Saturday, December 30, 2006

More marketing plans and a website change

I skimmed through a fantastic little book this afternoon on Internet marketing, called Lucrative List Building. You can read more about Lucrative List Building on Reading For Writers. In any case, it gave me a few more ideas.

One idea in the book led to me finally following through with a website update. I updated my portfolio with a couple of articles that I have published recently. I also - after reading Lucrative List Building - decided to include a "Tell a Friend" button on the site. You can see it on the main page.

I am toying with a couple of other ideas, as well. I might start a newsletter for potential clients, probably containing information on writing Internet copy, and start building an opt-in list in association with that. I'm also thinking of trying out some paid advertising (such as AdWords), although I haven't made up my mind on that yet.

In any case, I am feeling very motivated to start selling my services a little more actively in 2007.

Only a slight decrease in website traffic

Although the crazy number of hits I got on Wednesday (the day my Writers Weekly article was published) has not continued, I am still enjoying a healthy level of website traffic. Today (Friday) my number of total hits was 466, with 142 unique visitors - not far below yesterday's numbers. I also have several new entries in my guestbook, which I am going to go answer now...

My new marketing plan

It's kind of ironic: although I write marketing materials, such as keyword articles and press releases, for my clients, I have never used that kind of marketing for myself. Tonight, however, I started thinking about it, and before I knew it I had come up with an online marketing plan.

The focal point of my plan is that I have decided to write and submit a few press releases to some of the online publishers. I am also considering writing some white papers or articles, both to submit to outside sites and to offer on my own website. And finally, I decided to start advertising regularly on Craigslist.

All of these are free options - advertising on the Denver/Boulder Craigslist is free, and there are several free article and press release submission services. All they will cost is a little time, which I am hoping to put in this weekend. I would love to have worked on it a little more tonight, but I have a deadline to meet first!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Another snow day and long holiday weekend!

As promised, the snow storm dumped a good deal of snow on us overnight. We haven't tried figuring out how much, but I would estimate we got about a foot. We made national news again, as some parts of the state got another two feet or more. This is supposed to be a double storm, too - another wave of snow is supposed to come tonight and tomorrow, although it sounds like it might be focused more to the east of where Michael and I live.

In any case, Michael didn't go to work today, so we have another extended holiday weekend. Sort of - I still have one more article to write before my week is officially over, but I'll most likely do that late tonight, after Michael is asleep.

Website traffic update

Well, my site visitors count wasn't as record-breaking today as it was yesterday, but it is still far above the norm: I had 511 hits, from 174 unique visitors. Keep 'em comin', guys!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our next snowstorm

Our next big snowstorm started today, only a week after last week's blizzard. I've never seen two huge snowstorms come so close together in Denver before, and the weather man in a clip I watched online said the same thing. Our roads have not even recovered from the last snow, and in Colorado - where the snow usually evaporates in a couple of days at the most - that says a lot. I fully expect we won't be going anywhere for a few days, particularly because it sounds as if the snow will continue all weekend. (So much for everyone's New Year's Eve celebrations!)

At about 10:15 this evening, we peeked out back and saw that the power line to our house was hanging extremely low, with snow wrapped around it like insulation. We were really worried that it was going to fall, but of course you can't just go and knock the snow down, so instead Michael tossed a couple of snowballs gently at the cable. He hit the line once toward the end nearest the house, and a little snow fell. Then he moved down and tossed a snowball toward the lowest-hanging point of the line. When the snowball hit, the line bounced up, flinging snow everywhere! The line is all clear of snow now, although it is most definitely hanging lower than it used to be.

This snow is clearly much wetter and heavier than last week's snow was. I hope we don't lose power. I can live without the TV, stove, or even the microwave, but I'll be lost without my computer! Of course, as long as I keep my laptop battery charged, I'll have nearly four hours of battery power to fall back on, but I'll be without Internet, as the DSL modem plugs into the power outlet.

So let's hope I don't lose power - I have a couple of articles I need to finish tonight and tomorrow, and for that I need my computer and the Internet!

Website traffic record and another snowstorm

I knew yesterday's traffic would set a record, but I didn't know how high that record will be. Goodness only knows how long it will take me to set a new record: yesterday I had 1,509 hits on my website, with 343 unique visitors. (In other words, my visitors were looking at a lot more than just one page.) I checked my Active Meter log occasionally throughout the day, and for the most part the traffic seemed to be coming from my article on Writers Weekly, although a few visitors are still coming over from Deborah Ng's End of Year Blog Plug.

Today looks like it could be similar: I already have 286 hits, with 81 unique visitors.

In other news, it looks like we're in for another big snowstorm here. The weather is predicting 12 to 18 inches, although they've been vacillating on when they think the bulk of it will hit. This time they started talking about it days in advance, urging everyone to stock up on food and prepare for several days indoors, and as a result the grocery stores were practically taken by force last night. In any case, it sounds like this storm won't be quite as bad, but still a rather major storm right on the heels of the last one. The streets hadn't even cleared up yet, so I don't anticipate going anywhere again for a few days.

Oh, I do love getting snowed in!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A thoughtful gift for breast cancer survivors

A client of mine has recently launched a really neat new site that allows friends and loved ones of breast cancer survivors to do something special for them. Survivor Posters sells posters with names and bios of famous breast cancer survivors, which you can customize to include the name and bio of the breast cancer survivor you know. As a femininst well aware of the devastations of breast cancer, I was so impressed by the site that I decided to mention it on my blog.

Breast cancer survivors should all be famous. They have beaten the odds, endured what most of us couldn't even imagine, and prevailed against one of the most devastating diseases known to women. Honor their quiet heroics with a survivor poster.

Website upgrade announcement

My website should not fail now, as I decided to upgrade my account after all. My decision was due to a combination of things: Deborah Ng's End of Year Blog Plug, which links to this blog and Reading For Writers, and the appearance of my article in this week's Writers Weekly. As a result of these two events, my daily traffic has gone through the roof - and I would hardly want my website to fail when I'm attracting so much interest!

Hopefully, the increased level of traffic will continue (hint, hint).

Monday, December 25, 2006

Web tools for writers: Website stats

For some time now, I've been meaning to blog about a handy new tool I found: website stats.

I started out a couple of months ago by looking for a way to track visitors to my myspace page. I already had a counter on my main website page, which was provided for me by Doteasy, but I hadn't yet discovered anything else. However, my search for a tracking device for my myspace page eventually led me to look for a free website stats tool for my website.

There are a lot of free counters available on the Internet, but not as many services that offer full website statistics. Moreover, some of the services that do offer full website stats suck. Finally, though, I found a couple that I liked, and tried both.

OneStatFree.com was one of the services I tried. I liked it at first, as the reports that it gives are pretty detailed and pretty easy to navigate. However, I ended up passing it over for a better, more convenient free service.

Active Meter is a free website stats service that is superior to anything else I found. For one thing, it is very convenient: it allows you to choose both your own name and password (whereas OneStatFree.com assigned you a user number, which is much more difficult to remember). For another, you can remain signed into your account on your computer, which makes Active Meter very easy to use.

Another benefit to Active Meter is that you can have two separate "projects" under the same free account. (Any more than two requires an upgrade to a paid account, which I think - at $9.99 a month - is really expensive. However, the free one is just the right price...) Also, Active Meter allows you to export the reports on your account as a Excel, XML, or CSV file. This makes Active Meter not only a very convenient and user-friendly tool, but also very useful for anyone who wants to know their website stats.

And finally, Active Meter offers a great deal of privacy to its users. You can choose not to have anything appear on your web pages - not a counter, not a logo, nothing that your visitors can see. Also, your website stats are not available to everyone (as some free accounts are) - Active Meter requires your user name and password in order to access your account.

There are downfalls, of course. For one thing, Active Meter's free account only holds information on 100 hits at a time. Because my website gets anywhere from 50 to 100 hits every day, it means I have to check my account daily if I want to see any useful information about my visitors, such as what pages they are coming to my website from, and what keywords my visitors use to find me. Other information that I can get about my visitors includes their location (right down to the city), their ISP address, and basic information about their computer system. The basic information - such as how many hits I get each day, how many returning visitors, etc. - does not seem to be subject to log size restrictions.

So what's important about this information? Well, first of all, it tells me who is linking to my pages: Active Meter tells me my visitors' referring pages. I try to be relatively active in the online freelancing community, and my website stats reflect this.

