Thursday, December 23, 2010

Denver Zoo 2011 Free Days

Ok, this is not writing related (unless I decide to spend a day at the zoo instead of writing), but I am posting it anyways because I like animals.

Denver Zoo 2011 Free Zoo Days

January 8 (Saturday)
January 24 (Monday)
February 6 (Sunday)
February 19 (Saturday)
October 12 (Wednesday)
October 20 (Thursday)
November 6 (Sunday)
November 12 (Saturday)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Writing Christmas articles

One of the markers I use to gauge how mentally healthy I am at any given time is the stuff that I am writing. As all writers know, your writing is an indication of your mental state; some writers even use writing to change their current mental state. It is like a giant feedback loop. Your mood affects your writing; your writing affects your mood.

Last week, while I was supposed to be studying for finals, I had a couple of evenings where my brain absolutely refused to do any more schoolwork. I find myself cruising the internet, looking for distraction. While on Facebook one night, a friend of a friend joked about giving someone a lump of coal for Christmas. I seconded the notion, then found myself wondering how much a lump of coal actually would cost. So I googled it.

What I discovered was that a lot of companies were selling lump of coal themed products. Looking at the date, I decided that it was way too late in the season to write a Christmas shopping article. Ha! The idea and one other just stuck in my head.

Today, I broke down and wrote the artiicles. The shopping piece might do me some good next Christmas season. I never actually have time to write Christmas articles during the time that internet writers are uploading them; a pesty thing called the University of Colorado at Denver gets in the way and takes up most (if not all) of my writing time during the height of that season. As a result, I have no Christmas test articles out there---I know a lot of writers have a big stock of Christmas articles online, but I have no idea how many pageviews they are getting. Are Christmas articles (or any holiday articles) worth the time and effort necessary to write them? I don't know. I need to find out. So I now have a test Christmas shopping article up on Associated Content---oh wait, it is now the Yahoo Contributer Network.

The other piece I wrote was simply to get it out of my head. It was a short semi-fictional piece about my mother playing Christmas music in July. My mom playing Christmas music in July is not the fictional part. That is some god's honest truth; she actually plays Christmas music in July. Don't ask why---I never figured it out. I have also never figured out why I get the urge to play Christmas music in July either.

This is not the first semi-fictional piece I have done about my family. The first one I did was actually done for an Introduction to Fictional Writing class I took at the Community College of Denver. It was a piece about the time I fell down the stairs at school and said a few choice words. The assignment was to fictionize a real memory; in my case, it was already partially fictionized (because my memories of it consisted of my father telling me the story). I never published that piece; maybe someday I will (mainly because I like the story).

The first semi-fictional family piece I actually published to the web (first on Helium, then on AC) was a piece about recieving a fruitcake for Christmas. (Lump of coal---fruitcake---there seems to be a pattern there.) It is definitely fiction. For one thing, I actually like fruitcake. The second thing is...well, I took liberties with how I depicted one of my relatives. It is still one of my favorite pieces.

Unfortunately, short fiction does not generate a lot of pageviews. There is also the little fact that it involves my is semi-fiction; there is a grain of truth in there somewhere. It is that last part that promises always to get me into trouble. Comedy about one's family is not the way to go if you want peaceful familial relationships. It is time like this (when I have written pieces that I like, but know other people will be upset by) that I find myself wondering if other writers and entertainers also have this problem.

Oh well, odds are (if I am being honest) that none of my family will ever read the stories in the first place. Which is even more depressing than them being upset with me. But I suspect that is true of half the writers in the world. I have this theory that as a writer you have a fifty/fifty chance of your family loving everything you write or absolutely hating everything you write. The universe is balanced---I just got the pillar of severity section in this particular regard.

Nevertheless, for some reason (well beyond my ability to reason it out) I had the urge to write a semi-fictionized piece about my family around the holiday season---again. I think I see a pattern forming here.

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Motivation malfunction

The last few days, I have noticed a definite lack of motivation on my part. Or at least, a lack of motivation geared towards what I was supposed to be doing---studying for finals and working on last minute papers.

But what I found interesting is the fact that I would catch myself researching articles to write. I guess it has been awhile since I wrote anything and my mind is itching to go. We will see how long and strong the motivation to write is in a few days when I will actually have time to practice my trade.

For those who are curious, one final is done, two to go, and one I don't have to take (taking the final adds nothing to the grade I already have---I already have an A).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mocking the spam

Once again, it is time to mock the emails that I get in my spam (junk) mail.

Today's winner had the subject line: Hareyak.

And the text of the email: ungeduldig friseriez flagellantismens svpikb iuyjxl zprlwn

One of these words was hyperlinked; I did not click the link. Heck, I am not sure what any of these words even mean, though I am fairly sure that they are just semi-random letters.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Writing in public

One of my writing friends the other day posted on her Facebook status that she was in a Starbucks and that people were actually writing in Starbucks. (Ok, I call her my friend, but she may inform me otherwise by the time I am done with this post.) I think that she was witnessing "poseurs" (or "posers" if you prefer that spelling): those mysterious creatures that claim to be writers, pretend to be writers, but have never actually sold a single piece of writing.

One of the big things about being a poseur is that you must write in public---it somehow increases your writing cred if you write in public.

At this point, I must admit that I have been guilty of writing in public. (*waves hi at his soon-not-to-be friend*)

Heck, on Friday night I wrote at two public locations. The first place was a small pizza shop on Colfax (Famous Pizza); it did nothing for my writing cred---there were just the two employees there. The second place was at the First Unitarian Church; again, no gain for my cred---people just thought I was sitting in the corner being anti-social. Honest, I wasn't being anti-social: I was just tempting to finish an article that I am hoping to offload on someone for a bit of cash.

Of course, that last bit is why I would have to hand in my Poseur Union card (provided that I still had one---I lost mine the day I sold my first piece of writing). No poseur would dream of stooping down to the level that they work on pieces just to unload them for small green pieces of paper (exchangable for all debts public and private). There is no cred to be gained actually working as a writer. It is ok to be misunderstood; it is not ok to be a hack.

I have done a lot of writing in public. At one point, I was doing two hours a day four days a week of writing in public. Ok, I was standing behind the counter in a food court downtown, pretending to wait for customers (after two o'clock, we saw very little traffic)---nevertheless, it was writing in public. Interestingly enough, most people thought that I was actually a college student.

Before that job, another restaurant job---more writing in public. I actually wrote the very first piece that I sold between making hamburgers. And before that writing in the high school cafeteria, again public writing, but that is a whole different story about why I was guilty of writing in public at that point (oldest of eight kids---do I need to tell you why I was writing in public rather than at home?).

So there you have it. I have done a lot of writing in public. But alas, I have absolutely no writing cred---at least among the poseurs. The sad part is I would rather have a great big bag of cash instead.

Oh wait, it is not my writing friend that I am going to lose; it is any and all poseurs reading this blog that are going to wave goodbye to me. That is not going to be good for my writing cred, is it?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2011

So am I going to be doing NaNoWriMo 2011? Yes and no.

Yes, I am going to do it because why should I break my losing streak now? For the record, I have never succeeded in writing 50,000 words in the space of thirty days. At least, not on a single project. If you are willing to count the number of words that I have devoted to term papers during November the past few years, then I am scoring about fifty percent.

No, because I have three more postion papers, two book reviews, two research papers, and probably a lot of stuff I am forgetting here. In addtition to that amount of writing, I have to do the reading and research to support that amount of writing.

No. Do I look insane?

Yes, because I keep having scenes pop in my head. Damn it Harmik get back in the cab! I am trying to do homework here.

So am I doing NaNoWriMo 2011? Maybe. Depends on who wins in the cage match between Harmik and my college professors.

(For those of you who are curious, Harmik is a six feet tall troll who drives a cab in one of the stories that I am working on...he tends to be a little loud.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You are only as good as your last editor

Today, I was reminded about one of the harsh truths of a writer's life: You are only as good as your last editor.

The reminder came in the form of looking at the published copy of something that I sold, and realizing that the title used was wrong. The title was from the month before, and now what I wrote for this month makes no sense at all.

I know how the problem happened. A form is being used for this particular publication, and they simply swap one article for another as they put the publication together. This month, they simply forgot to change the title along with the article.

Heck, I have made the same type of mistake myself on occasion. The only sad part (besides confusing readers) is that this publication is in hard copy form, so the mistake exists in a couple thousand copies. Fortunately, it has a short shelf life, and next month all the current copies will have been recycled.

Another reminder of this fact of life today came in the form of my midterm for Latin America Colonial history. What I turned in was in dire need of editing; then again, most of my homework tends to be in need of editing. It is what happens when you write something just hours before it is due, and turn it in (email it) to the professor just minutes after you are done writing it.

