry dusty dates.

And at the end of one of the Hardcore History podcasts, there was a mention of the other podcast that he does--Common Sense, a political podcast. I think that Carlin's ideas about politics and what really is going on to be interesting.

I know that some people will point to Carlin as proof that allowing people to make podcasts is like giving every lunatic in a tin hat their very own radio show, much like allowing people to blog is like allowing every nutjob to run their own newspaper. But I like Carlin--maybe that is because of the type of person that I am.

Why do I like Carlin? In one of his latest podcasts, he talks about how the whole issue of Obama and his minister is a guilt by association tale cobbled together on a slow newsday; it also helps those who are trying to slow Obama down. Carlin believes that it is a tin hat story; nothing really to worry about.

And in another podcast, he talks about what the founding fathers really meant the right to bear arms to be all about; I understood it. The founding fathers never meant the right to bear arms to be a separate amendment; it serves a greater purpose.

I would go into greater detail, but that would rob you of the joy of listening to Dan Carlin yourself. So go hop over to the Itunes Store, or Dan Carlin's website, to download these great podcasts.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Plagiarism and authority

Thursday, I had an interesting conversation with a couple of my classmates in my Classics of Literature II class. The question of whether or not we had to do a bibliography for the paper that we were doing arose (probably not considering that we were all using the same prose translation of (the) Iliad by W. H. D. Rouse). But as always this brought up the whole issue of plagiarism which is a serious issue in today's college environment.

In passing, I mentioned that last semester, I ended up having to cite myself--an entry in this very blog, in fact. R. F., one of my fellow students, thought that it was unnecessary for me to do so; it is not like I was actually published, she said (I beg to differ; I have had stuff published both in the print and internet markets). Futhermore, it is not like I am actually an expert.

Ouch. I feel a small case of wounded ego coming on.

And the fact that it was a blog, no one would ever consider checking.

Now, the conversation got cut short by the professor walking in--probably a good thing considering that I can be a little bull-headed at times. And it would have been like talking to a brick wall; R. F. will someday prove to be a good writer. She is also stubborn, an excellent trait if you have to cope with rejection slips; but it makes one's opinions and worldview pretty limiting.

First off, in the world of academia (and publishing depending on the style), if it has been published, whether it is in print or internet, you cite. Professors have computer programs that can scan the internet for your source of plunder. And with many books being previewed on the internet, even parts of the print world is accessible to these programs. If you can find it though Google (or another search engine), they can find it also.

As for citing myself, I was just following the example of several of the experts that I have read. If a Ph. D. cites their own work, including work done before they became a Ph. D., I presume the custom is to cite it if it is in print--period--even if it is your own work.

Now taking out my wounded ego, oh how it hurts; you may not think that a college student can be an expert, but it can happen. In two term papers last semester, I ended being an expert and primary source.

In political science, while talking about the politics and organizational structure of the esoteric Orders, I was considered by the professor to be reliable source. Outside of college, this has also occurred. For some reason, writing a Golden Dawn blog, doing articles about Golden Dawn, and being a Temple Chief makes one an expert in the eyes of some people.

In microeconomics, the class that I wrote the term paper that I cited myself in, for some reason, Marty Sabo considered that having ten years of management experience and currently working as a freelance writer made me an expert on my own business. Gee, what type of sense does that make? It is my own business (sure, it is a struggling business, nevertheless...), and I would be an expert at what going on in it. It made sense to him, and who am I to argue with the man who controlled my grade.

But this whole conversation with R. F. made me realize the attitude that is making plagiarism such a major problem in colleges and in the internet markets. Basically, the attitude says that if few people know the person and they don't have a Ph. D., and their work is found on a blog or other tiny corner of the internet, that is ok to copy their thoughts and words and use it for your own. Now, R. F. will never do this; she has pride in her own work and the same professor in ENG 122 (research paper how-to class) that I had (which is where the emphasis that I am not an expert comes from). But someone with less talent and pride will have no problem with plundering the internet for ideas and sometimes outright exact words. It is a scary thought.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Page View Reciprocation

The way that many beginning (and quite a few experienced) writers earn money on the web with their writing is "by the page view." Basically, the more people who read your articles, the more you get paid. For instance, both Helium and Associated Content pay based on the number of page views that you have. With AC, you currently get paid $1.50 per thousand page views; with Helium, it is a little more complicated--it is actually revenue sharing, so various topics earn differently, but the principle is the same: More readers means more earned income.