Another advantage to having this information is being able to tell - from the keyword searches my visitors use to find me - what information they are looking for. For instance, I was able to verify that my wedding blog is quite popular, even though for a while I wasn't updating it very recently, and that a lot of my visitors to that blog get there from the search engines. Armed with that information, I made more efforts to update it, and added some posts with links to sites that I've found helpful in my own research... And whaddya know? My little wedding blog has suddenly made it to the top of the second page when you Google the keywords 1920s wedding!

Website stats also give me a terrific advantage in my job search. For example, when I send out a bunch of resumes, I can tell who actually looks at my profile by following the link contained in my email. (Unless the link is clicked on within a web browser type of email, such as a hotmail account, Active Meter reports these clicks as "Referrer not available," same as it does when visitors use a favorites link. One of the advantages of OneStatFree.com was that it specifically noted when the page was accessed from a saved favorites list.) I can also tell how many pages they viewed, which pages they viewed, how long they spent looking at my portfolio, etc.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that as a writer, you have no need for Internet gadgets such as website stats. Trust me - a good, free website stats account is one of the most useful website tools at your disposal!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A politically correct Christmas wish

Don't get me wrong - I care about other people's beliefs. In fact, I say "Happy Holidays" quite frequently around this time of year. But even though I am not Christian, I don't get offended when people say "Merry Christmas" to me. And yes, I celebrate the holiday.

As an agnostic, I celebrate Christmas - and say "Merry Christmas" - because it doesn't have anything to do with Christianity.

No doubt I've pissed a few people off now. But hey - where in the Bible does it say that December 25th is Jesus' birthday?

That's right. It doesn't.

In fact, December 25th was chosen as Jesus' birthday by the Romans, about 300 years after Jesus' death. And why did they choose December 25th? Because the people already celebrated December 25th as the birthday of the popular pagan deity at the time - Mithras, or Mithra, the sun god. That's right: Rome wanted the people to convert to Christianity, so they did a little jimmy-rigging to align Christianity's holy days with those of the religion the people already followed. (That's also why Christianity celebrates the Sabbath on Sunday, when the Sabbath is actually Saturday.)

And December 25th didn't first belong to Mithras, either... This day has been named the birthday of many gods throughout the ages, all the way back to Osiris, one of ancient Egypt's gods. So you see, there isn't anything special about December 25th, except that everyone likes it.

But what about the presents, you say? Aren't they reminiscent of those the three kings brought on the night of Jesus' birth?

Actually, the Christmas tradition of giving presents isn't original to Christianity, either. This tradition also goes back to ancient times. In Rome, the pagan god Saturn was believed to bring everyone gifts in December. And in Egypt, a deity named Bes brought presents to all the good children. Sound familiar?

That's right - there IS no Christ in Christmas, because all of the traditions that we have put together and called "Christmas" have been borrowed from other, more ancient religions.

This doesn't mean that Christmas cannot be a deeply holy day for you. Since we don't know the actual day of Jesus' birth, December 25th is as good a day as any. In other words, I don't really care how or why you celebrate Christmas.

I do care, though, when people start insisting, "Put Christ back into Christmas!" He wasn't the first one there, guys. To be perfectly fair, we should also then be putting Mithras back into Christmas. And Osiris. And Dionysus. And Thor. And... and... and...

Regardless of what religion you're coming from, though, the season is supposed to be about love and generosity, and I don't see anything generous about trying to deny other people their own reasons for celebrating. So whether you are celebrating Jesus' birthday, Mithras', or Osiris', or whether you simply are celebrating a season of giving, I wish you a...


Want more information?
Pagan Claus: The Real History of Christmas Customs
History of Christmas

Website failure possible

If you follow my blog or read my website regularly, please be warned: it may go down for a few days here at the end of December. I'm extremely close to exceeding my monthly traffic quota. However, I don't want to upgrade just because one month goes over - I did that once, about a year ago, when I exceeded my traffic quote, and never even came close to needing the higher traffic allowance again.

Of course, there is always the possibility that I'm just getting more traffic to my site these days. It's actually a pretty distinct possibility, since I've noticed the number of daily hits of gone up quite a bit. Therefore, if my traffic starts to go over the quota again soon, I will be sure to upgrade my account at that point.

In any case, if my website goes down this month, it should only be until the end of December.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Snow day: Part 2

The snow is still falling! Emma - our 75-pound dog, the size of a shepherd - almost disappears in the snow when she goes out. Our snow storm made national news - in the article they say we've gotten two feet of snow. I think it's quite possibly more.

Although the snow is supposed to stop today, the sun isn't supposed to come out until tomorrow. I have a feeling most of the city will be closed down well into tomorrow.

The bad part of this is that I wasn't done with my Christmas shopping - but by the time the snow melts enough to go anywhere, it'll nearly be the big day! I'm also hoping the snow doesn't delay Michael's biggest present, which is coming by mail. We didn't get any post office service today, and I'm rather doubting we'll have any today, either.

In a little bit, Michael and I are going to go outside and play around in the snow. We need to clear off my car again (and probably his, too), and then I'm hoping to make a snowman. I haven't done that in years! Hopefully the snow is moist enough - last night it was still quite powdery and resistant to packing!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snow day!

I want to know who wished for a white Christmas this year... Whoever you are, you've cursed us all!!!

We knew last night that there was supposed to be a serious snow storm dumping two feet of snow on us over the next couple of days. However, we were still surprised at how quickly the snow started coming down this morning.

Michael woke me up at 6:30 this morning to tell me that it was snowing pretty bad. Over the next hour, I convinced him to stay home today (with the help of two failed attempts to leave the house). By eleven o'clock, his work had closed anyway, meaning that he only had to take a half-day of vacation time.

Early in the afternoon, we let Emma out to go pee and play in the snow. She seemed stunned when she fell knee-deep in snow, but she quickly rallied, peed, and bounded around the backyard for a little while. We noted how far the snow came up on her legs, and measured when she got inside: about 8 inches.

Now, even though I have work to do, I knew it wasn't going to happen this afternoon, with Michael home unexpectedly and the excitement of the snow day. So instead, we did about the only thing we could do: we watched a movie. About halfway through, we stopped the movie, and bundled up; we cleared off my car (so that the weight of the snow wouldn't crush the T-tops) and played with Emma a little. This was as it was getting dark, so we didn't stay outside long, although we're planning to play in the snow a little more tomorrow afternoon - maybe even build a gigantic snowman. When we came inside, we again measured the depth of the snow on Emma's leg: about 14 inches now.

In a little bit, we'll eat dinner and watch the rest of our movie. (It's a long one!) Later this evening, I should have a chance to catch up on the work I was supposed to do today. I don't regret leaving it for later, though - it's been a perfect snow day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wherefore art thou, O Christmas spirit?

I just can't believe that Christmas is less than a week away.

I'm not ready for this. I didn't even realize how much of my time jury duty had eaten up until I started thinking about getting ready for Christmas. We only put our tree up on Sunday, and although we've discussed putting lights on our porch, we haven't gotten to that quite yet - and I'm not even sure we will.

Christmas shopping is the real struggle. First of all, I only managed to do about half of it earlier in the season, and absolutely none of it during the two weeks I had jury duty. So here I am, with less than a week to go, realizing that I will have to brave the crowds of Christmas shoppers (which I hate).

Additionally, money is a problem. I didn't get much writing done during the two weeks I had jury duty, which means I didn't get paid. And although I do get $50 a day for jury duty, I won't see that check for a little while yet. (Someone at the courthouse said it would be before Christmas, but I don't know that for sure. It's usually supposed to take 2-3 weeks.) I'll be fine once I get paid for jury duty, but until then...

Being broke at Christmastime sucks.

Getting caught up from my two week hiatus has been difficult, too. I have a lot of work that I want to get done before Christmas - preferrably by the end of this week, so I don't have any work to do over the holiday weekend.

There have been a few successes, though. I have been working pretty steadily so far this week, and I have almost caught up with my work on two of my quickest-paying gigs. And I finally thought of (and bought) the perfect present for Michael. That means I only have my dad left to shop for (aside from a couple of other little gifts for Michael).

I do my little blogging break is about over - I need to get back to work.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Becoming a writer again

I'm finding it's difficult to switch gears from juror back to writer. Perhaps because jury duty lasted so long, or perhaps because the case was difficult, it has taken me all weekend to start writing again.

Tomorrow is my first day back to working at home full-time. Although over the past two weeks I frequently thought of working from home and how nice it is, it doesn't quite feel real now... I keep telling myself that I'll be home during the day again, but I don't feel like I believe it yet.

