Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Weird book habits

Today Debbie Ridpath Ohi blogged posted a survey on her blog asking about people's weird book habits. Unfortunately, she left comments off (by accident, I'm assuming), so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to add to my blog.

To answer Debbie's questions:

1) No, I almost never put a book face down on a flat surface. Maybe if it's a library book, and it's a hardback with a spine that's already well broken in. But that's it.

2) If you are on my list of people I'll lend my books to, you are either as OCD as I am, or I live with you.

3) Yes, I remove dust jackets while I'm reading the book. I'm a book collector, so it's been drilled into me: a book without a dust jacket with a damaged dust jacket isn't worth as much (not to mention incredibly ugly).

4) I used to write my name in my books, but I don't even do that anymore. The only exception was my school books while I was in school, but even that was difficult. I stopped doing it so much when I realized I rarely looked at my own notes afterward.

5) I am, as Debbie calls herself, neurotic about books. I'm not just a bookworm - I'm also an amateur book collector, and even if my books aren't worth a fortune, I'm still proud of the beautiful old volumes (some of them first editions!).

I was neurotic about books before I started collecting, though, so my hobby isn't the cause of my neurosis. In high school I developed a pet peeve against fingerprints on the covers of glossy paperbacks - I would actually make one of my best friends hold my books so that her fingers were on the corners of the spine, thus leaving minimal fingerprints.

While I'm not that bad anymore, I still am anxious enough about the condition of my books that I don't lend them to very many people - and not at all if they are first editions or antique or some other special edition. I only open my paperbacks about 90 degrees when I read them, and God help anyone who returns one with the smallest spine crease!!!

The difference between blowing deadlines and requesting extensions

After writing my earlier post about deadlines, I started thinking about the term "blowing a deadline." I don't think it accurately describes my meaning, and probably not Kristen's, either, really.

"Blowing deadlines," in my opinion, is when you miss a deadline without the courtesy of informing your client that you're having a problem finishing the work on time. It is, essentially, not just blowing the deadline, but also blowing off the client.

I definitely don't do that - I'm always in touch with the client when I'm going to be late on something. Even if all I do is shoot off a quick email to let the client know - ahead of time - that I'm running behind, it makes a big difference.

So my revised list of lessons states:

1) Don't miss deadlines when you can avoid it.
2) Let your client know when you can't.
3) Appreciate the clients who are understanding when you do #2.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Deadlines and the end of the month

The end of the month is looming, and it seems deadlines are on everyone's mind. Harmony posted on Sunday about what she needed to do before the month ended, and Kristen King posted Monday about a blown deadline (and how upset she was about it). I have comments about both posts, and they (my comments) seemed kind of related, so I decided to talk about both tonight.

Not too long ago, I blogged about getting burned out. Then, more recently, I mentioned that I was starting to feel more like my old self. Unfortunately, that feeling comes and goes; I'm still struggling somewhat, so I have a backlog of work that I feel like I'll never be free of.

I have a confession to make, one that I suspect will make a whole bunch of guilty freelancers feel a little better: I miss deadlines. Not always - like I mentioned in a previous post, I tend to miss a deadline or two when I get burned out, which usually follows a period of insane amounts of work. Not all deadlines, thankfully - my brain seems to know the difference between deadlines for print publications (that have to go to the printer by a certain date), and deadlines for online venues (which are more flexible).

I mention this in response to Kristen's post, because she was clearly very freaked out about missing a deadline. The truth is, I haven't found missing a deadline here and there to be a major problem in my career (although, like I said, I have yet to miss any truly crucial deadlines). Most of my clients are wonderfully understanding and forgiving. They understand when I explain that I'm not feeling well, or that I'm running behind for some other reason.

There are three lessons to learn from this:

1) Don't miss deadlines when you can avoid it.
2) Don't worry about it too much when you can't.
3) Appreciate the clients that understand when you can't.

In response to Harmony's post... I have roughly 14 articles that I'd like to finish by the end of the week (not by the end of the month, thankfully!), as well as several (paid) blog posts. With a little luck, my productivity will hold and I'll accomplish all I set out to do...

Colorado forecasters have a sense of humor

I don't know why I found this so funny, but I did...and I wanted to share.

Note the forecast for Thursday: Breakfast Flakes. Is anyone else thinking of cereal?

My wacky sleep schedule

It always starts so innocuously: I stay up late in a well-meaning effort to finish a project, and sleep late the next day as a result. Days pass, and bedtime inches back later and later... until, like right now, I'm going to bed at 5 or 5:30am on a nightly basis.