Now due to this, page view writers are interested in ways to increase their page views. Some email everyone in their address book every time that they publish a new article (a bad notion, soon your emails start to get blocked). Other like myself, maintain a blog and put up links to our articles up on the web. There is also a vast money-making machine that promises more page views provided that you are willing to cough up the fees.

Don't fall for the systems that promise additional page views for a fee. Most of them are charging more than you will actually gain from your additional page views. And worse, many of them actually consist of bots; if your page views are detected as coming from bots, rather than real human beings, you will not get paid for them. In fact, using a bot hit service will get your writing account deleted and cost all the earnings that you might have earned in the future from that writing.

Not only can't you use bots, but you can not view your own material and get paid for it either. All page view sites have ways (cookies) to make sure that the author is not gaming the system with their own computer. But if you are willing to spend time trying to fool the system by reading your own material, there is actually something that you can do.

You can join a Page View Reciprocation Group. A PVRG is a group of writers who exchange page views with one another. I can not budge my own page view count by reading my own material, but I can increase someone else's numbers. And they can do the same for me. So if you are willing to spend the time, you can increase your page views---or rather someone else's, who in turn boosts your own numbers.

Plus because it is real human beings doing the reading, you can gain rating points and the occasional glowing comment besides an increased page view count. Best of all, user agreements tend to allow this behavior---because it is real human beings, advertising occasionally works on them.

PVRGs are also a nice way to network with other writers: talk about writing opportunities, complain about various publishers, and get feedback on your work.

There is a major drawback: you have to spend time reading other people's articles. A lot of people think that they can join such a group and not do the reading. Trust me, if a writer does not reciprocate, the other writers will figure it out. So don't join, or start such a group, if you have no intention of actually reading other people's work.

If you don't want your picture on the news...

There is a simple rule that everyone should know. Repeat after me: "If you don't want your picture on the news, don't break the law." It is a simple rule, and obvivously someone has either forgotten it, or never learned it in the first place. My father taught me this rule, along with keeping your mouth shut about your "knuckle dragging" connections and never get a tattoo ("permanent identifaction mark") if you plan on doing something that the law frowns upon. He never taught me about DNA, and I had to teach myself about the IRS (not to flib on my taxes, just to fill out the paperwork properly--"Is a scholarship taxable income or not?").

As I said it is obvivous that someone either doesn't know this or forgotten it. As proof, I present:

Call girl's (Ashley Alexandra Dupre "Kristen") lawyer blasts media for using photos

Now, I am not sure if it is Dupre, or her lawyer, who decided that she is not a public figure. But obvivously, they are from other planet. You don't decide if you are a public figure. The public, or their Cthulhutic informer does. The instance I found out that New York Governor (now ex-governor) Eliot Spitzer was caught with his hand in someone else's underwear drawer, my "inquiring mind" wanted to know what she looked like.

Ok, she is not much to look at; or at least, not bodicious enourgh to risk losing one's political career over. And how good of a personality could an aspiring twenty-two year old musician have? Obvivously, Spitzer throw away his career for nothing.


I shouldn't say things like this---she is not a public figure. Or so, her lawyer claims. I know better, you know better, and I bet her lawyer knows that he is talking with the tongue of a toad.

The lawyer, who is nameless at this time (probably not a public figure yet), is saying that the media is wrong for talking about Dupre and showing her pictures. He says that the media is using her likeness without her consent. And that we shouldn't be talking about her.

Newsflash, as a writer, I know something that this lawyer does not. The instant you break the law, or are an accessory to a crime, or do something else that more than a hundred people know who you are---you are a public figure. And most of your rights to a private life has gone out of the window.

Let's face it, if I write about you, you are either obscure (no one has ever heard of you) OR you are a public figure (the whole United States knows who you are, or wants to). Gee, Dupre, what category are you in? I know what the latest 7Eleven robber looks like, and his lawyer is not screaming that he is not a public figure; so what makes you any less than one?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ethics of book reviewing

Well, I know that someone reads my book reviews. They may not be happy about what I wrote...but I do know that they read them. It was a review of an Enochian Chess book that I did a couple months ago. Or at least, I think it was my review that the comment was aimed at.