My disbelief notwithstanding, tonight I was finally able to buckle down and get some work done - only a meager two content articles, but still, it's a start. I'm heading to bed shortly here - I'm still getting tired earlier than I used to, an after-effect of having such an early schedule for two weeks - but I'm looking forward to having a whole day all to myself and my computer.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Jury duty

I was called for jury duty a couple of months ago. I had to report last Monday, December 4th. I don't think I had mentioned it online, and I am glad I didn't, because I ended up being chosen for a 2-week trial. We weren't supposed to talk about the trial until it was over, so I didn't think it was a good idea to broadcast over the Internet that I was on jury duty for the next two weeks.

I'm still not going to say a lot about it, for several different reasons. One, I don't know that I should go blabbing to everybody about it; for that reason, only people I talk to on a daily basis will know anything more than the most basic details. Two, I don't want to encourage any type of retribution from anyone involved, so no searchable details (i.e. keyword phrases, such as names or places) will be mentioned. And three, I just don't feel comfortable saying too much.

That being said, I will say this: the case was a sexual abuse case. More specifically (and horrifically), a father had performed oral sex on his preteen-aged adoptive daughters. Naturally, the defense was trying to prove that the girls were lying. However, we (the jury) didn't think so, and found him guilty on all counts.

The past two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster ride - to say the least. Listening to the girls' testimonies and the initial interviews with them that were video taped during the early stages of the investigation was emotionally taxing, and simply paying attention to the trial every day was mentally exhausting. I have never been so tired before in my life, as I was at the close of every day.

And finally, I have to say that throughtout the entire trial my heart goes out to those girls. The maternal instinct in me wishes I could have taken them home with me and protected them and helped them start a new life. Naturally, though, I can't have any contact with them, for fear of giving the defense grounds for a mistrial. Therefore, my blog will have to suffice. The girls will probably never know who I am, let alone find this blog - but nevertheless, I want to say once and for all that my thoughts and my heart are with them. If I could give them more than just my thoughts - if I could help them to be strong and get through this - I would.

Unfortunately, as a result of all of this, I got very little work done over the past two weeks. I was incredibly lucky that all of the people who were expecting work from me were very understanding of what I was going through. I don't think I could have made it through this with my sanity if it weren't for their understanding - it was hard enough just to sit through court every single day.

Despite how difficult this was, however, I have to say that it was an incredible experience, one that I wouldn't change for anything. Witnessing a trial of this size and importance was an eye-opening event. (They say it's not like in Hollywood, but you'd be surprised how much it actually is like in the books and the movies.) Also, I feel good about being a part of such an important decision. I think it also helps that I believe wholeheartedly in the verdict we ultimately decided on. On my first day, I was fully aware that I was on the brink of a life-changing event - and even now, in hindsight, I fully recognize how much of an impact the experience has made on my life, my thoughts, and my experience - as a writer as well as a human being.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ankur Shah: Another name to blacklist!

In talking with one of my fellow freelancers, I discovered the name of another employer whom I feel should be avoided at all costs. His name is Ankur Shah, and it seems that he has a number of different websites and projects. Judging by the complaints, it seems that he tends to get his writers on bid sites.

My freelancing friend won a bid to work with Ankur Shah at the beginning of August. She was to write 20 dating site reviews for his website, singlesrated.com, at $5 per article. Below is part of his first email to her:

There are24 [sic] sites that need reviews. Each article can be from 300 - 400 words. They have to follow the outline structure found on the links that I sent to you in the previous email.

These guidlines include sections for grade (out of 5) review pros cons
Price of membership (if you can find it)

We would like to get articles in batches of 5. Can you give me a SERIOUS timeline as to how long it would take for this project? We don’t have much time for this small project. We have many bigger projects to concentrate and we hope to work together for many more projects if you will continue seriously in this beginning project.

My friend finished the work in less than a week, and submitted the completed articles and invoices to Ankur Shah. Along with the next-to-last batch of articles, she included this note:

I was researching True.com and when I visited your site I realized an article has been added to the site already. I also noted that there was another article added that I had already submitted to on the topic, however, the article on the site was not mine. Due to this new development I am holding other articles until I hear further from you, your intentions. 1. Are you collecting from various bidders and only paying for the articles you choose? 2. Were you satisfied with the articles you have received from me? Basically, I need clear communication from you of your intentions with this project. If I am to continue submitting articles with no compensation in return then there is no profit for my services. As I have stated before, I am willing to rework the articles to your satisfaction. If you have chosen another bidder - the professional thing to do is to inform me of those intentions so that I can pursue services for other clients. I do hope that your services received from me have been professional, reliable, and curteous. Please notify me promptly of your intentions so that all services can be met as desired.

It's important to notice here that according to her email, Ankur Shah was already publishing her work to his site, and he hadn't even paid her yet! Not that he ever would... When my friend completed the 20 articles as requested, he sent the following email:

I have send your articles to my client for verification and will contact you as soon as I recieve response from client.

About a week later, he sent her the following excuses:

My paypal account is not working fine because they have blocked my account due to credit card problem. They restricted my access to my account and I cannot transfer the money to you raccount but I will request my one friend to send money to your account. Will it be fine?


Also I have lost the articles which you sent please send once more the articles you did for me. I will be waiting for your response.

Of course, my friend never received payment or heard from him again. This was her final email to him (edited for brevity):

I hope this is merely an over site [sic] and that you have full intention of resolving this situation. I have made several attempts to resolve your invoice for the service I have provided you. I have patiently waited for payment on my services to you. I have graciously given you 2 free articles and have provided you with professional service. I have given you discounted articles at $5.00 per article, where as others would have charged between $20.00 - $30.00 per article. As per our initial agreement, I was to provide you with articles for you to review, if you were satisfied with my work, you were to pay $5.00 per article. As well as, in return, for use of the first free article, you would provide a professional reference with use of articles in my portfolio. I have not received payment, nor have I received your professional reference. You have published 9 of my articles on your site. ... Please contact me immediately to resolve this matter. Your business is important to me, however, a professional relationship is hindered when commitments are broken. Thank you for your time.

I suggested to my friend that she check out Writers Weekly as a possible course of action, and there she found another complaint about Ankur Shah. This one has to do with a completely different site, allpilots.com. However, it is clearly the same guy; even some of the emails are nearly identical. And he did the same thing to this writer: accepted the work, and then simply failed to respond to the writer's requests for payment.

In my opinion this "publisher" is a dirt bag of the worst kind. These two projects were run around the same time, so I wouldn't be surprised if he never intended to pay these writers at all. Be warned - stay far, far away from Ankur Shah and any of his projects!

Blogger problems and freelancing again

I meant to blog again sooner, but lately Blogger has not been showing the usual compose screen: the compose screen is HTML only, no one-click fancy formatting. I was waiting to see if the problems would get fixed, but so far they haven't, so I guess I'm blogging without the conveniences. All I can say is, it's a good thing I know HTML.

With NaNoWriMo finished (and won), on Friday I went back to freelancing full-time again. It took longer than I'd like to complete the work I did on Friday; it's hard to get back in nonfiction mode after writing about 8,000 words of fiction. I'll be working a little this weekend, as a result. Still, there's something nice about writing articles again.

As for my novel... After a short break, I plan to start the editing and revising process. The break is to let my brain rest after writing the whole first draft in just a month, because I intend to make several major revisions. Several of them, I knew I would want to make shortly after writing the sections, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo (and for the sake of maintaining my word count) I just kept going!

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Well, everyone - I did it! Despite how behind I'd gotten on my novel, I was able to reach 50,000 this afternoon.

Now I have a bunch of cool little icons and other such, which I will install on my blogs - and possibly even my website - shortly. Hooray!

46,077 words - my goal for the night met!

I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to meet it, but earlier this evening I set a goal for myself: to reach 46,000 words tonight. And I did!

That means that I have just under 4,000 words to write tomorrow in order to reach 50,000. Since I don't have anything else that I simply must do before evening, I should be able to resume work on my novel right away when I wake up, hopefully allowing me to finish before I have to leave to babysit.

I had feared for a little while there that I wouldn't be able to finish NaNoWriMo this year - but it appears I might be able to, after all! Hoorah!!!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

43,653 words

As Michael says, I am smoking today! I have nearly 44,000 words. I think my goal for tonight will be to reach 46,000 words. That should leave a doable amount for tomorrow.

Of course, I still haven't finished my freelancing article, which I need to do sometime tonight as well...