I will admit that I have trouble editing myself. Tense problems, mainly. Point of view problems, secondly.

The only way that I can effectively edit myself is to allow something to sit long enourgh to forget what I wrote, so that I can see what I actually wrote instead of what I think that I wrote. Needless to say, this is not always an option.

If there is any doubt that one needs to be aware of this type of stuff, I would like to mention something I saw on the way home. I passed a vacant lot, and noticed that it had two "for sale" signs up. Both from the same real estate agent. One sign had the phone number 303-xxx-4816; the other sign 303-xxx-8416. I suspect that this person is also self-editing. I also suspect that they do not know why they do not get half of their phone calls either.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Semester so far

This semester so far has been kicking me in the behind. Therefore, I have gotten very little writing done, outside of the three astrology columns that I have written for Campus Connections and the required essays for my classes.

(The first astrology column of the semester I finally got around uploading to Associated Content today if anyone is interested in reading it---about how the sun signs start the semester. I don't think that it will get many page views, but I am after the google-love and AC cloat.)

I think that the Faulkner class is kicking me the hardest. The other day, I was so tired that I looked at the schedule to see what novel I was supposed to be reading next---and somehow, I still ended up reading the wrong book. *groan* The bright spot? I wasn't the only student to do this. I guess that I am not the only person that is having their rear kicked this semester.

I do plan on getting back to writing sometime in the future; I am just not sure if it will happen before the semester is over.

Friday, October 8, 2010

For your kind attention

Once again, Morgan has the urge to mock his junk email.

I was going to ignore this junk email, a standard please consider relocating a large sum of money into your country story, clear up to the point where I got to this line:

Without a (heir) hence the money is floating and if I do not remit this money out urgently it will be forfeited for nothing and the big guns at the herms of administration at the bank will share this fund amongst themselves as it has been done if no trace of heir to such fund is found.

Huh? Why is "heir" in brackets? And how about a comma? Or perhaps a period or two? And is "herms" supposed to be "helm"?

Now, I will admit that I like the idea of "floating" money, though I imagine that it is not how I picture it. Heck, if I could float money the way I am picturing it, I would have a career in Vegas.
And if you think this person just accidently made those mistakes, consider "the France citizen" which is a term that they used in another sentence (a perfectly fine sentence outside of this term). I understand all French citizens consider themselves to be France, but I think that this might be carrying it a little far.

Hey spammer, thanks for your kind attention and giving me some sentences to mock.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Would I recommend freelance writing as a business

I am a freelance writer. Would I recommend this type of business to someone else? Probably not. A lot of people do not realize how much work writing is. It takes more than just stringing sentences together, and/or repacking information. While you can get paid to write, it takes time and energy to find clients and the pay is notorious low (I think that writers are still being paid as if it was the 1950's). Of course, nowdays you are also operating in a global market---can you low bid someone in India? Probably not. As far as business income goes, the bum begging on the corner probably makes more than you do.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Put up links to the fanpages

Today, I put up the links to both my own Morgan Drake Eckstein fanpage and the Bast Temple (Golden Dawn, Denver Colorado) fanpage on a page of the Bast Temple website. While there is probably not a large audience for my work (after all I am a niche writer), I still wanted to get the links up.

The reason I am going with fanpages is multi-fold.

The first and most important reason is that silly 5000 friend limit on Facebook. After seeing a couple of writers on Facebook dealing with this limit and having to set up fanpages for themselves, I decided that I would just sidestep the problem and set up my fanpages early.

The second reason as I have noted before here and elsewhere is that I play a lot of games on Facebook. I am quite sure (ok I know for a fact) that some people are annoyed by this aspect of my life.

The third reason is that I am getting better at shameless self-promotion. Or at least, I think that I am getting better at it.

The fourth reason is that it is harder for your account to get removed from Facebook for spamming people if the offending page is an actual fanpage. (Long story involving dirty Golden Dawn Order politics...of course, I have no idea why the one party wasn't using a fanpage in the first place.)

Fifth and final reason, occasionally my personal life erupts on my personal Facebook wall and I would like to keep some of it locked in the closet.

I also put up a link page on each of my blogs for my writer's fanpage, and one on my Golden Dawn blog for the lodge's fanpage (different audiences, different levels of interest in the fanpages I figured).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Qod Stephanie Reisner on the importance of copyrights

As an author it frustrates me that people should think I should spend thousands of hours on a manuscript and then give it away freely to whoever wants it. Because I can live on air and my love for writing. lol! I say all challengers of [Intellectual Property and Copyrights] ...should put in 40 hours a week for 52 weeks producing reading material for the general masses (see how easy it is) and then just hand it away for free. It will never happen. I'm betting a lot of them wouldn't be so against IP if they actually had any or made a living as an artist. For some of us - that's what we do to survive and we do it well.

----Stephanie Connolly Reisner 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Writing astrology columns

As many of my regular readers know, for the last couple of years I have been writing an astrology column for the student newspaper of the Community College of Denver (CCD): Campus Connection. And today, I am starting my fourth semester of being a professional astrological writer (using the olympic definition of professional---if you ever got paid [even once] for the work, then you are a professional).

When I first accepted a position on the newspaper staff, the astrology column was not even a glimmer in my eye. I was in a literature class with Sarah Stover; and when she got the job of editor-in-chief, she remembered that I mentioned that I occasionally did some freelance writing. I agreed to work for the newspaper, then discovered the very next week that I needed to do a last minute transfer to the University of Colorado at Denver if I did not want to lose a whole semester worth of credits (I was just short of a single class, a science class, for my Associate degree when I transferred). Sarah did not care that I was going to a different school; as long as I was taking classes at Auraria campus, I was still qualified to work for Campus Connection.

It was not until October that the thought of an astrology column arose. I was doing a piece on Wicca and witches---which is how Sarah realized that I knew a lot about the esoteric traditions---when the thought occurred to her that I might be capable of writing an astrology column. Every writer meeting after that, she would mention how she loved astrology columns (hint, hint). I basically ignored the hints because of a slight difficulty that the format of the student newspaper presented.

Campus Connection comes out every three weeks (five issues a semester). This means that doing a predictive column was close to impossible. The very first semester I was there, I discovered a two year-old issue on one of the stands---an issue long forgotten by everyone. This caused me to have to figure otu a way to write an astrology column that was as fresh (useful) on the last day that the issue was on the stands as it was the first day.

It took me three months to figure out the solution. In fact, I figured out the solution the very last week of winter break. I cobbled it up and sent it in. The first column was about How Your Sun Sign Might Affect Your Study Habits. It got published, and the rest as they say is history.

The original format of the astrology column included an introduction which discussed some aspect of astrology and introduced the theme of the month. Based on the feedback from readers I talked to, the introduction section was abandoned when the next editor-in-chief started (it was part of the changes needed to keep the column in the paper---his opinion of the column was not exactly favorable---ironically, all the changes were ones that I wanted because of my feedback research). There was also some artistic changes done last year (including the removal of the background artwork).

But despite the changes in format, the way I write the column has been stayed the same. A month before writing any particular column, I have an idea. A couple of days before the column is due, I abandon the original theme and start working on a completely different theme. The revised idea for the column tends to be something I dreamed up while in the shower. Coming up with the idea is probably the hardest part of the process (in terms of how long it takes me to come up with a viable idea).

Then I start with the easiest signs for that idea and work my way towards the harder ones. The easiest signs to write about are those that I have a real life model for (often I am joking about how a certain Virgo and Gemini react). Then I progress to the harder ones...for the ones that I am unsure about I open up one of the many astrology books that I own (most often Rex Bills' The Rulership Book). Due to the nature of the column, I end up writing bits of it whenever I have a few mintutes to spare (lightrail, standing around waiting on my wife, etc.).

And a few months after the issue is off the stands, I reprint the columns on the internet. The astrology column does not do well on the internet for various reasons, but I do like to have them available online for my non-college friends to read. (The last four columns I wrote have yet to be posted to the internet which says what type of summer I had this year.) So here is to another year of writing astrology columns. May you enjoy and learn as much about astrology as I do while writing them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Qod Leon Uris on Discipline

"In order to be a good writer, you've got to be a bad boss. Self-discipline and stamina are the two major arms in a writer's arsenal."

---Leon Uris

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Washing away writers block

One cannot leaf though a writer's magazine or writing book without running across tips to overcome or prevent writer's block. I always presume that the tips are meant for amateurs; none of the professional writers I know believe in writer's block.

Nevertheless, I do keep track of what other people do to break blocks when they occur. The other day on Facebook, it was knitting and spinning around in circles.

Personally, when I am not sure what to write for the next paragraph, I resort to washing the block away: loading the dishwasher, the washing machine, sorting though the mess in my office, and taking showers.