Yup, that's where my schedule is right now. Bedtime fluctuates between 4am and 5:30am, and my days start at anywhere from noon to (on really bad days) 2pm.

Some people would kill to be able to keep these hours, but I'm embarrassed and kind of sick of it. It is a lot easier to slip into this schedule than it is to reverse the process, though. Part of my problem is that staying up late has a genuine advantage: I work faster, harder, and better late at night, without any interruptions. The other part of my problem is that virtually nothing wakes me up. Multiple alarms, loud alarm, phone calls from my honey - none of it works anymore. I even bought one of those vintage double-bell alarm clocks, and within a week I had gotten used to the brrrrring of the alarm and was sleeping through it, too.

Just tonight, though, I made a decision - which is why I'm blogging about this in the first place. I am going to readjust my schedule. My goal is to shift it a few hours back, so that I'm getting up around 10am and going to bed around 2am (my favorite schedule). The problem is that, although working late into the night works really well for me, breaking my day up like that doesn't. By the time I'm done searching for jobs, sifting through email, and getting into "the zone," Michael's day is almost over - and of course, when he's home I want to spend time with him. Unfortunately, that means that when he goes to bed, I have to get warmed up all over again.

Sitting down at 11pm or midnight with a full "day's" work ahead of me sucks. I would much rather be settling in with a book to read for a few hours.

So, that's my goal. It'll be a tough one, and slow going, so I may not blog with my progress every day. Honestly, I'm not yet sure how I'm going to overcome my sleep-through-WWIII problem, particularly if sheer determination doesn't do the trick. But I'll keep you updated.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Room of My Own

I was inspired by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who recently blogged about her office cave, to share my own workspace with the world (or at least the writing community). I've never considered myself a tidy person, but I was amused to see how messy Debbie's office was. I think there are two factors that keep me from becoming even more of a clutterbug than I already am: 1) my fiance is extremely tidy, and would probably leave me if I didn't clean off my desk occasionally (not to mention the dining table, where I spend my afternoons), and 2) my cats have a bad habit of knocking things off my desk when they want to look out the window.

In other words, the top of my desk is visible through the piles of crap. It's a little cleaner than usual in these pictures, as I did my semi-annual cleaning job about two weeks ago. I also am pretty good at keeping my drawers organized, particularly my filing drawer, which also minimizes the stuff that lands on top of my desk.

For those of you who don't already know, we have a little two-bedroom bungalow that was built in 1920. It's the traditional bungalow layout, which is divided into quarters: the front door opens into the living room, with the kitchen/dining room behind it, and the bedrooms one behind the other on the north side of the house. (Our common rooms both have south-facing windows, as I've heard is the norm in bungalows, because they get more sunlight - and thus more heat - in the winter.)

Anyway, my office is the front bedroom. Our house is extraordinarily well-lit, and the window behind my desk is one of the large front-facing ones. (All the windows have the original glass - it's so cool! I should have taken a picture of that, too!) My fiance has a desk on the other side of the room, but the office is mostly my space. I'm not ashaed to say that I believe I have the best spot in the entire house.

The rocker that sits on the other side of my desk is also older. It might look like your grandmother's rocker, but I'm telling you, it is so comfy. I do most of my work in that rocker, with my laptop and a lapdesk on my lap. For Christmas Michael got me one of those deluxe lapdesks that you find at Barnes & Noble, and it's wide enough to have my mini mouse and a mousepad alongside my itty-bitty laptop.

Like I mentioned, I spend my afternoons in the kitchen. It's better lit on that side of the house, and I like to open up the blinds on the south-facing windows and let the sunlight in. Especially recently, as warm as the weather has been, I'll also open the windows sometimes to let the air circulate.

In the evenings, though, I work in the office. The cats usually join me - one in Michael's office chair, and one in the rocker if I'm not already in it. Emma (our dog) will often sleep on the rug, too. Sometimes late at night, I'll have all three of them in here with me!

I have to agree with what Debbie says - my office is as good as anything I ever could have dreamed up. I love all of my antique furniture, and the way it makes my office feel so cozy. It's just a pretty room, and it makes working in it so much nicer. :o)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Getting back into the swing of things...

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was having a hard time recovering from getting burned out. Since then, my productivity has been gradually on the rise, but it wasn't until just a few nights ago that I felt like I was close to where I was before.

