Monday, December 26, 2011

This past year and the year ahead

Well, I do not know about you, but I am ready to show 2011 the way to the curb. Money-wise, it has been the worst year ever for me. My business has tanked in 2011, due to a drop in freelancing gigs, changes on the pageview sites, the Panda Farmer Google update set, and the general lack of money among my readers. Combine this with the fact that higher education funding has been cut to the max here in Colorado and I am so close to finishing my degree that I must finish it, and you end up with me being the poorest I have ever been...at least, as an adult (my childhood may have been worse---my father did go bankrupt once).

On the bright note, I did finally break down and start creating ebooks---both under this pen-name and some others (the stuff under the other pen-names I am not sure I want to be associated with me, but I really need the income). I am still working on formating issues.

Looking ahead to 2012, it looks like I will be doing some more ebooks. It also looks like I will finally graduate from the University of Colorado at Denver (I do have to talk to two advisors to make sure of that), not that it will matter all that much---I plan on applying to the literature and history Master programs. And I might be doing an Honors Thesis (it is not completely sure yet). And I am really hoping that I figure a way out of the giant debt trap that I am stuck in.

Happy New Year everyone!

May you never be ignorant; may you never be cold; may you never hunger; may you never thirst; may you always be thankful. So mote it be.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Statements that scream Run Away!

Welcome to another round of me mocking my spam emails. Today, I recieved one with all my favorite "Run Away!" sentences in a single email---you know those sentences that indicate the very opposite of what the sentence says.

The email started off with the sentence: "THIS IS NOT A SALES, SOLICITATION OR SPAM." And yes, it was in all caps.

This sentence is soon followed with the statement, "My client's bank account with us has been frozen due to some diminutive investigation on my client." I am not sure what the word "diminutive" means, but I do understand what "investigation" means. I am sure that the is something dodgy going on here.

There are the usual statements of how rich the client is, and how they really need to transfer the funds into an account that only him and his client know of---aka my account. Then to prove their honesty, the email writer says that his client "is a very generous man with the fear of God in him." Obviously, this person does not know my theory about the religious being bigger crooks than the non-believers.

Then the email writer goes into the fact that the amount of money is so large that he intends to use four or five people to "conclude this transfer." How nice---you plan on ripping off several people. Furthermore he says, "For transparency I will fully outline the sharing pattern, we have agreed to give you a non-negotiable 10%, of the total money transferred and believe me, it is a lot of cash. Once the funds are in your account, we would then meet in a suitable place to discuss final disbursement according to the percentages indicated above." Hmmm, for some reason the more he claims honesty, the more I believe that he is a crook.

But here is the best sentence of them all---the one my father would have pointed out as the sure-fire giveaway that someone is trying to con you. "Honesty is the success of this business and trust is our watchword in this transaction." ROFL! Really?! Seriously?! C'mon, only a crook would say something like this.

Oh, just to point out something else fishy, when one wants to transfer funds that are being held up because of a legal investigation, and they say "I guarantee you that this transaction will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law"---they are lying.

I would like to extend a big thanks to the email writer for providing me with something to blog about tonight. You are a credit to your profession---or is that demerit?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nanowrimo results sort of

This post is for those people who are curious about how much I managed to do in this year's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Basically, I gave up a couple of days into the month. Reason: I was swamped with homework. I am not sure how many words I wrote in November...provided that one is willing to count homework, it was at least twenty thousand words. I do plan on finishing the novel I started, but it is going to have to wait until the semester is over.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Back on Lulu

I am back on Lulu. Last night, I learned that Lulu is having a short story contest (actually, it is flash fiction that they are asking for---just 600 words). So I decided to put together a short piece, starring Basil James, the spy-magician I created a couple of years ago during a Nanowrimo.

I honestly do not plan on selling a single copy (price floor is $1.49 currently on Lulu) considering that I set the price to $2.99. But then again, it was the contest entry that I was interested in---I could use a Barnes and Noble NOOK.

Anyways, just in case you are curious, the title of the flash piece is Magic and Bullets: A Basil James Incident.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Future is so bright I gotta wear shades

Last night, I was trying to explain how writers make money through royalities to my wife. I might have had an easier time eplaining nuclear physics to her. In particular, I was trying to describe what I was doing on Smashwords, and why I suspected that in the long run I would hit the break-even point on some (if not all) of my writing there.

Midway through the conversation, I realized that my wife did not even understand the concept behind book advances. For the one person in the audience who has only been involved in the modern world of ebook publishing, an advance was something that publishers used to give to writers...it is still possible to get an advance today, provided that you are someone like Stephen King, who is guaranteed to sell copies even if one's writing bores the general public to tears and one's ideas are lifted from other writers.

My wife was not even aware that book advances had to be earned back before a writer got more money from the publishers, much like she did not realize that some writers took fifteen years to get their first book contract and that it can take three years to get your book onto store shelves.

(Gee, why do some of us decide that ebook through self-publication outlets are a better option---getting published by a Big Six legacy publishers sounds so quick and easy; you will be raking in the money before you die.)

Of course, I understand her concerns. She would like me to be making money (as getting a paycheck) tomorrow, rather than a quarter or three down the road. Again, for the newbie in the audience, even on a self-pub site like Smashwords, it can take awhile to get cut a check; it takes a calendar quarter for the distributors (iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, etc.) to send their sales figures to Smashwords, who in turn waits to pay you when the next quarter ends (plus thirty days)---nevertheless, it is still more timely than the print market was.

Anyways, I digress. The important part is that I can foresee making my time investment back (provided that the initial figures are a true indication of how well I am going to do). In fact, I may even make a nice little profit. That means that the future is a little brighter; I might have to invest in a new pair of sunglasses.

For those who are curious what I am doing on Smashwords, you can download a free copy of some my work. The rest of you can just sit here and watch the following video by Timbuk 3: The Future's So Bright.

 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Watching my ads

I am not sure about other bloggers who use adsense, but there are days I just have to wonder how they are picking my ads. Looking over my Golden Dawn blog, I noticed that I had ads about buying gold, invisible dog/cat fences, American Girl mini-dolls, and Babies R Us. Only the ad about invisible pet fences make any sense to me---after all, I do talk about my cats a lot, besides posting more than my fair share of cute kitty pictures there.

But gold? None of my readers have enourgh money to invest in gold. American Girl mini-dolls? I am not sure how any of my posts gets there---are we perhaps using the mini-dolls as poppets for voudoun? And Babies R Us---oh, that must be commentary by adsense about my latest rant post where I talk about the annoyance I felt about a post about proper employment for a Rosicrucian getting read as a criticism against someone else's Order and about my lack of belief in their promises of spiritual immortality (I have yet to figure how they are actually getting to that conclusion, especially about my beliefs about spiritual immortality, which bears no resembalance to what they are saying that I believe.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Depression

When cats get depressed.
Thanks to college, bad genes and upbringing, and not eating right, I have been rather depressed lately.

The stress of college and the joys of senior year has combined with a small student loan problem to create a perfect storm of depression. Of course, my genetics and childhood programming does not help. And I have gotten to the point that I am not even eating out of the vending machines...which would be good, except that I am generally not eating; even vending machine food is better than no food at all.

All this depression is having an effect on my school work, as well as my writing.

Thanks to the depression and my empty wallet, I have considered dropping out of college to increase the liklihood of getting a job. For some reason, employers do not want to consider anyone who is not available 24/7---especially in the only types of work that I am qualified for (restaurant and retail).