Of course, I am not sure if anyone understood this the other day at the writer's meeting for the student newspaper. I got some strange looks when I said that a lot of my writing occurred in the shower. I wonder how they would have felt about knitting or spinning in a circle.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ask me a question---what can I do to become a good writer?

Question: What can I do to become a good writer?

Answer: I think that the number one quality that any writer needs to develop is the ability to be a self-starter. Too many would-be writers spend time looking for the perfect niche, or the perfect mix of keywords, or the perfect site to write for. In the meantime, they are accomplishing no actual writing, and their skill as a writer is not improving at all. Their income is also suffering. The only way to become a good writer is by writing, and the only way you can accomplish that is by learning to self-start.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Living in a Fishbowl IV

This last month or so, I learned another problem with living in a fishbowl. It turns out that the glass goes both ways; not only can everyone see what you are up to, but quite often you can see what other people are doing and saying also.

I discovered this on Facebook. As some of my readers know, the last relative still talking to me, one of my sisters, decided to throw a fit because I decided that plans made months in advance (plans which involve other people's schedules and feelings) were more important than her plans announced at what I felt was the last minute. There was the additional fact that they said some harsh words in my direction the previous year---basically, it boiled down to the fact that they felt my entire life was a waste of time.

I tried to come to an understanding with them, but got tired of being told that I did not measure up and that I was not allowed to have hurt feelings over how they were treating me ("That is just the way I am"). As my friends know, I do not respond well to anger, threats and blackmail. And if I can't tell you the truth, I quit talking to you.

Even more serious was I tried to take certain things private (emails) only to have them explode in public on my Facebook wall. I am still not sure what that was supposed to accomplish. Maybe they thought that I cared about my reputation...I know that they care about theirs (a habit that mom drilled into us kids).

Of course, the cherry on top was that they decided that they could not work around my schedule and started to make snide comments on their Facebook status updates. An example: "There are two types of people in the world: those who always have time for friends and family and those who do not." Ok, maybe I am paranoid; maybe that was not aimed at me. And if it was, well, the plans I had scheduled months in advance involved friends and my nine-year old god-daughter (who acts like she is related to me)---my crime was not having time for friends and family; it was that I refused to give my sister a higher priority after learning what she thought of my life and that I was required to change while she was allowed to continue being a PITA.

The snide comments went on for days. Now, she was not holding a gun to my head forcing me to read this stuff, nor was I forcing her to read my status updates (I generally went about my life as normal [sort-of]; I did get less writing done than normal).

Then when she got done with her vacation, she went on Facebook bragging about how wonderful her family was (including my abusive mother). I treated these updates the same way as the others, I ignored them (aka did not take the bait, did not respond).

So what did I learn from all this? Well, all public figures get to see what other people think of them. Besides Facebook updates from frenemies (you have to love that term), we also get to see unfavorable opinions about ourselves in the comment sections of articles, on forum postings, and (if you write books) in the review section of Amazon.

Of course, I do not have to read about other people's opinions of me. I can ignore other people's reviews of my work, and comments they make about me. It is easy to ignore one's bad reputation when your very own family set out to destory it before one's public career even started.

And in this case, I do not have to read someone's snide comments disguised as status updates. Why? Because they chose to defriend me yesterday. I guess I am no longer talking to any of my relatives (unless the relatives on my father's side of the family decide to talk to me now---can they be any worse?).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Three random observations

Here are three random observations for today (random because they came out of my head):

1: There are sure a lot of ads for ballon helium on the writing site Helium. I guess that the spiders that control ad generation believe that people looking for gas to fill party ballons will end up on that site merely because of its name. Then again, I have noticed that often the little ad spiders have no idea what type of ads to put on my pages either. And it is not just Google Adsense either---all spider driven ad systems seem to have this issue. So it goes.

2: There are times when it takes me forever to figure out how to do something, especially things that I have been putting off. Today, I decided to put the "share buttons" on all my blogs here on Blogger. I had installed it on my most popular blog, Gleamings From the Dawn---a blog about Golden Dawn and the mystery traditions, the first day that it was an option. I decided that I would do it another day for the other three blogs I have here. I failed to note where the option was hidden...hence I spent a half hour today looking for the widget that does this. (It is under Design/Blog Posts if you are looking for it yourself.) If I would have done it the day that the option became available, it would have taken me five minutes to do it. *sigh* Good news, all my blogs now have share buttons under the individual posts.

3: The economy probably still sucks eggs on rocks, especially the job market. When I was in the restaurant business, I used to judge how the economy was going by the sales numbers and the behavior of my customers. This habit has carried over into my current profession, being a writer. I watch the articles I have on the pageview sites as a "witch's ball" (the big glass fishing floats that Wiccans use to scry with); as the concerns of my readers go up and down, so too do my articles go up and down with the trend. The fact that my articles about unemployment have shown no signs of cooling off makes me firmly believe that any rosy numbers I hear from the government are being cooked to a fine mash (these articles did not go hot until the job market tanked, so it is not that they are always good pageview generators).

So there you go. Three random observations. Now I really should go work on my latest project---one that I have been putting off for a month.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How much writing advice do you need?

Yesterday, my wife and I went to Tattered Cover to find a book. Ok, she went to Tattered Cover to find a book for her graduate level writing class; I went to avoid working on getting together the last of the stuff neccessary for the Theoricus initiation that I am doing today.

(Actually, I am doing the Theoricus initiation right now---this post is actually pre-scheduled...much like the last night talk shows are filmed during the day, and perhaps even days before they are broadcast.)

And while we were there, she found several books on the writing craft (creating characters, writing various types of stories, etc.) that she thought I would be interested in. I a certain extent. My interest was not too great because I was sticking to a budget (an advance for a job that I am doing this coming week); and the honest fact that leafing though the books, I recognized most of the advice from other writing "how-to" advice books.

I have gotten to the point where I think that I am better off not buying any more writing advice books simply because most of the information feels like simple repeats of information that I have read in other books. Quite honestly, I have hit my limit on how many how-to books I can squeeze into my library. And my budget (time and money).

Of course, this brings up the question of how many books on writing does an aspiring writer need? (This also can be asked of how many books on magic does an aspiring witch or magician need?) At what point in time does a writer hit the point where another how-to book is not actually going to make that much difference in their craft?

It is not like they are going to suddenly quit publishing books on writing. As long as there is a steady stream of aspiring writers, there will be a steady stream of books aimed at improving their craft. But at a certain point, it is better to keep your money in your pocket---unless you have a specific problem to solve.

I suspect that in part, the market has so many books because it allows aspiring writers to feel that they are improving their craft without actually doing any work. It is like reading books on magic, ethics, relationships, business, etc. Reading a book gives you a nice buzz---you are trying to improve your skill and knowledge; but unless you are willing to roll up your sleeves, it is just wasted effort.

I do not think that there is a single professional (as in "I make my living writing") writer who would rate reading books on how-to write as highly as they would actually doing the actual work of being a writer. If you want a crash course in writing, and a big boost in your skill, suffer though National Novel Writing Month or something like it (aka actually complete an entire novel). Learning to write from books is like learning to play golf without ever swinging a golf club.

Write, write, write. Does anyone really need more advice than that?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

QoD Writing rituals Philip Athans

About avoiding writing rituals at all costs:

"Rituals are excuses for avoiding work and creativity. If you think you can only write your notes in that lovely leather-bound notebook your boyfriend gave you and only when it's dark and only when it's raining, you're fooling yourself. Write anywhere, at any time."

---Philip Athans (The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Toxic Concern

During the last month, my regular readers may have noticed that I have not been posting. Truth be told, I was not doing a lot of writing at all.

The lack of writing can be firmly laid at my doorstep---I started to care what someone might think about what I was writing. The natural result as most of you can already guess is that I quit writing.

At first, the care was merely about the issue that they were concerned about. Then it ballooned up to cover all my writing, including my Facebook and Twitter updates. Yes, I have a mental health issue.

Unfortunately, because my sole source of income is writing (ignoring student loans), well either I am going to have to ignore what they think about my writing or I am going to have to go back to flipping burgers for a living. Either option is really acceptable, but one is a little more acceptable than the other.

So to add to my list of things that cause writer's block, I must now add "toxic concern" to the list: the concern one feels about what readers might think about one's writing, the type of concern that toxic writing friends love to install in you when you are not looking.

The really sad part of this is that I do not think that they are even a regular reader of my writing (they claim to be a regular reader, but we all know that you are most likely to be tossed that claim by someone who googled the subject, randomly found you and got upset about your opinion). If they were, they should have requested certain amendments to one of my rants back in February (like the day after I wrote a particular rant). And I know that they are not a member of my audience.