After writing for so long, I think I need a little break.

41,781 words

Here I am, trooping steadily along! I added to my word count for the day (since last night's technically went on today's), making the total for the day (so far) 5,064. That puts me at 41,781 total words. I've made excellent progress today, but unfortunately, it may not be enough - I have just over 8,000 words to write by tomorrow at midnight! And unfortunately, thanks to babysitting plans for tomorrow evening, I'm not sure I can trust to be home before midnight... Which means I need to try to reach 50,000 words before I go.

I'll still write a little more tonight, but I also have a freelance article to finish first.

38,761 words

I wasn't able to write the phenomenal amount of words on my novel that I wanted to accomplish today, thanks to a combination of freelance work and getting something in my eye this evening. I have more freelance work to do tomorrow, unfortunately, but I'm hoping to be able to spend a little more time on my novel. The good news is that I wrote 2,044 words this evening; the bad news is that I have more than 11,000 words left to write with less than two days to do it in.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Opportunity doesn't stand in for reliable, sufficient payment!

This evening I was browsing through jobs and ran across an ad on Craigslist for PreschoolRock.com, a website looking for writers who are experts in preschool topics. I read the ad and the first half or so of the page on their website describing the job requirements, and then simply scanned the rest before scrolling down to the application form. After applying, I realized I hadn't seen anything about compensation, and returned to the job description to find it. I was rather surprised to find, in a little paragraph toward the end of the job description, a mention that payment is in the form of ad revenue from your PreschoolRock.com site.

I generally don't cater to jobs that offer ad revenue as "payment." I need a set payment so that I know what to expect each month - especially for a gig that would require as much time and effort as PreschoolRock.com demands. However, I wasn't entirely concerned about it - if I got a response, I figured I would just send the editor an email explaining the situation and apologizing.

PreschoolRock.com must be having a hard time finding good writers who will work under their terms, because I had a response from the editor, Stacey Lloyd, a little over an hour later. I sent the following email in response, which I thought was rather nice, considering how I feel about people who pay their writers in ad revenues:

Thank you for your email. After submitting my application, I read through the guidelines a little more closely and came upon the part about writer compensation. Because I depend on writing as my sole source of income, I cannot afford to put my time and effort into a job that does not pay me directly. Taking a chance on ad revenues might be a viable gamble for someone else, but unfortunately, it's not for me.

I'm sorry if I have cost you any of your valuable time in applying before I completely read the page. I read the first half of the page, and got so excited about the job that I scrolled down and applied immediately. Please believe me when I say that I am truly sorry the compensation arrangement will not work for me, because the topic is one of my own passions and the site seems like a lot of fun. If the payment arrangement ever changes, I would be happy to sign on to PreschoolRock.com - but for now, I sincerely regret to say that I cannot.

Best of luck with your site! It looks great!

About an hour later, I received a response to my nice email: "Ah, a write [sic] must also be a good reader." Even though she put a smiley face after this, I found it rather rude to insult my writing skills after I had written such a nice and apologetic email (not to mention rather amusing for her to criticize my reading skills while she - the editor of PreschoolRock.com - included a glaring mistake in the opening line of her email). To add insult to injury, she continued to tell me how successful PreschoolRock.com is, and what a great opportunity it is to work with the company:

Those who have managed to get selected for this opportunity are already seeing that being a part of PreschoolRock.com goes far beyond the immediate monetary gains. One look in our Writers’ Forum (which you would’ve gotten access to) and you would’ve seen all that’s going on behind the scenes.

I have two comments to this: 1) A "good opportunity" is not a substitute for reliable, sufficient payment, and 2) if PreschoolRock.com is as successful as she says, why can't she afford to pay her writers real wages? In general, my bills need to be paid in "immediate monetary gains" on a monthly basis, so I don't see why I shouldn't expect as much from a writing gig.

Taking a chance on my share of ad revenues being enough to justify all of my hard work does not seem to me like fair payment. Other people - most likely people who already have other jobs or live in areas that don't have the high cost-of-living that is found in most of the U.S. - might be willing to gamble on ad revenues or give their work away in exchange for a "good opportunity," but I prefer clients who will pay me an amount that is decided on beforehand. And even though I've spent my freelancing career working for "immediate monetary gains," I haven't suffered for opportunities.

In other words, don't let any employer ever tell you that their "good opportunity" is worth working for nominal or unreliable pay!

36,717 words - still a long way to go

I was able to get a little more writing done tonight. I am currently up to 36,717 total words - a far cry from the 45,000 I was hoping to reach by the time we got back from our vacation. However, I feel that I made good progress today. Hopefully I will be able to devote a good deal of time to my novel over the next few days.

Monday, November 27, 2006

All play and no work...

I thought I'd easily be able to work over the holiday because I love writing fiction so much... but it turned out to be harder than I thought. We visited Michael's family, and I'm not sorry to say that I ended up visiting with my horse a lot more than I worked on my novel.

Michael's brother recently got a new horse - a colt named Sundance. Although Sundance is only 7 months old - a good 6 months younger than Panama - he's already bigger than Panama. He is a mix of draft horse and some type of show horse; the show horse blood is quite evident, especially when Sundance trots, picking his legs high up in the front. He's a beautiful horse, and very sweet-tempered - but I prefer my fiery Panama.

Panama is still a little bit on the wild side, but I think I was able to connect with him a lot better this time than last time. The first couple of days I was there, he didn't have a halter on - they had had to take it off because it was getting too small on him. It was difficult, because I had no way to keep him with me once he decided to leave, but I was able to give him a little bit of attention here and there.

On Saturday, with four of us helping, we managed to corner Panama and put a halter on him. It took some work, but once we got it on him he was like a different horse - much gentler and tamer, though still slightly skittish. He just doesn't get enough attention, poor guy - but the more he gets of it, the more he wants. By the time we left this morning, he came right up to me when I stood at the fence to say goodbye.

Panama has gotten rather plump, which is good to see - he had been so underfed when we first saw him in May, and it took a long time for him to gain enough weight to cover his ribs. He is now almost 13 1/2 hands tall (a hand is four inches, and a horse's height is measured at the shoulders). He's tall enough so that I can lean my forehead against his neck and smell his horsey smell.

I don't regret for the moment all the time I was able to spend with Panama. It seemed to do him a lot of good. I was able to write a little, reaching a measely 35,080 total words. With only three full days left of NaNoWriMo, I'm hoping I'll be able to devote some time in the next few days to working on my novel. I want to make sure I "win" (i.e. reach 50,000 words) my first go round!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

32,322 words

I've written another 2,308 words. Although I reported them after midnight, so they technically go on tomorrow's count, in actuality I wrote a total of 4,699 words today.

I doubt I'll get that many done tomorrow, but I hope to get at least 2,000 done. My goal is to reach where I should be by the end of the weekend - about 45,000 words. If I can do that, it should be an easy sprint to the finish line.

Update on Pre-Press Company, Inc.

About two months ago, I posted a link to another writer's blog entry, warning about a company called Pre-Press Company, Inc. that was currently refusing to pay her. They did eventually agree to pay her part of what they owe her... But, perhaps unsurprisingly, two months later Pre-Press Company, Inc. still owes her half of the agreed-upon amount.

I don't know about Kathy Kehlri, but as far as I'm concerned, they had a chance to prove themselves to be an honest, reputable employer - and they blew it. Then again, I'll bet Kathy probably agrees with me - otherwise she wouldn't have posted another "screw you."

I have no respect at all for a company that neglects to pay its writers, and then tries to bully them into not telling other writers that they're not good for their word. I mean, you have to wonder how many other writers Pre-Press Company has intimidated into keeping silent.

It's everyone's own decision, of course - but I'd say that Pre-Press Company is one employer that writers ought to avoid like the plague.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

30,014 words: Catching up!

After just over a week of not working on my novel, I was able to devote more than two hours to it today. As a result, I added 2,391 words to my total word count - and I'm hoping to write some more before the night is over.

As a NaNoWriMo side note - last night the South Denver NaNoWriMo group met to go see Stranger Than Fiction. Amusingly, the plot line of the movie reminded us all of a NaNo novel... But it was a lot of fun. I really enjoy visiting with the other writers that I've met, and I'm really disappointed that there's only one more meeting left. :o( With any luck, though, we'll be able to keep in touch - and we'll see each other again next November!

Beware of scams aimed at NaNoWriMo-ers!