I need a piece of paper to be able to get a real job, but I need a real job to make sure that I survive long enourgh to get the piece of paper. It is a rather wicked little Catch-22 that I am stuck in. (By "real job" I mean one that does require me to drop out of school for minimum wage.)

And today on Facebook, I discovered a new twist. One of my Facebook friends (a writer of Tarot and Wiccan material) recently took a "day job" to help make ends meet---and now, she has people thinking that she is no longer an occultist or an author anymore.

Seriously?! I have never understood the idea that if you are an occult writer, or at least a real one, that you cannot have a day job. Given how small occult book sales are, one automatically needs a day job, or another type of writing gig, to support oneself. It is the reason that I occasionally write other type of stuff under another penname---I like to get paid occasionally.

Anyways, I am hoping that my depression lifts soon. That and the problem with my student loan is fixed. Otherwise, I am going to have to start cruising the LolCats sites to cheer myself up...and that is even worse for my schoolwork and writing than the depression is.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thirty books all with the same cover

Warning---in this post I am talking about a writer who writes erotica...well, that is the polite term for it.

So tonight, I decide to spend some time on Smashwords...because I had no desire to read my homework. While there I am checking out the various books that people are putting up. I had the adult filter off because I am curious about whether that is a viable money making choice.

(Feel free to blame my curiosity about possible money making options on the fact that part of my student loan has still not gone through yet, and the semester is about to wound down. And I thought some merchants paid out slow.)

While there, I noticed that one of the erotica writers (ok, let's be honest---it is pornography) has used the same cover for thirty of their books. The cover for Summer Suds, a sex romp that starts at a car wash is the same cover (with just the title changed) as Summer Camp Surprise, and the list goes on for twenty-eight more books. They do have a couple of other covers, including one that is used twice.

Nevertheless, I find myself wondering isn't there some rule of thumb that you want the covers of your book to be different from one another? Or does that just apply to actual physical books?

Now, I suspect that the only reason that this writer is even using a cover is that you must have a cover to get into the premium catalog (aka the rest of the distribution network). But seriously, are they so cheap that they are only willing to spend money on one "safe" cover? Looking at their regular website, I realized that they are willing to buy for the more racier, not approved by Apple style of covers (lots of naked flesh and sex acts if you are curious).

So are clothes really that expensive that more than one cover is out of their price range? Or does it really not matter if all your erotica titles have the same cover? And does this also apply to other types of ebooks?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Decided to modify my pricing system

Based on comments made by my peers, I decided to modify my non-fiction ebook pricing system...a little bit.

*Listens to a couple of people running away because he called them "peers."*

I am now using an ebook pricing system based on the following factors:

How original was it? (The more I have to think, the more you have to pay.)
How focused was I while writing it? (Yes, you get to pay more if you want a focused book.)
How advanced is the information? (This is the information-value setting.)
Does it have a lot of diagrams and pictures? (Art supplies cost money; scanning and photo editing takes time.)
How long is it? (Based on word count.)

Note that this does not mean that all my ebooks are going to confirm to this system, but most will.

Based on this new system, Pizza Boxes on the Floor should be priced at $5.99; it would be $7.99 if it was not reprints and I would have been more focused while writing it. There are reasons why it is not priced based on this system---time will tell if those reasons were good reasons or not.

The latest ebook of mine, Five Reasons Why Magic Fails, is priced at $4.99 based on this pricing system.

Of course, having a pricing system opens up the door for critics to claim that all occult writers are only writing for the money. To that I reply, my cats would like to eat (and their food bill is huge, even when they are forced to eat the cheapest store brand). If it is wrong for my cats to eat, then don't pay my ebooks.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It is time to consider reference books

Once again, it is time to mock my spam mail. This first gem of a sentence is supposely from Paypal:

A strange ip from a different location was recently login into your Paypal account and we have decided to limitate your account on our ongoing effort to protect your account and our relationship, we monitor your account for possible fraudulent activity.

Limitate? Is that actually a word? (Yes, I am too lazy to look for my dictionary.)

Here is another gem of a sentence from some crime commissioner:

Although he has being arrested and put to jail, now laid with Financial action task force custody in Paris de France.
Can we charge you with a crime for abusing our eyes with your murder of proper verb tenses? And I am not sure what the last part of the sentence is supposed to say, so I am guessing a charge of kidnapping sense of meaning is in order too.

Here is a gem from someone who needs a stylebook as well as a grammar lesson:

The agreement reached between the united state of America governments and Nigeria Government under Goodluck Ebere Jonathan,The President Federal republic of Nigeria agreed to release US$1.5M US dollars to you been part payment of your Inheritance / Contract Sum.

Once again, I would like to thank spammers, phishers, and cons for making my English sound so much better. Keep up the good work of abusing the English language for blood and profit.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I have read a bad blog about you

The other day, I got a private message on Twitter stating that read:

I just read a really bad blog about you.

The message also included a shorted URL that rotated through a "session timed out" page before landing on what looks like the Twitter log-in page. I did not go any further. For one thing, the webaddress was not right, and I was already logged into Twitter on another tab.

I think that it is safe to presume that it is a phishing campaign.

But I will admit that it made me curious, so I googled myself "Morgaan Drake Eckstein." The only thing I saw bad in the first five pages was a couple of social networking profiles that show no activity.

I know that there is bad stuff written about me on the internet---after all, I blog about Golden Dawn and the occult. The number one pasttime of certain people in those fields is to badmouth anyone that looks like they might be an authority someday. In fact, I believe that this applies to all working writers.

My advice is to not really gave a duck's butt about bad blog posts about oneself, and just keep working. If nothing else, it will annoy the spammers and your critics.

Monday, October 31, 2011

National Novel Writing Month 2011

So in a moment of insanity, I decided that I am going to attempt to do the National Novel Writing Month Goal of writing 50 thousand words while doing four literature classes. What I know about my novel so far is that it is humor, and the title is Then the Cat Threw Up. That is all I know. No plot, no plan, and several large papers to write for my classes. It should be a disaster.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Epic publishing fail

Occasionally on the internet, one gets lucky and sees someone's mistake before they clean it up. Today's winner is from Smashwords. I am not sure what to point out as the biggest mistake---the cover or the price. Obviously, they uploaded the wrong cover, and I am positive that the price is also wrong.

But never fear, the person caught their mistake(s) and the ebook is no longer available to buy. I presume that they are fixing the problem as I write this.

And if the writer in question ever sees this, just remember that if you are lucky, someday you will be able to laugh at one of my mistakes.

Let's count the ways that this one is wrong.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Does peer pressure work?

Today, I was reading the blog of another writer, and I noticed that they had a little note in the sidebar about the number of words that they have written in their current project. Which brings me to the question---does peer pressure work for any writer?

One of the suggestions that the Nanowrimo people suggest is telling people that you are working on a novel. The theory is that people will hound you to keep up your stream and complete the project in a timely manner. Who are these people who can make a writer get to work?

My friends are the last people who can motivate me to work. In fact, it is almost certain that my friends will cause me to slack off. And my beloved wife is no help either. I think it is mainly because she doesn't picture me as a writer.

(Honestly, can you picture me as a college professor? That is what my wife thinks I should be.)

I have never found peer pressure to be a good motivator for me. Maybe I am weird; perhaps there are writers who find that posting their process helps motivate them.

For myself, I have found that self-motivation is more important. Then again, I have OCD tendencies. A project gets under my skin, and I can't focus completely on anything else until I work it out of my system. Not even the threats of an editor matches the head of stream I can generate when my touch of insanity rears its head.

(I call it insanity not because I think that I am insane, but rather because of how other people [non-writers] react to me when I am in its grip.)