(I do not need to point out to anyone that "readers" and "audience" are two different things. Readers can be anyone that stumble upon your work; audience are those that the piece was actually written for. In my case, my audience tends to be students of the esoteric, especially those with the same type of background that I have. I write about my background because I figure that I am not the only person with the issues that I have. I could be wrong---after all, I have been accused of being mentally ill on more than one occasion…though one wonders if the mentally ill do not deserve to have some writers of their own also.)

So hopefully, the worst of my bout with toxic concern is over, and I can get back to work. If I am wrong, well I know what I need to do, and it is not going back to flipping burgers.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

OMG I am a blogger

Last night, during the tossing and turning brought on by the most recent email from my sister, who I feel is trying to convince me that I am one hundred percent at fault for our bad relationship, I came to some conclusions. Not pleasant conclusions, but still they are conclusions.

One of my conclusions is that I am NOT a writer, and NOT a journalist. No, I am a blogger.

Yes, this is a step down in the way I describe myself. I have always considered bloggers to be less classy than writers and journalists. Hence, in the interest of feeding my ego, I always called myself a writer or journalist, rather than embrace the truth.

The point of her email that made me realize that I was lower on the classiness totem pole than I thought was came when she asked me how I felt about everyone in the world knowing how she currently felt about me.

Do you see?

Yes, that is right. I didn't care. In fact, I thought it was slightly amusing.

That is why I have to turn in my union cards at this point. Writers and journalists are supposed to care, and do their best to keep their lives secret. Bloggers, on the other hand, tend to be like stand-up comedians, if we can get a good bit out of talking about our personal lives we will.

I always joke with my wife that if I ever do stand-up, she is going to end up with a starring role in my routine. And yes, she knows that I have blogged about her.

Obviously, I need to issue the same warning to my relatives. (I think that my friends, frienemies, and enemies know that they are fair game already---I hope.) And I probably need to add the stand-up creative license warning also: If the joke is funnier when I am not telling the complete truth, then that is what I am going to say actually happened.

I have been living in a fishbowl for a long time. I had the misfortune of going to a high school in a small town where everyone knew everyone else's business. For a long time, I did my best to conceal certain facts. Not that I think that it worked (in hindsight). I bet everyone back home knows the real reason that I failed high school (and it was not the reason that I was supposed to pretend was the reason---I am not a lazy moron---everyone probably knows the real reason why I was not doing homework and skipping classes, but shhhh---no one is supposed to know the truth; it might make someone else look bad and their reputation is more important than mine).

It gets better. My mom was horrified that people might find out what I was writing about. Hence my pen-name. A few years ago, I caught onto the fact that certain people back home were not surprised by what I was writing. And if they knew already...well, the whole town obviously knew. At that point, I decided to openly admit that yes, MDE and EME were the same person.

Of course, this is all just an aspect of my family hiding lots of skeletons in the closet. If my sister was really smart, she would look in the closet and ask what was in there that installed the vast distance between the two of us. I would think about telling her directly; but earlier in the recent spat I chose to keep something off the grid, and she responded by openly exploding about it in full public view.

(For the record, responding with anger to me when I am trying to be rational and am telling you the truth just makes me more more likely to mistrust you. And mistrust does not led to close relationships.)

There have been several things I have kept off the grid. For months, one of my cousins have wanted to know who said certain things. I have been ignoring the questions. I wonder if my cousin knows who it was now.

I will admit that I am impressed by the quick clean-up that my sister did. But it makes me wonder what skeleton in the closet has a poppet of her in its hand at the moment. And part of the dance it making her do blinds her to the fact that I am NOT the same person that walked out of that house in 1984---threats, blackmail and public explosions do not phase me. After all, I am a blogger and this is just the natural behavior of the envirnoment that I chose to write in. (Proof of that can be seen everytime I do another bad book review.) And I am going to continue sharing my personal life because it is part of my stock and trade.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Living in a Fishbowl III

This last week I learned another hazard of living in a fishbowl. One of my relatives pointed out that they could read about my life despite the fact that they were not actually a part of my life. Basically, they implied that I was being rude by writing about my life while refusing to confirm to their standards of conduct.

Now, given a year ago that this person declared that they did not want to hear about my business, my writing, my college experiences, my religion, and my involvement in Golden Dawn, I realized that this recent comment basically is going to give me a single very bad choice.

Either I can quit blogging about my life and quit using Facebook and Twitter, or I can make it hard for this person to easily see what I am up to. (I will never be able to make my life invisible from them---unless I am willing to go back to flipping burgers and completely give up writing and the internet---but I can do the magician's force and make sure that they have to google it and don't automatically see it in their updates [aka defriend them on Facebook].)

The reason why I am thinking about this today is simply because I so want to talk about what I did yesterday. Unfortunately, it is deep in the 99% of my life that this relative never wants to hear about ever again. So I am now standing here with a skull and asking the Shakespearean question "To defriend or not to defriend, that is the question."

And no, I am not going to drop out of university, give up my religion and Order involvements, and cease to be a writer just to please them. I refuse to spend the rest of my life flipping burgers just because they do not like my lifestyle.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thought about my dad

I thought about blogging about my dad today; after all, it is father's day. But considering how much misconception and memory loss is involved in this situation (something that I was not conscious of before last year), I have decided to wait until July 12 to blog about him, and I am going to be doing it on my Golden Dawn (magical and occult) blog instead.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Unbelievable commericals

There are some commericals that are more unbelievable than others. On my local TV station, they keep showing this commerical for a Chase credit card that has a cash back program. It has these two brothers trying to charge everything before the other can, so that they can get the cash back reward. Unless these two are paying off their entire balance every month, the three percent cash back would not even put a dent in the amount of charging these two are doing.

Of course, the commerical that I find the most unbelievable was one that the Colorado Lottery did a couple of years ago, in conjunction with Powerball. In the commerical, there were a couple of security guards. And a great big table covered with cash, a million dollars plus. The commerical was supposely the unscripted reaction of real people when they saw how big the Powerball prize was.

The reason I found it unbelievable was that the security guards were too lightly armed to actually be guarding a million dollars. If it was real money, I don't care what neighborhood you are in, a few calls would be made and someone would be trying to help themselves to the cash. I am a happy little cynic, ain't I?

Now there are some unbelievable commericals that I do like. The recent Lipton Green Tea with the singing fish makes me laugh out loud. I also like the Dish Network Free HD commericals with the unkempt astronauts---it reminds me of Homeboys in Space.

"What do the instructions say?" "Look, he has an allen wench. Let me ask you this: Do you have any tools?" Hey...wait a second. Are you making fun of me? C'mon admit to it; you had a friend ask you this at some point in your life. Though in my case, the question includes the implication that maybe I have not opened the instructions, and perhaps should not be trusted with anything more complicated than a hammer.

The winner of the "Mixed Feelings" reward for unbelievable people in commericals might be the current Radio Shack Dadtopia (Father's Day) campaign. Is anyone's dad really this dorky? I don't remember my father being anything like these dads, but one cannot trust my memory of him as one of my sisters reminded me awhile back. I hope that he wasn't this dorky. It does not help my case for him not being dorky that he owned one of those complicated Radio Shack (Texas Instruments) calculators. At least, he did not get it from the bottom of a ceral box.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Urgent FBI Winning Alert or Mocking the Spam

It is now time to play another round of Mocking the Spam.

Today, I recieved two emails, supposely from the FBI informing me that I had money owed to me. First off, I was under the impression that the FBI just seized funds and did not actually inform people about the loot. And second off, doesn't the FBI have an official government email address? Third, wouldn't they hotlink the FBI website, rather than print out the web address?

The first one says that I won eight hundred thousand for a Lottery Company outside of the United States. Hmmm, won't that be a problem for the CIA? And exactly what is an "Intelligence Monitoring Network System"? Is that Bubba and his dog perhaps? Didn't I see them outside of 7-11 yesterday?

Oh, it is my email address that has won. What exactly is an "Online Balloting System"? Does not sound like it has anything to do with a lottery...sounds more like the system where you elect politicans who have never done any actual campaigning (can I get elected to public office without paying my own entry fee and campaigning by sitting on my ever-widening ass?). After all, I am winning lotteries without paying tickets, and inheriting money from relatives that actually liked me (unlike my real relatives who are both poor and hateful).

And exactly who is the "Anti-Terrorist and Monetory Crimes Division"? Yes, they spelled it "monetory"; I could have swore that word was spelled differently. I wonder what over-priced spell checker the FBI uses (and is it the same company that sells toliet seats to the air force?).