Despite Monday being a holiday, I have felt very productive this week. I've accomplished most of my goals every day, and I've resumed searching regularly for new work. All in all, I'm pretty pleased with myself.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I don't like quizzes

I saw this quiz on Harmony's blog and decided to try it. All in all, the experience reminded my of why I don't like quizzes.

Any "personality quiz" that has only two answer options per question has some serious flaws, in my opinion. I can't tell you how many times I had to choose between two answers where neither really worked.

After being dissatisfied with the answers, I went back and retook the test, changing just one or two answers that I was unsure about. I got a completely different result back.

Anyway, I think each set of results describe only one facet of my personality. (And each set also includes statements that are just plain wrong, such as me being reluctant to let people get close - ha!) I definitely see myself as smart and fairly analytical, but I'm pretty idealistic too. I used to jokingly call myself the "optimistic realist."

Is it just me that is this complicated, or do others agree with me that the test doesn't tell the full story?

Moral of the story: You can't expect a quiz to tell you who you are. Only you can do that.

You Are An INTP

The Thinker

You are analytical and logical - and on a quest to learn everything you can.

Smart and complex, you always love a new intellectual challenge.

Your biggest pet peeve is people who slow you down with trivial chit chat.

A quiet maverick, you tend to ignore rules and authority whenever you feel like it.

You would make an excellent mathematician, programmer, or professor.

You Are An INFP

The Idealist

You are creative with a great imagination, living in your own inner world.

Open minded and accepting, you strive for harmony in your important relationships.

It takes a long time for people to get to know you. You are hesitant to let people get close.

But once you care for someone, you do everything you can to help them grow and develop.

You would make an excellent writer, psychologist, or artist.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Attention beginning writers: Don't write for free!

One of the myths about freelancing that irks me the most is the one that claims that beginning writers have to writer for free (or for ridiculously cheap, as in a couple of bucks per article) in order to get started. It makes me angry because 1) it's not true, and 2) many beginning writers get taken advantage of because they believe that it is.

What's more, many employers perpetuate this myth - which makes me even angrier. I don't know if they are intentionally taking advantage of beginning writers, or if they truly believe that writers who are just starting out shouldn't expect to get paid for their time and effort - but either way, those employers deserve a swift kick in the butt.

Here is a perfect example of a client who seems to think that not paying her writers is a perfectly reasonable way to treat them: Greta Gavrisheff, who recently posted an ad on L.A.'s Craigslist. She is looking for web content writers for her sites, zedcards.com and industrystuff.com.

The ad offers virtually no information, but the payment line does say "TBD." To my mind, that means that there will be payment involved, just an as-of-yet undecided amount. However, when I responded to her ad, I received a form letter that included the statement:

For the first couple weeks, as I see how the articles come in, they will be for credit only, however, I promise you.... we do have the funds and will pay for those who really fit with the company and grasp the concepts we are looking for...so stick with it!

I really hate "employers" who say this - and, if you browse Craigslist regularly, you know that there are a lot of them. "We're not paying right now, but we might be able to pay in the future, if your work is good enough and our site really takes off" is a common statement in freelance job ads.

Well, let me ask you something - what do you think your doctor or lawyer would do if you told him you weren't going to pay him for the first few visits, because you first want to find out if he would "stick with it"? Even your plumber wouldn't put up with that. So why should writers?

Naturally, as an opinionated writer and vocal championing of freelancers' rights, I wrote back to Greta and told her what I thought of her payment arrangement. Her response:

I will pay them, however, not for the first two weeks. I need to see who is going to follow through, and who actually wants it...

Not shame on me. I have written for credit a number of times which is why I am where I am.

Oh, but it gets worse. After sending me another email telling me never to email her again (I hinted that she was taking unfair advantage of beginning writers), she accidentally sent me several of the form letters she is also sending out to interested writers. The first one contained this statement:

I need as much content as possible for the launch... I apologize for the short notice, but I promise that if you follow through, you are going to be thrilled/stoked at the results when you see the site.

Basically, not only is she refusing to pay writers for their first two weeks of effort, she is also trying to get as much work as possible out of them during that time.

Does this sound like an honest business proposition to you? I think not...

Beginning writers, you do NOT have to write for free. I can't stress that enough. When I was just getting started, I never wrote for less than $15 per article. Don't let anyone - whether writer or employer - tell you otherwise!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

You can't win them all!

A few days ago, I wrote about a potential client whose idea of "modest" rates was $1 per article. In the middle of telling them off via email, I had an epiphany, and changed my email to a sales pitch explaining why they need quality writing at my rates.