And if you are curious about my latest project---I have written a whole three words. C'mon peer pressure! Bring it on!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Am I as kind as my spam filter?

Ok, I presume that the following method of writing is merely a way to try to fool my spam filter.

"I am prayerfully lett1ng all to you hop1ng that you w1ll respond pos1t1vely and wont betray my trust too."

I just recieved an entire email written this way. By the way, it did not fool my spam filter. Nice try, but no can do. And even if it did get past my spam filter, I would have deleted based on the writing style alone (not to mention the content).

Gee, I guess that I am meaner than my spam filter.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

How much is a twitter account worth?

Today, I stumbled across someone trying to sell their Twitter account for $300.

I was on Twitter, culling out some of the more useless people that I was following on Twitter. Mainly because I hit one of Twitter's limits on following people, so I was removing some of the people who never actually tweet.

Anyways, this person has 28,197 followers, and is following 29,768 people. They are listed on 126 lists. They have made 428 tweets, though their last tweet was on July 12th.

But is this Tweeter account worth three hundred dollars?

Beats me. I know that it is out of my price range at the moment. And it probably would be worthless to me; after all, I am dealing with a specialized market. The account was definitely not rigged for my market.

Yet, I still wonder if the account is worth three hundred dollars to someone who is less focused on a specific market than I am. Who knows. Nevertheless, I found it interesting---don't you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pricing ebooks

I have been thinking a lot lately about how ebooks are priced. Mainly because I just started to get back into the writing game after a brief absence.

(Not that it is a serious venture back into the field, more like a sticking my toe into a pool of slime and wondering why I did so. For those who are curious about how serious I am taking it, just slip over to Smashwords and take a gander at my little test project, Pizza Boxes on the Floor.)

Honestly, looking around the internet, it looks like the Wild West when it comes to determining ebook prices.

The traditional publishers are still secretly trying to charge the same amount for an ebook as they are for a physical copy. Actually, the other day, I saw a history book that actually cost more for the ebook copy than a physical copy. I am guessing that some publishers believe that people will be willing to pay for convenience.

In my case, I am not willing to pay for convenience. Or rather I am not willing to have to pay for a ebook and then have to pay again for a hard copy with actual page numbers that I can cite in a college paper.

On the other side of the scale, there are the pirates who believe that no one should make a penny from any ebook. I am sorry, my cats would like to eat; therefore, I need to get paid something. And yes, if I am going to be pirated, than one of the pirate is going to have to pay a copy first.

So the question will arise about why I choose a 99 cent price for a 8860 word ebook, especially one that a reader will some time can find almost the entirety of for free on the internet already.

Well,  I had three choices.

First option, the "reader names their own price"---there are two problems with this option. One, I know that a lot of readers would download the entire book and not read any more than the free preview that I am already offering; and two, there are outlets who would not carry the ebook if this option was choosen.

Second option, the "free ebook" option---I am sorry, my favorite charity is my cats, and they would like to eat. If I wanted to give stuff away, I would have choosen the first option; it would result in the same amount of income.

Third option, "pick a price that ends in 99 cents," better known as the iBookstore price force---iBookstore, if you are charging for a book, will automatically round the price to the nearest 99 cents. It is an iCommerce thing (I am sure that Apple is going to trademark that term soon enourgh).

So in the interests of greed, because we all know that occult writers only write books for the money, I went with the third option, and decided 99 cents was a good price for 8860 words.

Is 99 cents that much? Some people are going to say it is. But I do not think so. After all, that is how much a can of cat food is being sold for at Walgreens (and they label that a "great buy"). And my cats would like to occasionally eat.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

First Smashwords test project up

Now available on Smashwords.
Well, I finally managed to drive myself to complete a test project for Smashwords. It is a collection of the dozen articles I wrote in 2010 for the Hearthstone Community Church newsletter, which I titled Pizza Boxes on the Floor (after the floor diagram I used that year during the annual ritual that I conduct for Hearthstone and Bast Temple).

I still want to complete another test project in a different field for Smashwords. After all, writing about Wicca and Golden Dawn is not something that looks like it will be a big seller on Smashwords. Honestly, the test project was more about figuring out the horrors of the formatting process than it was about making a buck. In theory, the formatting of the next project will be quicker (yeah, right).

It was more important today that I edited the few pictures that I took yesterday of my wife's jewelry than it was for me to finish this test project. I am not sure when she is going to get the three new items up on the Etsy shop, Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery, but she is liable to sell them before I sell a single copy of my little ebook.

Anyways, that was my work day today and yesterday. Fun, fun, fun.

I am proud of this bracelet photo---makes it almost look like I am a professional photographer.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Internal conflict

The cover for Pizza Boxes on the Floor.
I spent some time working on the test project that I plan on putting up on Smashwords today.

I did this instead of taking more photos of my wife's jewelry for her Etsy shop, Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery.

The result?

Yes, that is right. I feel great guilt for actually spending time working on my own business.

It is something that I have fought for years, this alarming tendency to feel guilt whenever I put my own concerns and needs before those of other people.

I used to blame it on my upbringing, but that is unfair to my family. After all, it is not like I haven't had twenty years plus to learn to become a selfish b******. The fact that I have not overcame the problem is probably a good indication that it is actually something deep inside me that is broken, something that no amount of familial programming hardly affected at all.

I sometimes wonder if other writers feel this way.

Probably not. After all, most writers are much more sane than I am.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What I have been up to lately

Halloween and kittens---what could be more fun?
My regular readers may or may not noticed that I have been ignoring this blog as well as my other blogs lately. The reason is that the semester is just kicking my a**. Remind me never to take four literature classes in the same semester ever again.

There is also the added bonus of monetary worries. Under normal conditions, I would attempt to make it up with quick and dirty writing...unfortunately, as I have already noted, this semester is a PITA.

I am no longer doing an astrology column for Campus Connection, the student newspaper of the Community College of Denver. I am not sure why I wasn't contacted for this semester; and after the difficulties of getting payment from them last semester, I am not sure that I even care. While it means that I have to make up for that bit of income loss, given the fact that this semester is a monster, it might have been a good thing in disguise.

Outside of the lack of money, time and energy, I am doing well. I may actually get a test-project up on Smashwords before the end of the year. I hope. Maybe not. Who knows? Time will tell.

Being honest, I will admit that the only thing I foresee accomplishing for sure is the 31 Days of Halloween Kitties that I am doing on my Golden Dawn blog. And that is just a bit of fun to lighten up the mood. Ironically, there may not be a single picture of any of my own cats in the set. You would think that given the number of cats I have that I would be able to get one of them to wear a hat; but no, I can't. They tell me that they are much better than the cats you see on the internet wearing silly hats. They may be right.

So anyways, if you don't see me updating this or the other blogs, presume that I am busy reading books and writing papers instead...because if I am not doing that, then I am busy trying to sell my blood for money.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Waving hi to South Korea

Looking over my stats for this blog tonight, I discovered something interesting.

The biggest section of my audience for the month has been mostly from South Korea, a little over double the next biggest share of pageviews from the United States.

For the week, the traffic from South Korea has been almost double the traffic from the United States.

So far today, it has been neck and neck for the United States and South Korea.

For all time page views, the United States wins; but South Korea still is the second biggest share of my audience, representing a third as many views as from the United States.

And all this makes me wonder---What do the South Koreans find so interesting about my blog? Is it actual South Koreans, or just people living in South Korea?