Hmmm, do I look like a moron? An idiot? A fool? "We have verified the entire transaction to be Safe and 100% risk free, due to the fact that the funds have been deposited at the Bank of America." Shouldn't the Bank of America be talking to me instead? Oh, yeah, that is right...I keep getting emails from them about my account being suspended for security reasons. And if you think dealing with American banks is risk free, then you have not opened up a newspaper for, oh like the last hundred years or so.

Ahh, here is the catch: I am supposed to pay a "Deposit Fee's (Fee's paid by the company for the deposit into an American Bank)"---exactly how is this my problem? Shouldn't the company in question actually pay for this? Also I am supposed to pay a "Cashier's Check Conversion Fee (Fee for converting the Wire Transfer into a Certified Cashier's Check)"---again, exactly how is this my problem? And finally, I am supposed to pay a "Shipping Fee's (This is the charge to shipping the Cashier's Check to your home address"---ok, priority mail and insurance can be brought at the Post Office, and I have paid for postage due items at the Post Office before.

Grand total for all this: $350.

At this point, all my friends are laughing out loud because they know that I am currently working hard to earn two hundred dollars, so that I can pay for the advance registeration fee at the University. Even if this was real, I would not be able to get this much money together.

Alas, the funds have already been deposited despite the fact that all these fees should have came out of the prize money itself. You never seen the Colorado Lottery ask for money to process a prize. Oh yeah, this is right---they already collected their money when you brought your ticket. And the IRS is always there to get their cut. Seems to me that these overseas companies are in desperate need of proper management.

I am not sure who Peter Walter is, but he is not getting a Money Gram sent from Western Union from me. In fact, I would like him to show up at the bank in person. I am quite sure that if the Bank of America has eight hundred thousand dollars in their vault with my name on it that they will be more than happy to open up a checking account for me, right johnny on the spot. After all, they are a bank---they will want me to keep the money there.

And is there actually a Robert Mueller (the Third as other emails proclaim him)? Why is a FBI agent, especially a Special Agent, using an AOL email address?

Oh, here is some sweetner---"If you do not recieve your winning prize of $800,000.00 we shall be responsible for the loss and this shall invite a penalty of $3,000 will be made PAYABLE ONLY to you (The Winner)." Yeah, I trust the FBI to actually pay a your dreams.

And why is it that you need my full contact information, including my name and occuption? Thoughout this email, I have been addressed as the "Beneficiary" and "The Winner"---could it be that you have no clue who I am? (For the record, I am Morgan the Mighty, He Who Opens Many Cat Food Cans.)

Onto the next email...this one is from Robert Mueller of the "Counter-terrorism Division and Cyber Crime Division." Exactly how many divisions does Robert Mueller report to?

"Records show that you are among one of the individuals and organizations who are yet to receive their overdue payment from overseas which includes those of Lottery/Gambling, Contract and Inheritance. Through our Fraud Monitory Unit we have also noticed that over the past you have been transacting with some imposters and fraudsters who have been impersonating the likes of Prof. Soludo of the Central Bank Of Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Aziza, Anderson, Wallace Fred, none officials of Oceanic Bank, Zenith Banks, Kelvin Young of HSBC, Smith Williams, Daniel Wilson, Ibrahim Sule, Dr. Philip Morgan, Dr. Usman Shamsuddeen and some imposters claiming to be The Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Gee, that is a laundry list of scoundrels. But I have not been "transacting" with them. Unless you count mocking their emails as "transacting." And exactly what is a "none official"?

Who are the "Internet Crime Complaint Center (ICCC)?" Or the "Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC)"? Are they real? Or are you just making up governement agencies?

 Ahh, some golden advice: "We hereby advise you to stop communication with any one not referred to you by us." And such good news: "We have negotiated with the Federal Ministry of Finance that your payment totaling $5.3 (Five million and three hundred thousand us dollars) will be released to you via a custom pin based ATM card with a maximum withdrawal limit of $3,000 (Three thousand us dollars) a day which is powered by Visa Card and can be used anywhere in the world were you see a Visa Card Logo on the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM)."

That almost sounded like a Citi VISA commerical.

And they promise that they have "perfected everything" and 100% risk free as "its our duty to protect the world." Wait a second...isn't the FBI supposed to be concerned with America, and leave the rest of the world to the duty of someone else (CIA, Interpol, etc.)? Gee, what is next? Protecting the citizens of Alpha Prime?

And what effect are you trying to go for in the following sentence? "This is as a result of the mandate from US Government to make sure all debts owed to citizens of American which includes Inheritance, Contract, Gambling/Lottery etc are been cleared for the betterment of the current economic status of the nation and its citizens as he has always believed Our Time for Change has come because Change can happen." Is anyone else waving an American flag at this point? Or is it only me?

And how much is the delivery of this sweet ATM card going to cost me? Just $260 paid to the ATM Card Center.

More names, probably fake people (one can hope). Another request for my name...gee, one would think that the FBI would have a file cabinet full of records with my name on them by now. And then we learn that Robert S. Mueller is the Director of the FBI. Cool, he got promoted.

The final line of this email is "Help stop cyber crime." Does that include my constant mocking of my spam emails?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Helium front page

I recieved an email saying that I was on the Helium front page today. The article is my biography of Randy Jackson. I don't see it on the front page. I wonder if the system emailed me a day late. (And no, I was not paying much attention to the front page yesterday---I was too busy with my god-daughter and other assorted tasks.)

Neil Gaiman Eight Good Writing Practices

Neil Gaiman: 8 Good Writing Practices

1. Write.

2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

3. Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.

5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

7. Laugh at your own jokes.

8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

From an article in The Guardian, which ended up in Gotham Writer's Workshop GothamGram

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why needing money is good for writers

Yesterday, I had one of those small panic attacks that all self-employed freelancers have (writers, artists, etc.)---I checked the balance on my bank account. After seeing how low the balance was, I revised my priority list for the work that I am planning on doing next week.

(There is not much that I can do differently this week. My wife has the priority marker for this week; next week, she is out of town and I can hack out some stuff without too much fear of being interrupted.)

In economic theory, there are certain things that while unpleasant when they happen to you are still considered ultimately good for the economy, such as unemployment. I try to look at my low bank balance in the same light. It is not neccessarily easy to do, but I try.

The low bank balances of freelancers drive us to find more business, more paying customers, and actually crank out work. A lot of people believe that being a freelancer means that you get to do work that you want to do, and can ignore the work that you dislike doing. Only doing the type of work that you feel like doing is a good way to ensure that you are not going to have a roof over your head for long.

Being a freelancer, or at least a successful one, involves finding the willpower to do the work that you find unpleasant. In my case, and I imagine most successful freelancers, that low bank balance is the carrot on the end of the stick. After all, I like having a roof over my head and food on the table.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One of the disadvantages of prescheduling blog posts

Today when I did my rounds of checking email accounts, online earning reports, and blog numbers, I realized that one of my blogs posted a prescheduled post overnight. Looking at it, I went "D'oh!"

It turns out that it wasn't really a blog post; it was just the notes to a blog post that I planned on doing in the future. The reason that it slipped though the cracks is that the blog that it was for is one that is near the bottom of my pile---call it one of my forgotten blogs.

I created the blog to keep my occasional political rant off of this blog (which should be about writing and business) and my occult/Wicca/eoteric Golden Dawn blog. Likewise, I also have a blog devoted to nerd stuff (aka science fiction).

The reason I started to jot down ideas and use the preschedule function was that 1) I always have more ideas than writing time, and 2) you hear bloggers complain all the time about suffering from writer's block. Not that the latter is a big concern of mine. I am not sure if I am special, therefore I have not ran into the writer's block problem, or whether it is simply that I stockpile ideas. Or it could just be the former prevents the latter from happening.

I do not think that anyone actually read the posting. It was late last night. And I am sure that I did not pick up any traffic from it on Facebook.

And I rapidly fleshed it out this morning. It was me musing about whether or not attractive people actually use the dating services, such as LiveLinks and Quest.

But it was a valuable reminder that I need to keep on top of my prescheduled posts, especially the ones that are just notes for future postings. It is also a reminder that if I suddenly die that a lot of cryptic posts are going to periodically appear on my blogs.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Quote of the day: Freelancing and panic

Being a freelance writer is interesting and not really a good thing for people who don’t enjoy a permanent sense of panic.---John Scalzi

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Family myth time---There can be only one

Between reading Seth's blog today (Surely not everyone), and David Shenk's book (The Genius in All of Us) yesterday, I am reminded of one of my family myths that drive me crazy. There is an unspoken belief in my family that only one person can have any particular talent or skill.

I wasn't particularly conscious of this rule while I was growing up. I did not stop and think about the implications of "Oh, XYZ is the artist in the family." Nor did I notice that only their artwork got praised and everyone else's artwork was generally ignored, if not picked to death for not being as good as XYZ. Heaven forbid if it was actually better.