Unfortunately, the sales pitch didn't work, as I haven't heard back from them. However, I'm guessing that sort of email has a better chance of being read than one that tells someone off.

Lately, I've also been dealing with a lot of requests for what I call "custom" writing samples - when clients request that you prepare a writing sample on their specific topic. There are several problems with this, but I think one of the major ones is that these requests usually are made in a form letter that was obviously sent out to everybody that replied, rather than just a few likely candidates. As a result, the writer would be taking a lot of time to prepare a custom sample that is going to compete with 200 other custom samples. The odds just aren't good enough to justify taking that time away from paying work.

The other problem is, of course, that many of those requests for "samples" are actually scams - the "client" asks every respondant to write or edit a different piece, and as a result gets a lot of work performed without having to pay for it.

The risks are just too many, as far as I'm concerned, so I always very politely redirect them to my online portfolio (which they already received a link to in my initial email and on my resume).

Although this happens periodically, a few incidents in particular caught my attention recently. One was a response to my email that stated:

In lieu of reading dozens of resumes, I am really just interested in seeing how you write. If you want to apply for this position, write a short ad of 200 words or less pitching the following program...

He then described a very specific ad that he wanted written, including the intended audience and a special sale. His email ended with, "The best ad gets the job!"

This irritated me in several ways. One, he doesn't bother telling me how many other writers are taking the "test," leading me to believe that probably all 200 or so respondants are being requested to write a sample. There's a lot of potential for a scam there, especially since there's no mention in the email of who he is, what his business is, etc.

Two, his choice of words screams "Liar!" He claims that he doesn't want to read "dozens of resumes," yet he's basically setting himself up for reading dozens of 200-word ads. Seriously - how long does it take to look at a resume, skim the first section (which is all that usually gets read), and move it into the "keep" or "discard" pile? Certainly not any longer than it does to read a 200-word ad and decide where it ranks.

Basically, either this guy is extremely inconsiderate by making every applicant write a sample, whether or not they're truly suited for the job; OR he is running a scam and asking each applicant to write something different. I resent him the link to my portfolio, and offered to do a paid trial run - basically telling him that I'll write any sample he wants if he pays me for it. I never heard back.

But although you can't win them all, you can definitely win some. I responded to an ad the other day with a price quote and an explanation of why I'm the perfect writer for the job. I got the job, as well as the right to quote future work as it becomes available (rather than tying me into my present rate, which is slightly lower due to the the project being an easy one). Although it's not as stunning a success as the first example would have been, it's still good to know that my sales skills aren't the problem.

Why I love banned books

I ran across this story today, about the controversy the newest Newberry Medal winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, has inspired. (I'm including a link to Amazon's page for the book, in case anyone else is like me and likes to show their support for banned books by buying them.)

Basically, the book has been banned in some schools because it uses the word "scrotum." The use isn't anything sexual, either: according to NPR, the word is used simply "to describe where a dog gets a snake bite."

What exactly are we protecting our children from here? Knowing the real name for a body part that half the population has? Let's get real here, folks. What exactly do you think it is going to do to our children to know this word?

In my opinion, the worst danger is in painting the body's natural sexuality as a forbidden fruit. As Mark Twain said in Tom Sawyer, "in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain."

In this case, as the children learn they can't read a certain book because it contains the word "scrotum," I imagine there are whole armies of children who are going to go home tonight and ask, "Mommy, what's a scrotum?" Hopefully, most mommies and daddies will have the sense to explain it in a matter-of-fact way, satisfying the child's curiosity and thereby ending the allure of the forbidden fruit.

Naturally, though, there will be a great many parents who shy away from the topic. Intrigued by whatever it is that makes Mommy stutter and blush like that, little Sally may stop asking, but her mind doesn't stop wondering. And in time, she may decide to find out for herself. Having been thwarted in her quest for knowledge by a well-meaning adult, it's highly unlikely she'll try that route again.

Now let's look at what might happen if the book weren't banned, and little Sally was reading it. She gets to the part where the word "scrotum" is used, and asks absentmindedly, "Mommy, what's a scrotum?"

Mommy's answer might range from, "It's a body part that only boys have," to showing Sally the corresponding anatomy on her own dog (or gerbil or hamster). If Sally gets very curious, Mommy might produce a children's anatomy book or search online for an anatomically correct drawing to show Sally, but chances are that the first answer has satisfied Sally. This is nothing special, or even particularly interesting; and, having solved a minor mystery, she goes back to reading.