Nevertheless, I would like to say a big hi to everyone in South Korea. Thanks for finding my blog.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Facebook is not going to charge you

There is a bad meme, a Facebook Status Virus, making the rounds today. It is one of those copy and paste to your status things insisting that Facebook is about to start charging users for the service.

It is false, untrue, and completely wrong.

Facebook is not about to charge you for using the service.

Sure, they change your privacy settings back to their uber-preferred "everything is public" setting everytime you turn your back on them.

Sure, they change the layout everytime the wind shifts.

But they are not going to charge you for using the service.

You see, they are already making quite a bit off of you. They count up all your eyeballs, and tell their advertisers that they have a mighty X number of eyes available to look at advertisements everyday.

And then the advertisers hand them big bags of money.

Charging you to use Facebook would hurt their eyeball count, and the flow of those big bags of money that they love so much. They are not going to kill the golden goose by making it pay.

No, they are going to continue to mess up your settings, and changing the layout...that way, you keep noticing the ads. After all, it is ok to upset the golden goose as long as you don't kill it.

Business advice from Winning the email lottery

I won the email freelotto lottery. Or so, I have been told...

...with about fifty emails.

Yes, it is a phishing campaign.

But it does remind me of some important internet business advice:

If you are going to use an automated email program, make sure that it does not send multiple emails to the same email address. And if you have multiple email mailing lists, figure out how to sync the lists.

Why?

Because if someone recieves the exact same email from a single or multiple senders, they are more likely to treat it as spam, even if their spam filters do not catch it.

And there you go, my winning prize in the email freelotto lottery, a crappy bit of internet business advice. Ain't you glad that I shared the winnings with you?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th


Image courtesy of Brian Nieman and adopted by the Library of Congress for their 9/11/01 exhibition.
Ten years ago, the Twin Towers fell in a terrorist attack.

And I suppose that I really should write something about it.

(Beyond the article about how 9/11 affected me that is still awaiting approval on one of the online writing sites---it could be weeks before it goes live at the pace that they are moving---but that was more about how the terror attack affected the business that I was working for at the time and affected my decision to go to college.)

But honestly, I was more deeply concerned about the Columbia school shooting (or any school shooting for that matter). School shootings affect me more emotionally than the events of September 11th ever have.

I guess it is because I have studied too many wars. Senseless deaths happen in all wars. Entire cities are destoryed periodically in the name of idealogies and terrority conquest.

There is also the little fact that I was born on the anniversary of the German invasion of Poland. I was raised hearing stories about the horrors of Nazi Germany and what happened in that conflict.

For me, outside of the reactions of people in the local community, the events that happened in New York City that day ten years ago are remote. Sure, I am reminded of it every time I have to go through a security checkpoint (most of which are laughable when you actually have been taught something about security measures); but beyond that for me, 9/11 was a bizzare act in a rather strange war, one that the United States started decades ago.

(Forgive me, I am a history major. I have seen enourgh to convince me that there are some real complaints to be lodged against the United States about our actions in the Middle East before 2001---I just wish that there were other ways to address the wrongs that the United States did without having to blow up and kill innocent people. And if you really want to hear about horrors, read up on the Crusades.)

It is the school shootings that cut me to the bone. I understand the envirnoment they happen in. And I understand how mentally ill someone must be to commit them. For me, school shootings are an act of terror---bombing buildings and civilians are just acts of war.

I am not saying that we should forget 9/11. It was a tragedy.

I am just saying that I did not have as strong of an emotional reaction as others had to it.

It makes me wonder if I have been writing about non-humans for too long.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What information do identity thieves want?

Looking through my spam mail folder today, I found a perfect example to illustrate the type of information that identity thieves want to get from you, the type of information that allows someone to steal your identity.

The email is supposely from PayPal, citing a claim that the email address of my PayPal account has been changed causing my PayPal account to be temporary suspended, and that I need to give them certain information to restore my account.

The information that they, identity thieves---not PayPal, is asking for is:

My Full Name
My Address
My Mother's Maiden Name
My Date of Birth
My Social Security Number
One of my Credit or Debit Card Account Numbers, along with the issuing banks' name, the expiration date, the Card Security Code (CSC---the little number on the back that proves that you have the physical card), and my PIN (Personal Identification Number) for that card

By the way, some of this information, PayPal didn't even ask for when I opened my account. And if they did ask for it, I would be very alarmed---hint, never give anyone your PIN or Passwords that belongs to another account.

With this type of information, a identity thief can steal your identity, they can also instantly withdraw all your money from one of your accounts or use all the credit on one of your cards.

It is a scary world out there people, so be careful who you give this type of personal information to.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mathematics of Expertise

Today, I was reading a post over on FreelanceFolder on The Mathematics of Freelancing. Laura Spencer was talking about what I refer to as "critical mass equations"---those times when in order to make the happy buck, one has to send off a ton of stuff. Spencer was also talking about good bookkeeping practices---something that a lot of freelancers seem to ignore.

To the examples that she mentioned, I would also add "mathematics of expertise." This is how to figure out when it is cheaper to pick up the phone and call an expert in to do a job that you can do yourself.

It is something that I learned from my father. He was a big DIYer (do-it-yourself-er). But every once in awhile, he would pay someone else to do a task for him.

For the record, I am not a big DIYer. I am sort-of a kluntz. There is also the fact that I have no desire to know how to fix my own car---not that I own a car---but all men in my family are supposed to know how to fix one. There are a lot of things that I have no desire to learn how to fix.

For instance, one of my father-in-laws (my wife's biological father) believes that I should invest in some tools and do all the plumbing repairs that homeowners eventually need to do. In his mind, I should not be picking up the phone and calling in a plumber to do the job for me.

I disagree.

There is actually math involved in my reasoning for doing this.

When you add up all the time, it takes me to figure out what DIY book to read, the time it takes me to go to the hardware store, the time it takes me to screw up the first attempt to fix the problem, the time it takes me to figure out what the bloody hell I did wrong (sorry about swearing there), the second trip to the hardware store, plus the time to redo the job and hopefully finally get it right, when you add up all that time and grief, and compare it to the amount that I make as a freelancer, you discover something important.

I almost always lose more income than I saved by doing the job myself.

An actual expert not only can do the job quicker, and get it actually done right, than I; but they can do it for a cheaper price than the amount of income I would lose if I attempted to do the job myself.

For me, that is something inportant to know. After all, in my family, men are supposed to do all the repairs and never call in an expert to do it for them.

And as a freelancer, the logic extends to editing, advertising, etc.

Honestly, I would rather pay the experts to do their job while I focus on the area of my expertise. And that is why I will never be considered a "real man" by my father-in-law.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How taking photographs is like writing

Ankh stamped offering bowl

Ankh stamped black and white offering bowl and chalice

Inside rim of ankh stamped black and white chalice
One of the things that I have noticed while taking photos for Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery is that photography reminds me a heck of a lot of writing.

You start off with a plan of what pictures you want to create.

You take a lot of shots.

Then you edit what you have done.

Sometimes you have done nothing more than waste your time. Other times, you discover that pieces look much better than you expected.

Outside of the equipment being different, writing is much the same---outlines, rough drafts, and editing. Sometimes it is bad writing; sometimes it is wonderful.

Maybe it is just me who feels this way. Maybe the two fields are nothing alike.

[The pictures used in this post are of pottery that is currently available at SpiritWays, 3301 E. Colfax, Denver Colorado.]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

End of summer

Handmade Robin Egg Blue Triple Spiral Star Pendant
Tomorrow is the first day of the semester, which means that today is the last day of my summer vacation. So what did I get accomplished this summer? Well, I took a lot of jewelry photos for my wife's business, Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery. And that is pretty much what I accomplished all summer.