As an adult, and a member of Golden Dawn who has fought to get people to recognize that all members can bring something to the table, I have examined the effects that this particular family rule had on me; I have also kicked around the effects that similar rules might have imposed on other people.

I suspect that sometimes when I fail to follow up on a good idea that it is because I am not the person that the family rule says should be pursuing that goal. I suspect that part of the toxicity I recieved from my sisters is based on the fact that I am ignoring the fact that I am NOT the writer in the family. And I really should not be thinking about picking up an ink pen and drawing either. And let's not mention going to college and running a business.

What is my role in the family? Oh, I am the criminal black sheep of the family. Not that I have ever served a day of jail time, the statement probably still stands "Oh sooner or later, [Morgan] is going to end up in jail. It is only a matter of time before he does something stupid and gets caught."

Outside of some petty shoplifting as a kid, some minor damage to private property, and a couple of druken fights (ironically only in one of them was I personally drunk), I am fairly innocent. Another family member has screwed up worse, but it does not matter---I am supposed to be the criminal in the family, not them.

I am NOT the writer, the artist, the business person in the family, or even a decent human being. Or at least, that is what the family myth and rule says. It is just too bad that I am running out of patience and refuse to humor this idea any more, isn't it? After all, I would be such a better human being if I just accepted my place in the universe, and let others do what they are best at.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spent the night reading, err, I mean researching

So after only getting one article done today (it is still today until I go to bed), a mere 707 words done, how did I spend my evening? Yep, that is right---reading an internet comic strip.

Originally, I started to browse the internet, looking at writers' blogs and tweets. Then I ended up following the links to Alone in a Crowd. So I ended up reading all the strips to present. Warning: there is some adult content (mainly talking about sex and the adult movie industry).

Was it all goofing off? Well, maybe not. I am still kicking around doing the occasional strip of my own (Loki's Wisdom). If I decide to do that, then tonight was getting to know something about the online comic world...something that I have not seriously looked at before. So I am going to call tonight's reading research, much like I called tweeting during the commerical breaks of Hell's Kitchen practice (hey, I could have to tweet a news event someday---hey it could happen).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Finding babies for a living

Ok, I will admit that I have my slow days. An email just went into my junk mail folder with the title of "finding babies for a living." (Yes, it was all lower case.) And I couldn't figure out what it might be I opened it.

Yes, that is right; it was about training to be an ultrasound technician.

Can I blame this brain fart on the fact that I just wrote a review about the service at the local KFC Taco Bell location?

Now my wife is showing me spam

As if I don't already seen enourgh spam ads on the internet, my wife is now getting involved. She saw an ad through Weather Bug about a kit that teaches people to make money by posting links on the internet. "Gee, I think that you can do this."

Yes, I could provided that I wanted to waste some time and money. Time because as the ad said (paraphrase), "The income cited is no promise that you will make a dime. These income figures represent the best earnings gained from this system, and do not represent the average user."

Money because I know how the spam works. The initial course is merely to hook you in. And yes, the course was cheap; it is like selling crack; they make their money by selling people additional information. I bet the only people actually making money with these systems are those who are selling the additional information at a hundred bucks a pop. And if you are desperate enourgh to earn money on the internet, you act just like a drug addict and hand them some of the little money you have left.

And personally, I do not want to be a spam pusher or spam dealer. Besides "posting links" sounds a lot like black hat SEO, doesn't it? I said no to the spam ad.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Inconvenience and tornado warnings

Just a few minutes ago, the tornado warning siren went off. Living near the city golf course, I am well within earshot of the tornado warning siren tower that they have set up over there. It was a good thing that I heard it. I actually got up and hauled in the recycling bin before the rain and hail started coming down.

When I was a teenager living in Brush Colorado, I once got in trouble for watching a tornado form. It is not that I was putting my life in danger that got me yelled at; it was the fact that I was not home on time to babysit my brothers and sisters that got me into trouble.

Let me be clear.

The fact that I put my life in danger was a non-issue. My mother could care less that I might have been blown away to Kansas. What made her upset was that I inconvenienced her. I am not sure what my mother needed or wanted to go do that afternoon (I pretend that I have no idea), but I was damned for causing her inconvenience.

(My father never heard about this incident. He wouldn't have cared if he did. Dad used to drive around with us kids in the car chasing tornados and bad weather. Explains a lot about me, doesn't it?)

Thanks to my childhood (there are many other examples of this behavior), I am sensative to the fact that people get upset when you inconvenience them. It is not getting their order wrong that gets them yelling at you; it is the inconvenience.

Do you want to drive people away from your website? Make it inconvenient to use. You will drive them around in droves.

Of course, my childhood also instilled in me the idea that I am never to inconvenience anyone. I fight against this idea. My feud against one of my sisters rotates around us fighting about who should be inconvenienced for the sake of the other. (The extent of this inconvenience might be a blog post for another day.)

And I suspect that I am not the only one programmed to act this way. It would explain the number of pagans and wiccans unwilling to do certain forms of magic (see my zero sum game posting on my Golden Dawn blog). What we all need is a siren warning when we are inconveniencing ourselves, as well as one for inconveniencing others.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oh goody It is Windows update day!

Oh goody. It is update day. The joy of Microsoft Windows updates swells my heart as I look at the little icon on the bottom of the screen telling me that it is time to obey and install the latest updates to my computer.

Maybe if it was just one computer, I would not dread this so much. But I have three computers that I have to update. So that is three computers that I have to click "Yes, I am ready for you to attempt to destory my computer." Oh wait, it is not meant to destory my computer. It is an unfortunate accident if the update causes my computer to do weird things afterwards.

And maybe I would be less annoyed if I was not trying to actually work today. My livelihood depends upon me sitting in front of a keyboard, punching sentences in. But no, we must break the flow of the writing to install the update.

Who knows how many updates? And how many restarts?

And will my anti-virus program decide that the updates are actually viruses? It could happen. Ahh yes, it makes you glad that it is Windows update day, doesn't it?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yahoo is acquiring Associated Content

How do I feel about Yahoo acquiring Associated Content? Honestly, I am not sure yet. I guess a lot will depend on how many changes are made to the present system, and what the changes are.

I presume that distributed exclusive content is going to be eligible to be used by Yahoo branded sites. Of course, that won't make much difference to me considering that I do not do much of that type of writing. On the other hand, who knows what I will be writing this fall or next year.

I guess I am ok with it as long as my performance payments continue coming in, and I don't suffer a drop in my page views or income. And if my income goes up, well, why would I complain?

So this might be a good time to consider signing up for an account with Associated Content and learning the ropes of the system before Yahoo starts to leverage the articles on AC.

Join Associated Content

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Testing to see if this link works

This is a test to see if I can figure out how to get people from the blog here to the fan page that I created for myself as a writer. Visit the fan page of Morgan Drake Eckstein.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I need to get back to this story

Here is a quote from a story that I hope to finish writing after the semester is over.

In the old days, we used to travel by couch and buggy, or maybe horse and buggy, horses, boat, or just on foot. There are some that believe that we used to (and still do) travel by fairy circle, stone hedges and by flying around on broomsticks. The latter has always puzzled me. Why would anyone trust their existence to a slender piece of wood with straw tied to the end? I do not care how strong of a candle you light, the rarity of the feathers that you tie onto it, or the awesome power of your charms; it is still just a stick being held up by the power of positive thinking. I will stick with mechanical means of travel, thank you no. Then again, given the security line and the reliability of pilots nowadays, going to a broom closet and selecting your own means of travel might be preferable if it wasn’t for the exhaustion that making a broom fly would result in.

Season of stress and no time

Regular followers of my blogs have probably noticed that I have not been posting much lately. The reason is simple; I am deep in the final assignment and exam season of the spring semester. And it is not over yet, I have two finals on Monday, one on Tuesday and a fifteen page paper to finish (thirteen pages to go) due on Thursday (it counts as a final).

Due to this, the biggest thing I have done with my business lately is to set up a fan page for Morgan Drake Eckstein (that is me). I also set one up for Bast Temple Golden Dawn Denver Colorado, the local lodge I belong to. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out their permanment links (urls), so that I can get people to them without having to be a facebook friend of mine. (I do believe that they can be found though search). I have wondered why more people do not use the fan pages, and now I know---no one can figure out how to link to them properly.

For the record, I did plan on hacking out a Cafe World article today; unfortunately just writing this post and trying to do some simple math makes me think that is not going to happen. Hopefully, I have caught all the grammar and spelling mistakes I have made on this post...if not, I have mentioned that I am in the season of stress and no time, haven't I?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Good for my sister and there can be only one

Yesterday, I learned that my sister XXX has officially registered her business with the state of Oregon: XXX.