One of my NaNoWriMo buddies directed me to this NaNo forum thread about the scams publishers run after NaNoWriMo ends. This is a very good thing for all NaNoWriMo-ers to be aware of! Writers - particularly novice writers, who don't yet know the way the business works - always need to be wary of scams, as there are countless people out there who would love to steal your work, your money, or both.

Be careful, everyone - there's nothing like a publisher's scam to ruin your NaNoWriMo experience for you!!!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I've been tagged!!!

Another active member of the online freelancing community, Kathy Kehrli, just tagged me to participate in a Meme. I haven't done this before, but apparently the idea is to make me tell everyone five things they don't yet know. As much as I gab about my professional and personal life on my blogs, this is going to be difficult...

Here goes!

1. I was one of the nominees at my high school for the National Merit Scholarship. That was 10 freaking years ago, so I'm willing to bet most of my readers don't know it. ;o)

2. I wrote my first novel when I was 14 years old. I never published any of my high school writings, but all of my friends read them and loved them.

3. Before deciding to go back to school, I not only taught preschool and after-school programs, but also flirted with the idea of pursuing a career in the automotive industry.

4. My least favorite authors that I read while getting my degree were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Virginia Woolf. I've probably offended someone now...

5. I collect 1950s dolls. Seriously, I have two cabinets full of them, countless shoeboxes and plastic storage totes, and they're still taking over non-storage or -display areas of my house.

As my duty to this game dictates, I have tagged the following people:


Unfortunately, not all of my friends are as techno-savvy as me (meaning they don't all spill their guts online on a regular basis), so this little list will have to do.

The call of duty

I knew it would eventually happen: my freelancing work would eventually supercede my NaNoWriMo goals in a major way. It's been several days now since I have been able to work on my novel, but tonight freelancing had to take precedence once again, as my most important goal is paying my bills.

However, I have a plan for catching up on my novel writing. I'm going to get all of my work done before Thanksgiving - hopefully by Tuesday, actually - and then use all the down time I can muster to work on the novel around the holiday. I think I can get quite a bit out of the long weekend if I am really determined.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Another night of sacrificed NaNo time

I won't be writing again tonight. Unfortunately, I need to get up very early tomorrow - probably about 6:45, which is extremely early for me - in order to take Michael to work so I can borrow his car. (Mine has not been running for a few weeks now, as I haven't had the time to fix it.)

I also have a very busy day ahead of me tomorrow. I am interviewing a subject for an article tomorrow morning; I have a doctor's appointment in the afternoon; and I babysit in the evening. Somewhere in there I'd also like to squeeze in getting a haircut, picking up a couple of books on hold for me at the library, and getting some writing work done.

Unfortunately, this pace may continue through the weekend. Saturday there is a doll sale I've been waiting to go to; Sunday and Monday we are celebrating Michael's birthday; and Tuesday all of the local NaNoWriMo-ers are going to see the movie Stranger Than Fiction. And then with Thanksgiving coming up soon after that... Well, finding time to write may be a struggle in the next few days.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

27,623 words

I was able to write tonight, although admittedly I neglected some freelancing work to do so. I decided I can do it as well tomorrow.

I only wrote 1,757 words tonight, but that puts me up to 27,623, almost a full thousand over where I should be at by day 16. It's not as comfortable as a lead as I had before last night, but it'll do.

I also attended a local NaNoWriMo meeting tonight. I really like all of the people that come to them - there was seven of us last time, eight of us this time - and I'm hoping to stay in touch with them after NaNoWriMo ends. Admittedly, I am considerably older than some of them - the second oldest in the entire group - but noveling must be a very strong connection between all of us, because I don't often notice the age difference at all.

I think it's always a good thing for a writer to have other writers as friends. They understand things that non-writing friends just don't, no matter how supportive or appreciative they are.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Freelancing responsibilities come first

Well, I didn't make it back to my novel tonight. I didn't have the evening to work tonight, and as a result I didn't get as much done as I had wanted - so NaNoWriMo had to take a back burner until I got caught up on the paying work. I'm still slightly ahead of schedule on my word count, so as long as I get a chance to write tomorrow night I'll be fine.

The plus side is that I will have the money I need to take Michael out for his birthday. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

25,866 words

Tonight I wrote 1,926 words, bumping my total word count up to 25,866. Although I ran out of steam early (i.e. just shy of my goal of 2,000), I'm quite pleased with the progress of the novel. Although I hadn't outlined more than a handful of chapters (and those very roughly), the story is beginning to take on a definite shape now - I know not only how it will end, but much more of how it will get there. And I'll only have to go back and make one major plot change when the writing stage is all over.

I'm already somewhat dreading the editing stage. Although I wrote three novels in high school, my reluctance to edit (combined with the fact that I didn't have much encouragement to pursue it as a career) is partly to blame for the fact that I never published any of those. Although I have gotten much better at editing my own work in recent years, the thought of editing an entire novel is still a bit unnerving. Still, though, I hope to push my way through it, much the way I have pushed my way through NaNoWriMo, so that I can work on publishing my novel.

At which point I will have to deal with a whole new set of tasks that I dread...

Monday, November 13, 2006

23,940 words

I'm very pleased to say that I'm moving along at a fantastic pace. With somewhere around 2,100 words for today (counting what I wrote before and after midnight), I've reached 23,940 total words.
I've decided to almost completely cut an earlier scene when I go back and edit, but since I wrote it during NaNoWriMo, the words count... Therefore the scene stays in until I actually do the edits.

I have a comfortable 2,300-word lead, so as long as I maintain a decent pace of between 1,500 and 2,000 words each day, I should finish the 50,000 words by the end of the month. The novel plot is going strong, too, as I successfully saved it from fizzling out and ending early. (The reason for deciding to delete the earlier scene.)

According to my progress report, I am now 47.88% finished.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Notes on the new Blogger Beta

Obviously, everything published okay, since my last post (discussing the new Blogger Beta) has appeared on my blog. Interestingly, though, the system told me it hadn't gone okay, as I got the message, "We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request." Yet when I looked, my post had been published.

Interesting. Despite that little hangup, though, I like the new Blogger Beta. Aside from the fact that I am able to receive people's comments in it - which I apparently wasn't in the regular Blogger - it also seems to be much faster...especially the publishing part.

The new Blogger Beta

Just last night, I switched my blogs over to Blogger Beta. The wait was rather dissatisfactory, as I wasn't able to access my blogs until this morning - ugh! However, I found it interesting that once my blogs were switched, I suddenly had comments dating back to January. They had never shown up, and Blogger had never emailed me to say they were there, despite my settings! So I went through and approved about 30 comments over the past year. If one of them was yours, please don't take offense that I never published it - I never even knew anyone was commenting at all.

As for the news I couldn't post last night: I now have 21,207 total words! I wrote 280 words Friday evening, and a whopping 7,206 words last night! I am now caught up from being sick, and as long as I write another 2,000 words sometime today (or tonight), I will reach my goal for the weekend.

Well, here is the moment of truth: I'm going to publish my first blog post in the new Blogger Beta, and we'll see if it works!

Friday, November 10, 2006

A good old-fashioned sick day

I didn't do any work today - instead I had what you might call a good old-fashioned sick day. I got up, ate breakfast, checked email, took a hot bath (once the medicine kicked in and I could breathe out of at least one nostril), ate soup for lunch, and then took a 2-hour nap.

I didn't really feel any better today than I did yesterday. In fact, I think I felt worse, probably because it took me so long to get to sleep last night - every time I was almost asleep, my nose plugged up and I couldn't breathe at all. I can't breathe through my mouth (it really bothers me), so I had to keep blowing my nose.

Fortunately, I don't have any very pressing deadlines right this minute, so I am going to declare my weekend officially started - and work on my novel until the new, stronger medicine Michael bought for me kicks in and knocks me out.

This is no allergy attack!

I thought last night that what I had was just an allergy attack, but now it's quite clearly more than that. I'm pretty sure that I caught a cold from the sick baby I babysat last Saturday night.

I feel pathetic. I got some decent freelancing work done today, but I'm wiped out from the effort - even though all I did was sit on the couch all day, all bundled up in blankets. So, I'm crying off of NaNoWriMo tonight.

Here's my plan: tomorrow I am going to get all of my freelance work out of the way (which shouldn't be hard, since I don't have any really serious deadlines looming over my head right now). Then I'll be free to catch up on my novel over the weekend. In order to get totally caught up, I'll basically need to write about 8,000 words by the time I go to bed Sunday evening. I think I can do that, though, with all my freelance work out of the way.