I got very little writing done. I did set up a couple of new blogs---one for my wife (though I am going to be doing all the posting), another for a comic strip that I hope to get done...someday.

I made some progress on the two novels that I am currently working on, but not enourgh that I can slap a release date on either one of them. For the past month or so, I have been supposed to be working on a Smashwords test project (actually two of them)...but it keeps getting put on the backburner.

In fact, I would say that my own business had been on the backburner all summer. For some reason, I choose to place my wife's new business ahead of my own. I am sure that my friends will have their theories about why I did that---most of the theories will involve mental illness.

Speaking of mental illness, somehow I managed to avoid a really bad depression this summer despite the fact that I am no better off this summer than I had been during the previous summers. (Actually, I was probably worse off this summer---but I am afraid to look at the paperwork that would confirm that theory. I find that the lack of money in my bank accounts depressing.)

So tomorrow is the state of the Fall semester. I would promise myself to do better this coming term...but I have a whole table covered with books I have to read for my literature classes, so I am not going to be holding my breath on that front.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

QoD Stephen King on Vampires

"Here's what vampires shouldn't be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and only work at night; lovelorn southern gentlemen; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewy eyes.

"What should they be?

"Killers, honey. Stone killers who never get enourgh of that tasty Type-A. Bad boys and girls. Hunters. In other words, Midnight America. Red, white and blue, accent on the red. Those vamps got hijacked by a lot of soft-focus romance."

---Stephen King, in the introduction of American Vampire (Scott Snyder {writer} and Rafael Albuquerque {artist}) comic book series collection.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Such a descriptive program name

Sometimes, I wonder who comes up with the names for various computer programs. For instance, last night when I was updating the dino-computer (something I have to do because my wife knows nothing about updating any of the computers), I was looking though the list of Windows updates that were being installed.

There were the numerous security updates (which for some reason makes me question the overall security of Microsoft products), the Malicious Software Removal Tool update (a tool I have only used once and hope never to have to use ever again), and the Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 Junk Mail Filter update (I have never actually used Outlook ever---or at least, I don't think I have).

But the update that got my attention was Rollup for ActiveX Killbits for Windows (version does not matter---three computers, three different versions were updated by the time I was done).

What is Rollup? (It sounds like something that we used to do with the sidewalks in Brush Colorado...too harsh on a simple small town?)

What is ActiveX? (Is that better than ActiveW?)

And what is Killbits? (Is there a guy out there by the name of Bits who needs to be killed? Will Uma Thurman succeed? Do they have a kid?)

I am not sure what Killbits is, but I really like the sound of the program name. Don't mess with me; I am armed with Killbits.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Been taking photos for a long time

A happy little cauldron of mint.

While digging though the photos on the computer today, looking for a photo for Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery, I realized that I have been taking pottery pictures off and on for six years now. Some of the older pictures I am still proud of (hey, I still think that they still look pretty good). For instance, this photo from September 2008. It is a picture of one of the cauldrons that my wife throws on the wife; the mint that I put in it is from my own herb garden (I think it was spearmint).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This is a cat, not a shark

There are times I look around the internet and wonder if real live human beings ever double-check what their automated programs are doing. For instance, take the front page of Helium today.

What is wrong with this picture?
 Everyday, Helium has a list of articles featured on their front page, and each article has a little picture above it. Now sometimes these pictures seem to have nothing to do with the articles that they are illustrating. Can you spot today's howler?

Did you spot the picture that seems to have nothing to do with the article it is associated with?

Seriously, a computer program has to be doing this, right? Or some employee with a strange sense of humor laughing to themselves. Because not a day goes by that I do not look at the list of articles and their associated pictures and wonder in what galaxy some of these choices make the slightest bit of sense.

Let me be clear.

This is a cat, not a shark.

The only thing that cats and sharks have in common is that they are animals. We can't even claim that they are both predators; one of my cats would strave to death if he had to catch his own dinner. And kitty is very unhappy when you toss them into the ocean...which may make dangerous to try to put them in it.

I guess that it is a good thing that the little search engine spiders cannot see pictures...because I think they would take points off your SEO score if they could.




Monday, August 1, 2011

You are responsible for your own success

There are times I do not understand how other people run their businesses. Saturday was one of those days. I probably should not be surprised by that fact.

Saturday, I was helping my wife at one of the local Denver craftshows.

Now, my day started off with a screaming migraine. So I will admit that after helping set up the booth, I sneaked off and took a nap (in the hot car---it was either do that or pass out in the back of the booth---I thought that the car would be a better business decision, at least appearance-wise). In my defense, I would like to state that it is my wife's business, and she was present---I was merely a glorified pack-mule (unpaid employee) the day of the show.

But when I came back, I helped. In other words, I sat in the booth and said hello to everyone that walked by the front of the booth. It is something that I learned to do when running a restaurant in a food court. The goal is to get them to look at your place of business.

My wife did her tour of the other booths. When she returned, I did my lap around the craftshow. In my case, I was fishing for information. Professional hazard, I am afraid; my true profession is generally nosy. Even when we have no vested interest at all in the subject of study.

In the case of several vendors, I was surprised that they were merely sitting in the back of their booths, and not saying hi to anyone. Often the state of the handmade craft product in question matched the care that the customer was greeted with.

The general impression I got was that several of the vendors were of the impression that it was not worth their effort. Call it a dissatisfaction with the venue. Now, I will admit that I would have liked to see more foot traffic. At the beginning of the show, I guessed that this was the first show. I was wrong. It was the second show...except that the first one had been forced into one of the buildings because of the weather---that sorta makes my guess right, doesn't it?

But to treat the few people that did walk though the craftshow in such a manner was...quite honestly, the business manager in me was appalled.

I was even more appalled at the end of the show. Now, I do not mean to easedrop...well, I am a writer and a comedic blogger...hey, it is not wrong to easedrop when it is part of the nature of your profession to easedrop. *sticks out tongue*

Several vendors were upset. Annoyed that enourgh advertising hadn't been done. Annoyed that we were competiting with another event (don't all craftshows happen the same day as other events?). Generally annoyed.

But here is the part where I do not understand their business plan. Turns out a couple of the complainers did not do any advertising of their own. Say what?!

I will admit that my own advertising of the event was not the world's best, but at least me and my wife made an effort. Flawed advertising still is better than no advertising at all. And the only person that you can be sure is going to advertise your business warmly is yourself.

But these people would rather place the blame solely on the event's organizer. I am sorry; but if you do not advertise your own business, you have to assume some of the blame for your failure.

Now, I am quite sure that these merchants would insist that I am wrong about this. After all, I am just a freelance writer, artist, photographer, and someone who spent ten years running a restaurant---I don't know anything about running their type of business. After all, writers have agents and publishing houses backing their moves---if only that was true even in the good old days. And artists and photographers are never good at running businesses---tell that to the professional photographer who is using the show to advertise her regular bread and butter work. And restaurant management does not translate into being able to sell crafts---hmmm, yeah, selling many little items to make the overhead for the day is nothing like what happens at the craftshows. (Did I miss any objectations to me having an opinion?)

I am sorry. Just because you paid a fee to be at a show does not mean that you are not responsible for your own advertising. If it is the typical show, a lot of the money collected is going towards renting the space that the show is taking place in. In fact, there may not be any money left over with the newer and cheaper craftshows.

The sad truth is that you are responsible for doing what is necessary to make your business successful. And when you have a bad business day, you must assume part of the blame...especially if you did nothing to get the attention of potential customers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Do I write product descriptions?