Good for her, I say. Which is about all I can say.

Why? Simply because I have no idea of the quality of her work, or her expertise in this field.

We do not talk about our businesses with one another. It should be noted that I technically don't have a business because I have never filed official paperwork beyond the simpliest of tax forms. There is also the fact that...well, I am a hack as everyone else in my family will quickly point out.

I was not blessed by any of the muses. And in my family, there can be only one. Literally and metaphorically.

There is only one artist in the family. There is only one writer in the family. There is only one business-person in the family. There is only one scholar in the family. It is an unspoken family rule. Introductions used to go "This is XYZ, and they are the little fill-in-the-bragging-right child in the family."

No one ever brags about me. I fill in the vital black sheep, oh where did we go wrong slot. I am a pirate and a criminal, an addict and a fool, or whatever other evil is needed to make someone else in the family look better. Or feel guilty. And several of the stories are either not true, or so badly changed from what really happened that truth proves illusionary.

Or at least, that is how it was. And may still be; last fall events make me positive that I am still being used for this despite the fact that I torched the bridges and refused to talk to several family members over a decade ago. Needless to say, last fall events made me add to my list of family members who I will never have a conversation with ever again.

So good for my sister for starting her own business. And if any of my friends see me venturing into PR work or marketing, please remind me to stop. After all, I am not the marker guru in the family.

Edited on 23 June 2010 to protect the interests of the innocent.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Finished my review of the KFC Double Down

Well, I finally finished my review of the KFC Double Down chicken sandwich. I ate the sandwiches on Wednesday (a half of the Grilled, and a half of the Original Recipe---as if that makes it any healthier). Then I started to write the review on Friday (did some research also), but got sidetracked into the role of emotional support man late Friday. Yesterday...well, the post yesterday says how the first half of the day went; I did stabilize in the second half of the day---started researching the work of fiction I want to do this summer. Today has been hit and miss---friends, wife, cats have threatened to stop the progress. But in the end, I won. The review is done. Too bad the sandwich is probably still in my colon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What a way to start a day

There are certain joys to being a freelance writer, a college student, and being married---all at the same time.

This morning was not one of them. I had planned on writing a product review, a post on my Golden Dawn blog, and then working on one of my research papers after the online class today. Unfortunately, last night's grief followed me into this morning.

I hadn't even brushed my teeth yet, or gone to the bathroom, when I found myself on deck listening to the wife talk about the options that she could do rather than go back to work for the oh so lovely boss that she is currently working for.

For those who do not know this, I am prone to panic attacks. Thanks a lot DNA. I also come from a family where I was expected to sacrifice everything for others. Thanks a lot mom and dad. I was also told repeatly that it did not matter what I had to give up because I would never amount to anything. Thanks a lot...oh, you know who you are.

So now, there is a large part of me that is debating the merits of changing my summer plan, dropping out of college, and going back to work in food service. I could care less last night---in the sense that her switching jobs had nothing to do with my own business. Now I am ready to torch my own business because she dumped more emotional issues and ideas on my plate before I even had my morning soda.

I don't need to tell the writers in the room how that affects the writing, do I?

If you have any ideas about how to deal with days like today, please expound on them in the comment section.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bite me Citi VISA!

Warning! This post is not me blogging about my father or tax horror day, both of which deserve to be blogged about. No! Citi Card wanted to star in my blog instead today.

Ok, tax horror day---the biggest annoyance today should be the IRS and post office, right? Wrong.

I get home and open my mail to discover a notice that Citi is closing my Visa card. Why? Because they have revised their credit standards and I am too high on my utilization rate (balance vs. available credit).

Wait a second---ain't this the same company that just increased my credit on this exact same card earlier this year? Yes, it is. No, I have not charged anything new in the last two months. Hmmm, slightly schiziod, ain't we Citi Card?

Of course, this is the night that my dearly wife decided that she had to get her homework done (her television shows tomorrow night are more important than my shows tonight). I wanted to scream and shout, and she just wanted me to shut up. (I bet she will be upset when I attempt to do the same to her the next bad day she has.)

And this was the credit card I was planning on using this summer if money got tight. Way to go Citi---just tighten that rope around my neck.

I thought about calling Citi to contest this decision (as if that would do any good), but decided to write a poison ink article instead after seeing the 227,000 plus results that Google spat up. I hope that Citi likes my article about them. Oh yeah, that is right. Citi never plays any attention to those who they consider to be bad credit risks, who they promptly abuse with their credit card policies. Bite me Citi Card.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Poisoning people in the name of Free Speech

Today when trying to catch up on the various blogs I read (it has been a busy week), I ran across something I just did not understand. Over on Seth Godin's blog, he mentions a newspaper story about the posting of letter scores for health inspections. In the entry, he mentions that one restauranteer said that the mandatory posting for health inspections is a violation of free speech of the restaurant owner. Say what?!

Only in New York City, I guess.

I do not see how the government posting your health inspection scores is a violation of free speech. And I am a writer who spent ten years running a restaurant (and ten more just working in them). Free speech has nothing to do with poisoning people.

Saying that posting scores is a violation of free speech is like saying that news media reporting on the Tiger Woods cheating scandal was violating Tiger's rights of free speech. At best, it is slander or libel (I am always confused which one is which).

Does anyone really think that having rats and flys in your restaurant is something that has anything to do with free speech? How about improperly thawed and cooked chicken? Or employees not washing their hands?

This is just a lame threat from someone looking for a rock big enough to allow him to continue endanger the lives and health of other human beings. Forget free speech---just make sure that your food does not make me sick or die; that way, either one of us has anything to worry about.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sleep v the world

Today, I declared sleep the most important thing in the world. I thought about going to my first class of the day; then decided that it was better to sleep in an extra hour and a half, so that I don't have to take a nap after classes today. Have a big rough draft to kick out tonight for my Revolutionary War class (Second Amendment).

One thing that I have noticed is that in order to write, I need enough sleep. I am not sure if this is true of other writers, but it is true for me. I rack it up to the fact that the "muscle" a writer uses is their brain. If it is not working, then either is the writing. Given the fact that the brain needs sleep to function properly, sometimes sleep is the most important thing in the world for a writer.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quote of the Day: Renard on Critics

Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none.

--- Jules Renard

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cats and keyboards

One of the mysteries of life is why cats are drawn to lay on the keyboard as you are trying to write. As the day goes on, they take the keyboard over inch by inch. It is like the keyboard is a giant black hole attracting them with a massive energy field.

Don't believe me?

Then kindly explain how the sleeping cat on the back of the sofa suddenly rolls over and falls directly onto my keyboard.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dumbest idea ever to stop internet pirates

Continuing onto today's theme of torrents and pirates (see my post on how my favorite torrent client got banned over on Nerd Dreams), I recently read the dumbest idea ever to deal with internet pirates.

The idea was simple, just get all the content producers to commit to quit making stuff for ten years, so the pirates have nothing to steal. Brilliant, isn't it?

I just see a few problems with this plan. First off, some content producers' sole source of income flow comes from producing new content. I do not think that you are going to be able to convince them to go along with this plan.

Second off, some content producers are making way more than they are losing to piracy. Do you honestly think that you can convince everyone in Hollywood to quit making movies, television shows, and music for ten years?

Third off, in order for this to be effective, you would have to convince every content producer to go along with this idea. This includes content producers that have not joined the field yet...hmmm, I think that they may chose to use this as an opportunity to get their stuff heard without fighting the competition---it is called a monopoly.

Fourth off, you would have to convince those content producers that are beginning to figure out how to operate in this new envirnoment. There are some content producers (think pro-bloggers) that have figured out how to make money while giving their stuff away (go ahead, give this to your friends). I so doubt that you can convince them to go along with this idea.

And because of these reasons, this is the dumbest idea on how to deal with internet pirates ever.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Badly researched mailing lists

The other day, I recieved a piece of junk mail from Sports Illustrated. I am not sure how much it costs them to send me an advertisement in the mail, but they are definitely wasting their money. This particular piece was good because it was based on market research that just doesn't apply to me.

First off, the special offer was a "Game Day Jacket of your Favorite Team!" And on the envelope they have a picture of a Denver Broncos jacket. Ok, this is based on faulty logic and research...I live in Denver, therefore I must be a Broncos fan.

I am not a Broncos fan. I might even be a Broncos hater. I had the honor of helping clean up after one of their Super Bowl win parades. I am not sure exactly where it says that if your team wins the Super Bowl, you are allowed to break the windows of businesses as you celebrate; but it must be written someplace because I ended up cleaning up a lot of broken glass that day. Because of that, I decided to cheer for whatever team that they are playing is nothing personal; I just do not want to ever have to put up with that damage to one of my businesses ever again (either as an owner or manager---come to think of it, I do not want to deal with it as an employee either).