In any case, I'm heading to bed now to get another good 10 hours or so of sleep. It helped quite a bit last night, so I'm hoping that another night of it will completely kick this cold.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Dems on top of the world...for a change!

Hoorah - with Senator Allen's concession to Webb in Virginia, the Democrats now have a majority in the Senate, as well as the House! Hoorah!

Bush, suddenly faced with a situation that he had vehemently denied would ever happen, is now crying out for bipartisanship. Of course, we're not going to forget that easily that for the past six years he has routinely denied the Democrats any voice in the fate of our country.

He's outnumbered and now he wants to compromise. It's laughable, really.

Our first presidential candidate for '08

Inspired by the result of Tuesday's election, we have our first presidential candidate for 2008: Tom Vilsack, governor of Iowa. After reading his website and listening to his video blog, I think Vilsack will make my choice in the primaries quite a bit harder (as I also like several of the other potential Democratic candidates).

It was difficult to choose which excerpt to use in my blog, but after some deliberation I decided that this passage summarized what I like best about Vilsack so far:

"Under Governor Vilsack's leadership, the state has a record number of employed Iowans, has made significant investments in Iowa's education system, has increased the number of Iowans with health care coverage, and is a national leader in renewable energy. The governor has achieved these results while eliminating three state departments, reducing the total number of state employees, and providing targeted tax relief to working families without raising overall taxes."

I don't know about you, but I'm impressed. It really sounds like Vilsack has his priorities straight: he's doing what's best for the people (jobs, education, health care, etc.) while minimizing what's not best for them (unnecessary government departments, tax increases).

If Hilary Clinton also runs, who to vote for in the primary election will be a very difficult decision for me! Ultimately, my decision has to do with who will best support what's needed for the people without sacrificing the people's freedoms. For me, the first category - what's needed for the people - includes more higher-paying jobs, better access to health care (and less expense associated with it), better public education, more renewable energy and less dependence on oil (and, therefore, countries who hate us), and an end to the war in Iraq. The people's freedoms that need to be upheld include the freedom to choose one's own religion (or no religion), reproductive freedom (i.e. free access to birth control and abortion), and the freedom of speech (a freedom that has been severely compromised by the Patriot Act and the recent phenomenon of the conservative press).

The results of Tuesday's election have me very excited about the new direction the country is headed in. I hope the trend continues well into the presidential election.

Under the weather

I had another unproductive night - my second in a row. This time it was because I started not feeling well, and ended up going to bed early. I think it was an allergy attack, and not a cold coming on, but I'm still a little congested this morning, so it may be too early to tell. In any case, I have a feeling the 10 hours of sleep that I got last night probably helped speed my recovery - even if it also helped me fall behind on both freelance work and NaNoWriMo.

The situation is this: I have 13,721 words of my novel, but as of today I should be up to 15,003...and by the end of tonight (I usually work after midnight) I should be up to 16,670. In other words, in order to get back on track I have 2,949 words to write tonight.

Unfortunately, since I'm also behind on my freelance work, I'm not sure it'll happen tonight. However, I'm hoping to get all my freelancing work done before the weekend, so that I can spend Saturday and Sunday catching up on my novel (kind of like I did last weekend).

On that note, I guess I had better get to work!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Local news: Colorado scam against writers

I read Writers Weekly religiously every Wednesday, including the "Whispers and Warnings" section. Today's Whispers and Warnings included an ongoing soap opera with a magazine that I just realized was local. In fact, the horrible woman running it even went to the same school as me!

Jeannette M. Porrazzo, the owner of Form and Style Magazine, has many counts against her. According to the forums, Jeannette Porrazzo owes a writer and an editor each $5,000 or so, and is not paying because she is supposedly "seeking funding" for the magazine. However, on her myspace blog she admits that her magazine has tanked. And goodness knows how many other writers she owes money to: another writer wrote in to say that she and a bunch of writers were outright refused payment because she can't afford to pay them. She is in breach of goodness knows how many contracts, and actually seems to think that because she can't afford to pay up, she's no longer legally obligated to.

Moreover, this woman has sent both Angela Hoy and the complaining writers many emails trying to claim that they have no right to publish their complaints about her. Bull shit they don't! It's called "freedom of speech" - you'd think an aspiring journalist would know about that.

She also has published pictures of someone's wedding - including pictures of minor children - on her website, and is selling the pictures for a profit...without the people's consent. She took the pictures while she was finishing up her degree at Metro. You'd think a journalism student would also know about the laws prohibiting her from doing that. According to the forum post regarding the pictures, the parents of the children are planning to take her to court for it.

The story caught my interest because I like to keep tabs on the scam artists in the business, but also because it's a local - Denver area - story. So, I hope all writers - whether based in the Denver area or not - will stay far, far away from Jeannette Porrazzo and FormandStyle.com.

Hoorah to all the voters!

Yesterday's election was a terrific success! Although there are measures that I'd hoped for that didn't pass, the widespread Democratic victories more than make up for it! Colorado - normally a conservative state, despite its liberal roots (i.e. being the second state in the nation to give women the vote) - earned itself a Democratic governor, as well as a majority of Democratic House Reps. Nationwide, the Dems have taken the House, and have at least reached a break-even point in the Senate - it all depends on Virginia whether the Dems end up with 50 or 51 senators, and according to the preliminary numbers the Democratic candidate in Virginia is a few tenths of a percentage ahead. It may mean a recount, but I am hopeful that the Democratic party will take the Senate, as well.

I am hopeful that the direction this country has been heading in since Bush took office will be turned back with the results of this election. Bush claims that the Democratic majorities won't do anything to change the White House's policies, but then, he said we wouldn't win, either. :o) Speaking of what Bush says, check out this video. It's beautifully done - whoever did this was a technical genius.

Closer to home, the election results that I can find so far (and how I feel about them) are this:

Amendment 38: Petitions - failed (It would have made it easier for citizens to propose changes to the law.)

Amendment 39: School District Spending Requirements - failed (It would have required schools to spend 65% of their funding in the classrooms. The major problem with it was that it didn't include provisions for bussing, school counselors, and nurses, and other integral parts of public schools. I voted for Referendum J, which did include these things in the 65%, but so far I haven't been able to find anything on whether J passed.)

Amendment 40: Term Limits for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Judges - failed (It would have limited how long a judge could serve in Colorado. Mainly backed by the conservatives who don't like how current judges interpret the law, I do believe.)

Amendment 41: Standards of Conduct in Government - passed (Prevents election campaigns from accepting "gifts" (read: bribes) from special interest groups.)

Amendment 42: Increase in Minimum Wage - passed (Raises the minimum wage for the first time in ten years!)

Amendment 43: Marriage Discrimination - passed (Puts a clause in Colorado's Constitution, defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Very unfortunate.)

Amendment 44: Marijuana Possession - failed (Would have legalized possession of less than an ounce of marijuana statewide.)

Referendum E: Property Tax Reduction for Disabled Veterans - passed overwhelmingly with 79% (Reduces property taxes for veterans permanently disabled in service to our country, whether oversees or at home.)

Referendum F: Recall Deadlines - failed (Would have extended the deadlines for recalling an elected public official.)

Referendum G: Obsolete Constitutional Provisions - passed overwhelmingly with nearly 76% (Eliminates "outdated" laws and clauses from the Colorado Constitution. I didn't vote for it because it included several clauses about eliminating old age pensions, which made me nervous.)

Referendum H: Using the IRS to Fine Business Employers Who Hire Illegal Immigrants - too close yet to call, although it looks possible that it might win (This law will enable the IRS to fine businesses $150,000 if they knowingly deduct illegal immigrants' wages from their business income. I have two problems with this: 1) I'm pro-immigration, and 2) I don't believe it's the IRS's responsibility to convict and penalize people who break a completely unrelated law.)

Referendum I: Domestic Partnerships - failed (Would have given gay and lesbian couples, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples, rights outside of marriage. Although they still would not have had the federal tax advantages of marriage, they wouldn't have had to worry about things like child custody in case of one partner's death. It's a travesty that this failed, not just for gays and lesbians, but for the millions of children being raised in gay and lesbian homes.)

Referendum J: School District Spending Requirements - failed (Like Amendment 39, would have required schools to spend 65% of funding on the classrooms, but this one included bussing, school counselors, and school nurses in the definition of "the classrooms." I was for it.)

Referendum K: Immigration Lawsuit Against Federal Government - passed (Allows Colorado to waste precious finanical resources in suing the federal government for not effectively enforcing immigration laws. For God's sake...)