The other day, a friend of mine asked me if I was writing the product descriptions for my wife's items on Etsy (Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery). The short answer is No.

Why? Quite simply my wife tends to be a little obsessive-compulsive. And bossy. She tends to know what she wants the description to say; often the ideas for the description comes while she is making the piece.

So while I have done product descriptions in the past, and will do more in the future, odds are that I will not actually do any of hers.

Now, that is not to say I will not be looking at her descriptions and making suggestions. After all, I do SEO and keyword work---but ultimately, suggestions is the outer limit of my involvement on that front.

Can you tell I am married?

I love the detail on this picture.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Churning the annoyed

Writing several different blogs, and keeping one eye on my future career, I read a certain amount of blogs from the problogging community (you know those people that are making a living by being bloggers). And one of the things occasionally kicked around those circles is that you are probably not doing a good job as a blogger if you are not making people upset.

Now, I like annoying people. I am good at it. Not as good as Scott Adams (Dilbert). But I am working on it.

Unfortunately, one of the communities I blog in is the Golden Dawn community. Due to the mud-slinging that surrounded a certain trademark lawsuit and the constant "my group is better than your group" bear-baiting, the community (or at least, some members of it) believe that we should not upset anyone. No flaming, no bear-baiting, and no telling people that they are headed in the wrong direction.

Last night, I was reminded of this as I wrote a series of short rants about some of the things I recently read on the corner of the internet Golden Dawn has rooted in. It was a post that promises to annoy everyone, except for the couple of people who tend to keep a low profile or generally don't give a shit (it is hard to target and annoy people like that).

When I got done writing the post, I thought about not publishing it. Then I said, "What the heck. This stuff needs to be said, and anyone who does not like it does not have to read my blog in the first place."

I had at least one person unsubscribe...it is hard to tell how many people left (there is a difference between visible and invisible subscribers)...one never really knows how many actual subscribers one has. Nevertheless, for me, it is a sign that I am still pushing the limits. The day when everyone agrees with me, well, I will probably be at a funeral...my own.

(Just to clarify, the Golden Dawn community is really small---one visible unsubscriber {they commented that they were unsubscribing} is a lot for that market. Of course, it will annoy someone that I call Golden Dawn a market...and a small market at that---see I can't help myself: my nature is to annoy.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Did you met me before you married me? (Adult topic)

Warning: If you are offended by adult subjects, do not read any further.

Occasionally, I have to look at my wife and ask her, "Did you met me before you married me?"

There are just times the question comes bubbling out of my mouth. You know those moments when your loved ones are surprised that you are doing something, and you really do not understand why they are surprised.

The latest time was yesterday while I was scanning this picture.

I am an artist and a man, so what?!
A picture that I drew. She thought I was looking at porn. No, I was not looking at porn; I was creating porn---there is a difference.

Of course, this led to the breakfast table discussion about how she would react if the only way I could make a living involved creating porn. I was being serious---I don't think that she believes that.

I have thought about this---a lot. What if the only way I can make a good enourgh living (aka big enourgh check to pay my half of the bills and student loans payments) was to be involved in the creation of porn? Not in front of the camera---no one wants to see me in my naked glory. But on the writing and art end of things---would I have a problem with this type of job?

Outside of the fact that various Golden Dawn members would want me to turn in my union card, I have no personal problem with this at all. Sure, there would be some who would say that I have became a bigger menace than Robert Zink (EOGD), but hey there are worse things I could do than being guilty of writing porn, and making porn cartoons and art.

And there is this thin line between porn and erotica---and reading some of the romance and urban fantasy novels which are on the market, I am not sure that I can tell the difference.

I have thought about this question for years. It first occurred to me in 1984. I brought one of those letter magazines that are supposely "written by amateurs and lovers of sex"---and looking though it, I realized that there was no way that these magazines were written by amateurs. Quite simply, the writing was too good to be written by average people. No, someone was being paid for writing these "letters" and they had to be professional writers.

It was the first time, I realized that someone had to be making a living as a writer. The thought never occurred to me before that there were people getting paid to write. It changed my world.

And yes, I am SO willing to write porn and do porn art if there is a check in it for me. I have cats to feed---my precious babies need lots of expensive cat food---hire me!!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lots of work for very little money

Today, I was on myLot for a few minutes...goofing off mainly. As most of you know, myLot is a site where you are paid to participate (aka discuss things). The earnings are really low; but as a writer, I do find it handy for coming up with things to write about.

Anyway, I was looking at the discussions posted in the "making money" section when I came across this wonderful idea being trotted out for making very little money when wasting a whole lot of time. Try not to laugh too hard as I mock the posting (spelling and grammar corrected).

"Wonderful earning opportunity for those who have both Facebook and Paypal accounts. Announcing a new site paying members to 'Like' the content of its members. Get paid $.01 per like. Sign up today and recieve 5-12 new articles to like per day."

Minimum payout is ten dollars.  And the site is charging people a dollar for fifty likes.

And for me, this site is just typical of online earning opportunities designed for those people who are incapable of doing basic math. Let's do some math, shall we?

With a payout threshold of ten dollars, and assuming the minimum number of expected new "like" requests per day, it would take someone two hundred days to reach the threshold. Furthermore, if it takes you two minutes a day to do the work, then you would earn ten dollars for six or seven hours of work dribbled out over the course of a year.

Sounds like a lot of bloody work for very little money. I think that I will stick to my writing instead.

But it is typical of most of the online income opportunities that you see. And the only people to really make money from them are the people who set them up. Look at this one---half of the money is earmarked for payment to the "likers." Yet, we all know that most of the people who sign up to do this work are not going to make payout; they will give up long before they reach threshold. This is a win for the organizers of the scam (I call them as I see them).

The customer who is paying for "likes" is also losing. In the short term, they are getting Facebook likes. But in the long term, these likes are going to be worthless, or less than worthless. People and search engines get wise to this type of tactic. And search engines punish companies and individuals who use them.

So the only winners, the only people who really benefit from the system, are the scam organizers (again, I am calling it like I see it).

I find that basic math like this reveals that most online income opportunities pay less than flipping burgers. Writing, photography and art---all pay better if you have some talent. Heck, they pay better even if you don't have talent (the announcement for this new income opportunity was just horrible).

As for the name of the opportunity, it is Rylcolike (that is how they spelled it---I have yet to be able to actually locate them on the internet---just curiosity really, I would never actually sign up for this type of work---after all, I can do basic math).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kicking around layout changes

Over the next few days, the regular readers of this blog may notice that I am experimenting changing the layout and description of the blog to bring it more in line with what I am currently doing. Perhaps using a picture or photo in the header.

For instance, the old description of this blog was:

The musings and gripes of Morgan Drake Eckstein as he goes about the business of being a freelance writer, full time college student, and Golden Dawn lodge officer.

And the new description is:

I am a scholar, writer, artist and photographer. That makes me a triple threat, right?---Morgan Drake Eckstein

This is not the first time, I changed something like this---the original name of this blog was Musings from the Pen, which I later changed to the current title, Musings from the Inkwell.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Experimenting with Book Covers

Celtic Soul Pottery at a craftshow
This morning I was experimenting with turning photos into covers---or at least, experimenting with the ways I am thinking about doing them. This photo is not a book cover; it is actually a photo from some craft show or another that my wife did. But I still like it anyways.

Of course, I would love just to pay someone to do my book covers for me---it is the old busted wallet that gets in the way there. Then again, I am not above doing book covers for others---hey, I am a poor college student; most college students are willing to sell their professors to trolls for lunch money, given half the chance.