Second off, my tastes in clothes do not lean towards wearing team jackets. Don't get me wrong; I do have some sport themed items of clothing. Outside of the stuff from the University of Colorado, most of it has either been gifted to me or brought from the bargain bin. Some of it is second hand. I am a writer, as long as it is comfortable I do not care what it looks like. (Ok, not completely true, I will not wear any Raiders gear: that stuff is simply ugly.) My wife cares what I wear...I suspect that she would consider this jacket unacceptable.

Third and most important, I am NOT a sports fan. Outside of the nightly news, I watch about ten minutes of football a year. I average about twenty minutes of hockey. I will willingly watch an entire baseball game (Go Rockies!), but only if I am there in person (games on the TV just are not the same).

So why I am getting this advertisment in the mail? Well, I think that Sports Illustrated's logic is that I am a man living in Denver, therefore I must be a sports fan. Gee, that is some really good market research, Sports Illustrated. Now, we must admit that on some level it is all they need for the most part. I am not saying that men are herd animals...oh wait, maybe I am...but Sports Illustrated has been using this same system for years, and they have yet to go bankrupt.

(Before getting married, I used to buy a single issue of Sports Illustrated every year: the swimsuit issue. Hardly worth getting an entire subscription.)

It is not just Sports Illustrated that does not know the real me. For instance, I keep getting flyers about refinancing my mortage (that would require some more income and a better credit rating) and switching auto insurance companies (I don't drive).

Of course, the prize for badly researched mailing lists actually goes to the companies that keep sending my wife clothing catalogs and book club offers. My wife does not dress up (provided that what they are offering is dressing up); the clothes are the wrong style, and the models are the wrong ethnic background (just because we live in this neighborhood does not mean that we fit in...though I am not sure how anyone thinks this neighborhood is anything other than mixed, but I digress). As for the books, my wife does not read romances and she sure is not a Republican.

So here is to the badly research mailing lists...and the fact that you must mail a million of them out in a shotgun effect to make them worthwhile.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bad week, Bad mood, Bad writing day

One of the problems with being a writer is that being in a bad mood can threw a monkey wrench in your ability to write. Today is one of those days for me.

This last week has been less than nice on the monetary end. Between being denied a line of credit, the little tiff between the state of Colorado and Amazon, and the fact one of the programs I was taking part in is now only paying in credit vouchers, it has been unpleasant from a monetary viewpoint.

It is weeks like this that make me wonder if my toxic writing friends are right, and I should have never got involved in the writing business in the first place. Then I remember that it was a bad monetary situation that made me get serious about being a professional writer.

Honestly, I would have never became serious about being a writer if I did not become unemployed. My childhood taught me that being self-employed is a good way to lose everything you own. Then again, so is being unemployed.

It is on days like this, where my mood is basically black and toxic, that I am glad that I make to-do lists. A to-do list is the only thing that is keeping me going today...that and the fact that I refuse to give my toxic writing friends the satisfaction of seeing me quit the writing business.

So what if I was denied a line of credit? Everyone is being denied credit at the moment. Both consumers and business people are straped for credit at the moment. As long as I can figure out a way to stay one step ahead of the wolves, I will be ok. Being denied a line of credit is no reflection on my state of self-worth.

So what if Amazon is going to quit doing business with their Colorado based Amazon Associates because they are upset with the new tax law that the state of Colorado passed? I did not have that big of a stake in the program to begin with. It would have been nice to have the income flow, but there are other sources to tap that I have not started using yet.

The same can be said about the program that switching to credit vouchers. I did not have that much invested in the program to begin with. Getting paid in money would have been nice; but given the fact that I was not that much into being a glorified salesman, maybe it is best that I drop doing the program anyways.

(Note that from a business and economic viewpoint, I understand the reasons for each of these decisions that came down the pike this is just that understanding the reasons does not make it any more pleasant to deal with the effects on my bottom line.)

And none of these decisions should make me rethink what I am doing overall. My plan for my business is about as sound as it was before. On one hand, there is that thought that maybe I should change my plan, or that I should be hunting for a big score; on the other hand, I know from previous experience that making a decision in the mood that I am in leads to nothing but indecision.

So I will stick to my plan...for now...until I see that it needs to be revised...and I am rational enough to see the logic is changing it. Besides that it why you create a business plan for in the first use it for guiding your decisions when you are incapable of making a decision. Or at least, that is what I use them for.

As for my black bad mood, it is starting to is hard for it to survive the light that actual writing shines into it. Besides I have deadlines to meet with actual paychecks involved. And actual income should always win over potential "might happen" income.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

First Helium article in ages

Today before my online Inner Order class, I managed to write almost an entire article for Helium. (I needed to write the final paragraph after the online class was over, but outside of grammar checking it was done.)

This is the first article I have written for Helium in nine months. I sort of gave up writing for Helium when they decided to make rating mandatory for payment. As in actually maintaining a rating star.

I had no problem rating before this policy change. Rating was something I used to do when I was looking for article ideas, or thought I should be working and did not actually feel like doing any actual writing.

I did have a problem with rating after the policy change. Basically, there are times I only have a few minutes to write, and forcing me to rate instead annoyed me. There were a couple of times I even lost my rating star...and the few pennies I had coming to me. Since the policy change, they have revised the standards toward maintaining a rating star closer to what I have time for.

Yes, I do have an article that makes it worth my time to maintain a rating star. I am not going to point it out, but there is an article that I am earning a dollar a week from. Considering that I can now maintain a rating star with just a half hour of time a month, it makes sense to do so for my entire set of articles there (which together make it worthwhile to sepnd the time to maintain the penny flow---it beats restaurant work).

It was last month during one of my sessions of rating that I ran across a set of articles that I just did not like. They were about the importance of word count and article length on Helium. And honestly, I thought that they all missed the boat. I kept hoping for an article that was actually better than the others---alas, it never showed up.

After reading (and rating) a half dozen articles that said, "It is the rules" or "You must understand the history of the word count policy," I decided that another article was needed. Personally, I could care less about the fact that it is the rules for our Helium articles to be at least four hundred words, and that we are discouraged from going over 1500 words. I could care even less about the history of the policy which I already know.

What matters to me is that if you don't hit between these two amounts, odds are that your article is not going to be read. And let's be honest, I am all about the page views and Google love. Yes, I am interested in the real reason for the policy...after all, I am a working writer.

Any writer that does not have the skill to write between these amounts is not going to make much money on the internet. Or anywhere else for that matter. I came from the print market, and still work in it on occasion, and one of the first things that comes out of a writer's mouth when being given an assignment is "How many words?"

Over the last month, my mind kept going back to this bad set of articles. (Ok, they were not that bad...but they would not be what I would be looking for if I was searching for why it was important to maintain a certain standard for word count purposes.) So today, I just decided to write a more informative article. Or at least, I hope that it is more informative.

If nothing else, I know what type of writing drives me to the point that drives me to write better.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Yes, I used to write trash

Today, one of my friends commented about a link that one of his friends posted (hey, it is Facebook---this is how news travels nowdays). It was talking about the possibility that maybe exposure to pornography is not as bad as some people would like us to think it is.

I am not sure if it is or not. What I do know for sure is that I did a few rounds writing pornography when there was still a print market for it (the days before the birth of the internet). So I would like porn to have some redeeming social aspects.

Now, I am quite sure that some people are shocked that I will admit to this---openly where every future employer, friend and relative might see it.

First, I am a man...of course, I have been exposed to pornography.

Second, I live in the United States...of course, I have been exposed to pornography.

Third, I am a working writer, in pursuit of the happy buck...therefore, of course I have written and submitted pornographic stories. I cashed checks from this particular type of writing. For me, it was a job.

Would I consider writing pornography in the future? How much is someone willing to pay me? Honestly, a large enourgh paycheck and I am willing to consider writing anything.

I think that any employer who is considering hiring me as a writer will understand that I have done this. And they will not care. All they will care about is can I string a sentence together. Yes, I can.

As for my friends...well...if they are real friends, they already knew this. And any so-called friend who is shocked and decides to not be my friend because of some of the stuff I have written in the past, and possibly in the future, are not actually friends. I am not sure what they are, but friends they are not.

(I think most of my writing friends will definitely understand. Especially those who make their living though the pen.)

As for my I have any who have not disowned me already? It is hard to be concerned about what my relatives think when they have already used their last Trump against me and utterly failed to convince me to confirm to the limits of their opinions about right and wrong, about I should and should not be doing. In fact, I do not think that there anything that I could write that would not meet with their disapproval.

For those who are curious to read the article that I am talking about, it is Porn: Good for us?