Although many of the measures I voted for failed and vice versa, I am duly encouraged by the prospect of a more democratic nation for the next two years. Hoorah to all the voters who got out there and made their voices heard!!!

Fits and starts

It seems I am working on my novel in fits and starts now. I was a little behind on my freelancing work this evening, so that had to take precedence over NaNoWriMo. I was still going to work on my novel anyway, but just a few minutes ago I gave my eyes a good long rub, and realized I was tired. So I am going to bed, but I am hoping to write enough tomorrow night to maintain my lead.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

13,721 words

In my least productive night yet (not counting the night when I didn't write at all), I wrote only 1,810 words tonight. However, that puts me at 13,721 total words, which is still about 2,000 words more than the goal for the seventh day of NaNoWriMo.

I'm quite pleased with my progress. I've noticed that writing is getting easier as I go along - I'm writing faster and better, and one by one the pieces of the plot are falling into place.

I woke up as Michael was getting ready for work this morning, and he asked how many words I was up to. Amazingly, even though I was half asleep, I remembered and was able to tell him. And although I didn't remember this until later in the day when he told me again, he said he was really proud of me for my progress. I can't begin to describe how good that made me feel.

This truly is a major accomplishment for me. Although I wrote three novels in high school - and was halfway through my fourth when I stopped writing - the most fiction I've written since then is a few short stories, and a few half-hearted attempts to start a novel here or there. I'm hoping that I will continue devoting time to writing fiction, even after NaNoWriMo ends on November 30th - perhaps becoming a published novelist isn't as far away as I'd thought it was.

Monday, November 06, 2006

It's here - VOTING DAY!!!

Voting day is tomorrow. Don't forget to vote!!!

11,911 words

Today was a wildly successful day. I wrote about 800 words during the afternoon, which were counted as Sunday's words along with what I wrote late last night. Then, later this evening, I wrote 2,404 words. If you count the afternoon's 800, too (which I do), that makes the day's total word count around 3,200. Not bad for a day's work - I'm quite pleased.

I also finally decided to post an excerpt on my NaNoWriMo profile. My exerpt choice might change later on, or I might remove it altogether... There's no telling. I am typically very reluctant to let anyone read my works-in-progress, so you should assume this is a rare treat and enjoy it while you can. The next time you read any part of this novel might not be until it is (with any luck) published.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

8,739 words

I've caught up to where I "should" be in my NaNoWriMo novel. Day 5 should see me at around 8,335 words (I think it was). I got to 8,739, which means I've officially made up for my lost day.

Writing gets harder as I get further in, closer to the parts of the plot that I'm uncertain about. I'm trying to plan the plot as I go, but as I mentioned last night, oftentimes it takes on something of a life of its own. The bad part of that comes when my inspiration suddenly tapers off, and I don't have an outline to keep me plodding onward. So far that hasn't happened, but I know what it's like. I'm hoping it won't come to it.

If I can keep up with this pace, though, I should be ahead by a decent amount again before too long, which will allow me the luxury of time to use on outlining.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

6,407 words

I did a decent job of catching up tonight, although last night's break still cost me. I reached 6,407 words on my novel, which means I wrote almost 2,200 tonight. I'm only about 250 words shy of where I should be if I were writing a steady 1,667 words a day, but I decided to go ahead and stop for the night.

Of course, I have a lot of other freelance work to do over the weekend, but I still intend to spend as much time as possible working on my novel. I would like to get ahead of the game again (in case of other nights like last night).

Interestingly, although I had started a rough outline, little events in the novel are already resequencing themselves. It's funny how as you write, the story just kind of takes on its own life, and suddenly you realize, "Oh, that's how it's supposed to go." Sometimes I feel like I'm nothing more than an outlet for a story that already exists.
In any case, fairly soon I'll have to do some more outlining, because unless I keep coming up with ideas as I write, there's only so much longer before I get to the end of what I've already outlined. (Not that the outline counts for much, evidently.)

In other notes, I'm planning on going to the South Denver nanowrimo meeting next week. It'll be interesting to meet other nanos (as we are called) in the area.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Losing my edge...already?

I was too sleepy last night. I just couldn't write. I didn't work on my freelance work or my novel... I didn't even read! I went to bed at 11:30, for heaven's sake!

So, I'll need to play some catch-up today... Both with my regular work and my novel.

Better get to it...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

4,220 words

Another successful night of nanowrimo-ing! I wrote 2,210 words tonight (up from last night's 2,010). Interesting that I ended on something-10 both nights. I suppose I could add a few words so as not to, but I don't feel like it. I'm tired.

Anyway, my story is moving along nicely. According to my nanowrimo progress report, I have now completed 8.44% of my goal. I'm ahead of schedule for both days (hence the sea green-colored cells), and my total word count is ahead of schedule by almost 1,000 words.

Before I get too cocky about my current rate of progress, I should also note that I ready today somewhere on the nanowrimo site that the first week, you should aim higher than the normal 1,666 words a day. About 2,000 words or more a day is what the article (which I can't find now) advised. If you can maintain that pace throughout the entire first week, you'll not only be that much further into your novel, you'll also be much more likely to reach your 50,000-word goal by the end of the month. It makes sense. So, sure, that's what I'm doing. ;o)

Actually, I'm highly competitive, even when it's against myself. When I got to about 3,670 words - the basic goal for the day, yesterday's plus 1,666 - I put my word count in and checked my progress report. The cumulative word count cell was green, indicating that I'm ahead, but the daily word count cell was still pink. No!!! We can't have that!!! I have to live up to the standard I set the day before!!! So I wrote for a little while longer, and ultimately added almost another 500 words to my count.

Well. I'm sleepy and I should probably get some sleep so that I can do my other work during the day (before getting back to my novel). Good night, all.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NaNoWriMo website issues

The NaNoWriMo has gotten slower and slower throughout the day. An article on the site states that it should get better in a couple of days, once everyone gets past their initial posting frenzy. The article also comments that the site is much better during off peak hours (which I'd already noted in my blog post this morning).

We'll see how the site runs later tonight. If it's still really bad, I may not update my word count for a few days - on the NaNoWriMo site, that is. I'll continue to write updates on my blogs.

A ghostwriter's lament

Listen to this NPR story on the woes of ghostwriting. Really hits home - especially if you've ever ghostwritten anything! (I was the ghostwriter of a few short stories a little while back. I haven't ever seen them in print, but regardless, I know how it feels.)

Waking to NaNoWriMo

This morning I had an email inbox full of congratulations and well-wishes. Thank you, everyone! :o)

Although I plan to get my other work for the day done before I work on my novel, I still attribute the fact that I was able to get up easily after only 7 hours of sleep on my excitement over Nanwrimo. The last time I was able to do that without a struggle was over the summer, when I was swamped with work and knew it.

Will Write For Chocolate has had a few really good Nanowrimo comics lately. You can see her latest here. The first frame is how I felt (and probably looked - ear-to-ear grin) last night. Debbie Ridpath Ohi is also supposed to be doing daily comics on the Nanowrimo site, but the first one is not up yet.

I have also made an observation about the Nanowrimo site. If any other Nanowrimo-ers are reading this, take note - the site sucks during the day, but it runs fine late at night. I was able to access my profile page and everything last night, no problems, but today my profile won't load, and all the other pages load very slowly. I'm surprised so many writers are going at this during the day, because I thought writers were nocturnal creatures, but I guess this arrangement works better for those of us who are nocturnals, anyway!

If you are doing Nanowrimo, be sure to visit my profile! I need some buddies!!! :o)

The first 2,000 words

My first day (night?) of NaNoWriMo was quite a success! I already have 2,010 words to my novel - well over the daily goal of 1,666. I've averaged at a little more than 1,000 words an hour. I could probably keep going all night, but my head hurts because I'm tired and I've been ignoring it for the past hour and a half.

I'm going to go to bed now. After all, I do have other work to do in the morning before I work more on my novel. If it weren't for my freelance work, I think I could probably write this novel in a week!

I've noticed that the meter on my blogs hasn't updated yet, but the one on my myspace pages has. Still, if you click on the meter itself you'll be taken to my "progress report," and that should be updated.

In any case, I'd better get some sleep!

NaNoWriMo countdown!!!

Six minutes until NaNoWriMo begins! I'm so excited!!!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New link in sidebar - and fancy NaNoWriMo meter!