I am still considering doing a test project for Smashwords (actually three, but who is counting); and if one hopes to make their way into the Premimum Catalog, a cover they must have.

Friday, July 1, 2011

There are some migraines

There are mornings that I start off with a can of coke, a trio of chocolate-covered coffee beans and a couple of ibuprofen. And no, it is not because I was busy gulping down rum and coke the night before either.

(My "in-person" friends know that I am not a big drinker---ar at least, not after the juke-box incident a decade-plus ago. I tend to order straight coke or cranberry juice when I do go to bars and restaurants.)

No, I do not suffer from hangovers. (Except for the kind that you get when you are doing a novel/book writing binge...also available in the handy ten-page research paper due tomorrow size.) Instead of playing for pleasure and good times, I get to pay for simply living---I suffer from migraines.

There are mornings when the sun slices though my brain like a chain saw through a pot roast. Things like weather changes can set my brain on fire. Moving vehicles are so much fun also.

And my best bets for dulling the pain is ibuprofen and cafferine. I have tried samples of several migraine medicines and they just make it worse. One of the side-effects of standard migraine medicine seem to be exorcism vomitting.

Someday, some scientist is going to find a cure for my migraines. And I am going to give them a big wet kiss with lots of tongue...even if they are a hairy man.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Best photo of the week is the Catnip Twins


Instead of writing this summer, I have been spending a lot of time taking photos of jewelry (aka learning to take photos of jewelry) for Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery. But some of the best pictures that I have taken have nothing to do with jewelry, such as this one. The Catnip Twins (Georgie and Balteshazar) is the best picture that I have taken all week. It is the type of picture that I have seen at craft and art events, such as the Cherry Creek Art Walk, printed, framed and selling for big money. I am proud of it. I am also slightly amazed that the Catnip Twins cooperated with me; after all, they are cats who are constantly in motion. (For the curious, the plant you see at the bottom of the photo is a catnip plant.)


Sunday, June 19, 2011

What would my father think

Occasionally, I wonder what my father would think of my chosen profession. Then I shrug my shoulders and get back to work. Truth be told; it doesn't matter what my father would have thought about my profession.

My father actually learned that I wanted to be a writer before he died. He was one of the few relatives that I admitted the truth to. Even today, I avoid the subject with most of the relatives that I have contact with.

Now, he probably would not approve of how little progress I have made on my business over the years. Of course, he would also probably have a good idea about why I am moving so slowly. After all, he lost a business (it was an unhappy time).

He would also note that while I have been moving forward slowly, at least I have been moving forward. Like today, he would have given me credit for setting up a blog and a Facebook fanpage for my wife's jewelry and pottery business---Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery---before it was needed. He would be able to spot the fact that it was actually a hidden advertisement for my own stuff (it goes on the resume).

But I also know that he would be able to spot the worst part of that statement---that I am more capable and willing to work on (what is ultimately) someone else's business than my own. Of course, he would also remember why that is. And he would tell me that times change, and that I need to get back to work.

*sigh* There are days I miss my dad. And this was one of them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I am a bad Twitter follower

One of the things that you are told about Twitter by those "who know how to use it properly for business purposes" is that you are supposed to follow everyone that follows you on Twitter.

I am a bad Twitter user. I follow most, but not all, of my Twitter followers. This may be because I am more prone to looking for story and article ideas, along with a few mintutes of entertainment than trying to run a business from Twitter.

Instead of giving you a list of the type of people I follow, it would be easier to tell you who (what) I won't follow on Twitter---tweets in languages and characters that I do not understand (Chinese and Russian mainly), machine-driven spam tweeters, and people who are going to tell me (loudly) that my religion is wrong.

The one I can look at and see that it is in a language I do not speak or read. I do follow some French and Spanish tweeters (I was surprised to learn that I could read some tweets in Spanish). The other is based on fair guess---if you sending out articles links detailing Christmas gift ideas in July, I am guessing that you are actually a machine. The last is typically loud Christian Republicans who openly state that all Wiccans (Witches) and Democrats should be burnt at the stake---you can hardly miss spotting them as they try to set you on fire.

I will admit that I do have a few people that I follow who fall into these categories. For instance, I do follow a few tweeters who use robots to tweet, but occasionally they (the real human being) comes along and posts something that looks personal. But most robots I ignore. The other categories also have their special cases---entertain me and I will follow, no matter how dubious your personal habits or the related language difficulties are.

Now I will admit that I have some weird tweets coming up---I have an article up on Associated Content about listening to Christmas music in July. But the article is actually meant to be read in July (or December if you are into Christmas music).

Anyways, if you follow me on Twitter and I do not follow you in a 48 hour period---this is probably why---you are a Pagan burning and bashing Christian spamming robot.

As always if you have discovered an useful reason for following everyone, even people you do not understand, please feel free to leave a comment. Remember it may take me up to 48 hours to get back to the computer and approve comments, and that I send spam and flames directly to the round pixel file.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What would my guidance counselor say

 I sometimes wonder what my guidance counselor would say about my career choice today. Back in high school, my goal of becoming a writer was not encouraged. At least, not by anyone in a position of authority.

None of my career choices were thought highly of. I remember one day I told Thomas Wooley, one of my high school teachers, that I joined the army. His comment was at least honest---"Is the army out of targets?"

I am not sure what he would have thought of my goal of becoming a writer. Due to factors beyond my control, I was not a member of the yearbook or school paper groups. Wooley oversaw both of them.

If Wooley would have told me that I was wasting my time trying to be a writer, I might have believed him. But the subject never came up with him.

It did come up with the guidance counselor. They steered me towards the army. That worked out real well. Obviously, they thought that I was always going to be a mere cog in the machine.

(Depending upon the day of the week and the moon, my account of my worth as a potential member of the military varies. We will never know for sure---I left during boot camp when my father died in a truck accident.)

Today, I have two questions for my high school guidance counselor. Is aiming to be a writer such a bad choice in a world where there is three hundred applicants per job opening? And do you still have a job?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Let me show you my weiner



No, it is not time to mock Representative Weiner, who is doing a good enourgh job of that on all his own this week. No, it is time once again to mock my spam, those junk emails that make me go Huh?! Today's winner was an email that said that I could see photographic proof that a certain male enhancement treatment actually worked. Ok, I suppose if I was in the market for such things, perhaps that would be something that I would be interested in. But...and it is a big but...I do not want to see the mutant member that was attached to the name of the sender...which just happened to be a woman's name. I am not reprinting the name, just in case it is a real woman, who decided to actually take this medicine and now has photographic proof of the size increase. Nor was I willing to click on the link to see the proof. The very thought of a enhancement treatment that effective scares me. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A lousy boss



I have recently branched out into photography. My wife started making jewelry with handmade ceramic pieces, and started up a little Etsy shop called Celtic Soul Jewelry. As the dutiful husband, I have been taking photos of her work. But there are moments, I want to tell the micro-managing boss to take her own d*** photos. The worst of it was on Wednesday. I had taken a bunch of photos to replace the bad ones that were already up on Etsy (bad lighting and background). I handed her a flash-drive with the shots I had taken that day, and she promptly started to criticize what I had done. The really bad part was that she didn't understand what I had done. Recently I had to switch cameras (the old one died); the new one takes photos at about four times the pixel size of the previous cameras. I no longer take "close-ups"; with this camera, I have to take "reasonable distance" shots and then edit them to get my close-ups. Seriously, I have tried doing it her way, and all I get are blurry, unusable pictures. I had to do an emergency "I am a professional, trust me...no shut up...shut up...let me prove that I know what I am doing...just give me a bloody minute to prove that I know what I am doing!!!!" session. And what did I learn from all this---my wife makes a lousy boss. Good thing I love her because I would so quit this job otherwise. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

A short mock of my spam

Here is a pieceless piece of spam:

Hello
My name is Mis norna toure please i will like you get bark to me in My Email
Yours
Mis Norna

Sunday, May 22, 2011

All blog comments recovered

At this point in time, I have re-approved all the comments that were submitted during the time period that Blogger had to do the roll-back though. And that includes all my blogs. If your comments have not been approved, either I consider them spam (or Blogger does---I always forget to check the spam folder for comments) or they have been lost forever (and need to be resubmitted).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Will my audience be raptured

One of the current concerns of writers is whether we will still have an audience for our writing after 6 PM on Saturday.