I could be wrong about that. After all, I seriously doubt that I am the only person that reviews Golden Dawn books. Nevertheless, one of the author's comments (yes, it is the author that commented on the review) will get a response from me on my Golden Dawn blog.

But that comment is not what I want to talk about here. Today, I want to talk about the ethics of reviewing books.

There are some authors who believe that any critic or book reviewer that does not give their work a favorable review is a fraud. Alexander Pope wrote an entire essay on it--you might be familiar with a lifted line from it, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." (Though to be fair to Pope, his work is about more than just bad book reviews--he was talking about the tendency of those who can't accomplish great works belittling the accomplishments of others.)

Now, I understand the urge to call people who give you bad reviews--frauds, imposters, idiots, etc. I also suffer from that urge. It also shows up with college instructors who do not think that my work is the height of sheer brilliance. But just because someone thinks that you failed in your task, and fall short of inspiring them, does not make them a fraud.

Ask yourself this after you recieve your next bad review, bad grade, or rejection slip (after you calm down enough to stop stabbing the poppet of the person in question), "What if they are right?" I know it hard, but occasionally I must admit that my critics are right.

In my case, not only do I recieve bad reviews, I write them also. I ask myself what would I tell my best friend about the book (work) that I am reviewing. Would I actually recommend it, or tell them to save their money. And that is what gets the authors I review upset--I tell the truth.

With this particular review, I must admit that I had an ethical dilemma. I know the author, or at least as much as you can know someone from just contact on the internet. I wished that I could have given him a better review. But in the end, I didn't because I had to think about who I was writing the review for.

Do the reviewers serve the authors, or do they serve the readers? That is the big question that hangs over book reviewers. In my case, I believe that I am serving the readers.

Now, I do know that there are some outlets that only publish favorable reviews. They are serving not the authors, or the readers, but rather their own bottom line. They get paid to write favorable reviews.

The catch of doing so is that the readers eventually get stung, and cease to trust that source for their book reviews. A reviewer's reputation depends upon telling the truth. If you write nothing but glowing book reviews in pursuit of the happy buck, sooner or later your readers will figure it out. And there is already enough advertising blogs and sites on the internet already; I do not need to add to that pile, nor do you.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Swing and a miss

Professional writers are professional gamblers.

It is not something that we admit to. But when you examine the chances that we take, you have to admit that we are. We write articles and stories that we think people want to read; and that we, hopefully, can get someone to pay us for. We toil away in dark offices, being anti-social, trying to create something that will pay the bills.

Occasionally, we succeed; more often we fail. Even professionals who do it full time have eighty to ninety percent rejection rate. The full time writers make up for the low level of acceptances and bad paying articles, just like baseball players; we go up to bat a lot. Essentially, as the old economics joke goes, "We make it up in volume."

I get my fair share of rejection slips; if you don't recieve rejection slips, you are not trying. I also write my fair share of articles that turn out to be non-earning dogs.

I don't always mean to write non-earners. Occasionally, I do. After all, I am opinionated and think that getting certain information out there is important--even if it generates no earning.

But often like most writers I end up writing something that I think is going to do well, like articles for revenue sharing sites such as Helium, and the articles bomb. At those moments, my face turns red, and all I can do is swear under my breath as I ready the bat for another swing.

My latest missed swing was an article on the stock market, "How Many Stocks Are Necessary to Be Properly Diversified?" I thought that it would be a good money maker, but I can see already that I guessed wrong.

That is the name of the game, guessing, writing, and hoping that it is a hit that goes over the wall (netting a reasonable profit). Perhaps on another site, it would work better. Or perhaps if I was an economics major. Or whatever. It doesn't really matter. All that matters is that I keep swinging at the ball, aka writing and submitting.

It is not glamourour or fulfilling, but it is the nature of the profession that I chose.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Changed my Lulu Storefront

Decided to change the layout and colors of my Lulu storefront today.

The biggest change was that I removed my Lulu blog off of it. I seldom updated it, and honestly I post better entries here and on my Golden Dawn blog. It wasn't exactly the type of thing that put my best foot forward.

I have a couple of items, research papers, from last semester that I plan on putting up there. So I figured that today was as good as a day to change things up as any.