Please check out my sidebar changes! I've added a link to my NaNoWriMo page, as well as a meter that will keep track of my total words written throughout November. Should make it easier for you to check up on me! :o)

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow!

This is it - the last day of calm before the storm. The test of my dedication is about to begin. Am I up for it?

I guess I should mention that I've come up with a title for my novel: "What Dreams May Come." I've always felt that that should be the title, as the Shakespearian passage it comes from suits the novel so perfectly, but I really struggled with the fact that there are already books and movies out there with that name. However, I've decided I don't really care, as right now I am doing this for me. I can always change the title later (or an editor can, I suppose) if my working title doesn't suit.

I need to polish up my outline before tomorrow. Thinking about it in bed last night, I decided I needed a little more "oomph" in places. I hope to work on it later tonight, but right now I have a lot else that needs doing.

Monday, October 30, 2006

'Stay the Course' video

Website update

I updated my website to reflect my new ebook venture - I now have an ebooks page in my portfolio! Check it out!

Katharine Swan, ebook author

Thanks to a Success Story article on Writers Weekly about selling ebooks, I got started thinking last week about getting into the ebook business. Screw getting paid a crummy $100 or so (which is what many ebook publishers are offering their writers) to write an entire book. I can write the books myself and sell them on ebay.

I decided to test the waters with a doll stringing instructions booklet I had written for my technical writing class a year and a half ago. I started a free trial account with Adobe online, converted the file to a pdf (after a little touch-ups, of course), and listed my ebook on ebay.

I didn't know what to expect, so I priced my ebooks quite low. That means I only get a couple of bucks out of each one after the ebay fees are assessed, but at the same time, I'm hoping the low price will attract more buyers. It's a lot easier to take a chance on a $2.99 ebook than a $9.99 ebook (as I saw a similar ebook priced at).

So far I've sold 4 ebooks - and it's only been 4 days! I'm hoping to sell more by the time the listings end on Thursday. In any case, I think the ebook has proven itself worth listing again.

As soon as I have a chance, I'm going to start working on another ebook - one about restyling dolls' hair to copy the original set. I might also consider setting up an alternate ebay seller's account under my pen name, Katharine Swan.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


I had a rough weekend, and the last thing that I feel like doing right now is working. Unfortunately, I have a lot of work piled up, so I can hardly afford to take another night off.

I started feeling kind of sick Thursday night. I didn't pay it much attention, just noticed I was having a hard time working. Friday was worse - I felt queasy all day. By Friday evening, I felt so bad that I couldn't work at all. I went to bed early, and slept late on Saturday, too. And then I was tired much earlier than usual Saturday night, as well. I got a little work done Saturday, but then my wrist started hurting Saturday night (I get symptoms of either carpal tunnel or repetitive strain injury sometimes), which kept me from working as well.

Today I felt better, but I had a toy show to go to, for an article I'm writing. As a result of being sick and having other stuff to do today, I just haven't gotten much work done in the past few days. It's pathetic.

As always after being away from work for a few days, I have the feeling of not wanting to work, combined with the unfortunate reality of having a lot of work built up that I really need to get done; and as a result I want to work even less.

Well, I guess I had better suck it up and see how much I can get done tonight before I get tired again. Since my body's first reaction whenever I'm sick (or getting over being sick) is always to sleep a lot, I will probably not last much longer tonight.

Don't forget to vote!

Thomas Jefferson once said:

"We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate."

Please be part of those who participate this election! We need every vote we can get if we are to oust the conservatives!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

NaNoWriMo: What am I getting myself into?

I'm not actually reconsidering my commitment to NaNoWriMo, but Will Write For Chocolate had an amusing comic about the pressures of making time for an average of 1,666 words of fiction a day. (Actually, 1,667, since you should round up.) It sounds rather like my take on it, except for me it's reading and watching movies with Michael that I'm not willing to give up. Everything else can go, but...

I have a feeling Eliza is in for a rocky month. It'll be fun to see how it goes for her...and for me!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Calling all voters!

Last night I spent some time researching all the issues on this year's ballot. It takes time to wade through all the crap and get to the real issues, but it's important to do so, so I put aside my work for a couple of hours. I hope all of you are doing the same. These smaller elections so often lose voters, because there's not a big controversial presidential election involved, but they are equally as important. This election could either support the president you voted for...or hamstring the president you didn't vote for (but won anyway).

With the election coming up fast, I decided a political post on my writer's blog wasn't misplaced. I want to share with you an interesting article I found, which describes Bush & Co.'s new tactic of cutting and running, even while Bush's mantra of "Stay the course!" still rings in our ears.

It's no secret that the falling gas prices are a "bribe" from the Republicans to get us to vote for them, but it appears their methods of convincing the public have not been very successful. Polls are still showing a major lack of votes going to the Republicans. I, for one, am very proud of my fellow Americans for not being "bought" by their little gas prices scheme. We'll show the Republicans that we're not those "little people" they like to think of us as. We are intelligent, informed, and our voices count.

Please get out there and vote. It's not too late to request an absentee ballot if you don't want to deal with polling place lines (or risk your vote being "miscounted" by the voting machines - which, by the way, are controlled by the Republicans...and they are so unsecure that a few years back, a 12-year-old was able to hack into them). Make your voice heard this election, and help turn the tide of the current presidential term.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A year ago today

A year ago today, I was just starting my career as a full-time freelance writer. My last day at my technical writing job was October 21, 2005.

A lot has happened in one year of freelancing. I believe I've come a long way. A year ago, I had never:

* earned more than about $25 for an article
* published any fiction
* been published in a magazine or a newspaper
* interviewed anyone for an article
* written a press release
* written test questions
* ghostwritten anything
* kept a personal blog
* introduced myself as a freelance writer

Now, I can proudly say that I have done all those things! I've achieved more in the past year than I had dreamed I would - I thought it would take longer to find any degree of success, let alone a steady income. In fact, I may have already found my way back to my original writing dream - to be a novelist - depending on how NaNoWriMo pans out.

Thinking back on the past year, I'm very, very, pleased. To all those people who thought I couldn't do this - I've proved otherwise.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I'm officially signed up for NaNoWriMo!

I just signed up for NaNoWriMo! Please feel free to view my profile and check up on my progress periodically throughout November. I intend to not only keep my NaNoWriMo page updated, but blog abot my progress on both Swan's Blog and my MySpace Blog. (Is there such a thing as too many blogs?)

NaNoWriMo plans

I'm still thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo. I was thinking about writing a young adult novel from a short story I wrote back in high school, but I already wrote the prologue to it a couple of years ago, and I'd want to keep that. Since that's against the rules, I think I'll do a different novel.

The novel I'm thinking of writing is also young adult. Again, I came up with the story idea several years ago, and even wrote a few pages. However, if I don't reference them at all it's not breaking the rules. I think that's what I'll do. I didn't even get very far on the outline way-back-then, so I'm going to flesh that out while I decide if that's what I want to do.

I'm getting really excited about this NaNoWriMo thing. I'll have to register on the site once I make up my mind for sure.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The NaNoWriMo challenge

Honestly, who knew there was a National Novel Writing Month? But there is, as I found out from yesterday's post on Debbie Ridpath Ohi's Will Write For Chocolate. (Be sure to check out the comic, too!)

Basically, it's a challenge to write a novel in one month. It only has to be 50,000 words (which is pretty short, as novels go), and you can do research and outline the novel before November 1st, but all the writing has to be done between the 1st and the 30th.

I'm tempted to try it, although I'm not sure how I'll be able to juggle novel-writing with all my regular paying gigs. However, I think it just might be what I need to jump-start my writing again - although I've picked up some speed, I still feel I'm working slower than I did before my burn-out during the summer. Also, at the end of the month I'll have a novel to start sending around to the publishing houses, which isn't a bad thing.

In any case, if I decide to take the challenge, I'll be sure to blog about it regularly. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to check it out for themselves - November is almost here!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Why a badly written ad isn't a sign that they really need a writer!

We've all seen them: those ads that contained misspelled words, bad grammar, and no capital letters or punctuation. A writer's first instinct may be, "Wow, they really need me!" That thought couldn't be more off-base.

The problem with these employers is that they wouldn't know good writing if it did the Macarena across their computer screen. That might be a good thing if you are a really bad writer yourself - they won't have a clue. But if you're actually a good writer, you are wasting your time - as well as possibly putting yourself in danger of getting screwed. It's my guess that the "employers" that write these ads are more likely to be scammers.

So, watch out for those ads that make you want to get out your red pen!


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