What?! You haven't thought about it? What do you mean that I am the only one that thought about this?

Egads! I guess that I am the only weird person that is writing in the whole entire world.

Anyway, I was thinking about this yesterday. What if my readership is part of the crowd that is raptured tomorrow?

Then I realized that my chosen market are probably the last people who would qualify for the rapture.

I am not sure if this should make me sad or not. On one hand, it is nice to know that my audience will still be around. On the other hand, it makes it sound like I am writing to a bunch of sinners and black magicians.

Oh...wait...I am, ain't I?

But it says a lot about the writing life that one's first thought about the rapture is concern about how it is going to affect your numbers (readers, pageviews, subscribers, potential income, actual income). Or maybe it just says that I spent too much time managing a business before becoming a writer.

And now, I can go back to worrying about the up-coming zombie horde.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hmm Is Blogger Reading List Acting Up

The last couple of days, Blogger Reading List has been saying that I am not currently following any blogs. Some of the blogs I follow show up in Google Reader, but not all of them.

Going over to The Real Blogger Status (not an official site of Blogger news), I have learned that this is not the first time that this type of problem has occurred.

So if you recently posted something and are surprised that I have not commented, odds are that I have not read it yet because of this particular bug.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yep It is All My Fault

On Friday, I had one of those days. You know the type of day that makes you wonder why someone would ever chose writing as a profession.

It was an administrative problem. The type of problem that a freelancer looks at and wonders if the department on the other end is trying to save money by ensuring that no one ever is able to collect a payment from them.

Yes, I was dealing with a payroll (human resources) department---one that insists that they do not have current paperwork for me, therefore they do not have to pay me by their rules because I missed a deadline for filing the correct paperwork. And yes, this department is connected with the government.

For the record, the information they had last year, and the year before, is still the current information. I still live in Denver Colorado, in the same house, I am still technically single according to the IRS (it is a common law marriage with a mortage, but my wife will not consider it official until I finish college and take her to the altar), etc. If they kept paperwork from previous years, then they have my current information.

To make matters worse, I have been stuck in the infinite loop (where each person sends me to another, and none of them is responsible for fixing the problem). And there is a small email problem (for legal reasons, they are required to communicate with me though an account that they set up---an account that was deleted), they keep sending emails to a dead account, despite my requests to send it to my primary email address.

But none of this is their fault. All the blame lays on my doorstep. And I have to shut up and accept it if I ever want to sell them another word.

I almost quit writing on Friday because of this (but my wife would not let me). Exactly why I didn't will be the subject of a future blog. In the meantime, consider this---have you ever seen a terrorist that wasn't upset at a political entity? Yes, I believe that it is red tape, governments, and power hungry and money grubbing politicans that create terrorists.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It is a small world

Today, I gave my presentation in the Korean War/1950s class. We also had to create a two page handout for our classmates summing up our topic (mine was Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers). In the interest of self-advertising, I chose to include my pen-name Morgan Drake inside of brackets enclosed by my legal first name and my last name Eckstein (which I actually use as part of my penname).

Turns out that one of my classmates (someone I have taken a couple of history classes with) is one of my online NaNoWriMo friends. It took her a couple of minutes to figure out where she seen the name Morgan Drake before---I tend to use it as my online handle everywhere---but she did make the connection.

After class, she properly introduced herself to me, and we talked a few minutes about the joys of attempting National Novel Writing Month while going to college. It is a really small world, isn't it? I wonder if she is on Facebook.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The State of Morgan Eckstein Economy 2011

I did my taxes on Friday, as evidenced by the above picture of the line at the post office (imagine what the line is like today---Happy Tax Horror Day 2011). It was slightly depressing. When I accounted for the payment that I am still waiting for (small payroll department problem), the difference between 2010 and 2011 business revenue was a whole six dollars. Gee, my writing business is growing by leaps and bounds, isn't it? Add in the increased costs of daily living, my tuition and textbooks costs going up, and the cut in the amount of grants and scholarships I recieved (and it is going to be even worse this year), and my personal economic picture blows chunks. When I consider the number of businesses that are closing their doors, alongside my personal finances, I find myself wondering where is this mythical economic recovery is? It is sure not happening in my own backyard. Is there anyway that those people who actually seeing an economic recovery (I am talking about you rich-cat CEOs) could pay some more taxes? Probably not---but I can hope, can't I?

Monday, April 11, 2011

The hazards and difficulties of online experimentation

One of the problems with online writing is that one occasionally has to experiement. One encounters a gap on one of the online writing sites, and one wonders why it is there. Is it because no one else sees it? Or no one looks for the information that you think should be there? Or is it too much work? Or not enourgh demand? Has someone tried it already and told everyone else it is not worth doing?

Depending upon my mood, I may or may not indulge my curious nature and write something to fit the hole. Of course, with online writing your definition of success tends to be eyeballs on the page. Often one finds themselves experimenting and wondering how long is a proper amount of time before one calls the experiment an utter failure.

It is a difficult call to make. Google takes time to index things. And if the subject is something that is only occasionally of interest, an experiment today that looks like a total bust can have a hot spot a year or two (or ten) down the line. For instance, this year I got a lot of hits on a state of union commentary I wrote when Bush was in office.

I am quite sure that no one was actually looking for that one; I am positive that they were looking for information about the most recent one that Obama did---one that I did not watch because I got no return from the Bush state of union address. *sigh*

Of course, the reason for the extra hits was the fact that the site that I had it on was being managed by a different company and now had a much wider audience share. Which is another thing that makes experimenting and writing stuff that fits into missing gaps so d*** difficult to decide when it is a success or not.

At the moment, I am kicking around all these questions merely because I am experimenting with trying to figure out why such a hole exists on one of the online pageview sites. The set of articles I am writing are on a special type of astrology (the "born on this day" variety). Based on the first couple of days' results, I would have to consider the experiment a complete bust.

Now, I can't give up the experiment yet. One, I have been writing online long enourgh to know that it is a strange market. Two, I really need to have some stuff like this in my portifolio if I ever want to work with a business or publication that does this type of articles. I figured that I need a sample of thirty days to prove that I can do this type of work.

It would actually be easier to do this type of writing for someone other than a pageview site. After all, most publications who do the daily horoscope routine require a smaller number of words per day. I figure I am having to do four to six times the words that I would have to do for a regular client. Plus my initial math, and yes I had to do math to prepare for wiriting of the set, can be reused---I never have to do the math ever again.

Nevertheless, based on the short term, it feels like I am wasting my time. Only time and Google will tell if that is really true or not.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

QoD Selling books about enlightenment

Anyone who sells books about being 'enlightened' should first try that themselves, preferably with some kind of flame thrower aimed at their heads.   
       ----David Shaw (someone on Facebook)