Unfortunately, though, some people can't be satisfied with this. Our society has maintained the Victorian fear that learning certain words or knowing certain realities will cause our children (namely our girls) to become miniature sexual wantons. Well, I don't know about you, but I don't find anything remotely sexual about the imagery of a dog's "scrotum" getting bitten by a snake.

I realize that this explains more of why I'm against banning books, rather than why I love banned books. The truth is, I have immense respect for anyone willing to go against the expectations of our society, no matter how minor the transgression is. In fact, some of my favorite authors and literary heroes have also been very controversial: Judy Blume, the Bronte sisters, etc.

My advice to all of you is to support banned books as much as you can. Buy them, read them, recommend them - anything that you can do to counteract the efforts of the knowledge-Nazis who try to ban them.

Monday, February 19, 2007

5 reasons why I blog

There's apparently a new writer's meme going around, and Harmony (Writer in the Making) tagged me for it. The point is to list five reasons why you blog. So, here goes - five reasons why I blog!

1) I love blogging! Personally, I think that's the best reason for blogging, and it's definitely my biggest reason.

2) It's like journaling. There's some debate over whether it helps you write or helps you procrastinate, but journaling is often prescribed to help get the creative juices flowing. Blogging is like that for me, except that it serves more purposes than simply journaling would.

3) It's a great tool for attracting traffic. The vast majority of my website traffic comes in through my blogs. I'm not sure whether the traffic is helping my business, but it's definitely making me better known in the writing community...which brings me to my fourth reason.

4) I like being involved in the online writing community. There's no substitute for the feeling you get when another blogger talks about you as though you're some kind of celebrity. I also think our thriving writing community gives us an advantage in our business lives, as it keeps us connected to one another, gives us the strength to say "Screw You!" to clients who would take advantage of us, and helps to remind us that if even if we work alone, we are not alone in what we do.

5) I like the idea of helping out other writers. Two years ago, I had just started freelancing on the side of a full-time technical writing job, and I was clueless. When I decided to take a chance and freelance full time, I had a better idea of what I was doing, but my only connection to the writing community was Angela Hoy's Writers Weekly. Over time, I started reading blogs written by other writers. The writer I am today can be attributed to a combination of trial and error, and advice from other writers. My blog is my way of "giving back" to the writing community.

So there you have it: five reasons why I blog. I am tagging the following writers to participate in this meme:

Kathy Kehrli, of the infamous Screw You! blog
Debbie Ridpath Ohi, of Will Write For Chocolate and Inkygirl
scriptgirl, of the Writer's Confidant Blog

Have fun!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ebook selling success!!!

I wanted to mention that Thursday marked the day of my 100th ebook sold! I've been selling instructions on how to restring dolls in ebook form since late October. One hundred copies of my ebook in a little less than four months isn't bad, I'd say! :o)

A new way of dealing with low-paying job offers

Inspired by Carson's post at Content Done Better about "Missing the 'Because'", I've decided to try handling low-paying freelance job offers a little differently.

In his post, Carson talks about how many writers don't try hard enough to sell themselves and earn a higher rate, instead acting like that higher rate ought to just land in their laps. He makes the point that if we want to be paid more, we need to justify to the client why we should get more than writers who are willing to write for 0.000000001 cent per word. We need to make the client want to pay our rates in order to get top-quality work.

This evening, I ran across an ad for a freelance gig claiming "modest" payment per article. I clicked over to the site, and discovered that their idea of modest was $1 per article. I immediately clicked back to the ad and started to prepare an email about how their idea of modest was my idea of f#ck you.

Suddenly, I remembered Carson's post. I deleted the message I'd written so far, and instead wrote a sales pitch explaining how with all the crap content flooding the Internet these days, they need quality content to make their site stand out. I told them that local writers (which was what they were looking for) couldn't afford to work for a buck per article, and therefore they would be getting foreigners trying to write like locals - substandard work, for a site that is targeting locals. I pointed out that I am a long-time resident of the area, not to mention an experienced content writer. I then finished the email off with a reasonable quote per article, and an invitation to check out my website for my portfolio and my resume.

Where do I think this will get me? Probably nowhere, because I don't think this particular site actually cares about the quality of work. So why did I waste the time? Because it was good practice in selling myself, and because there's always a slim chance that my email will reach the right person and I'll get the job.

So if you're the type to send emails to low-paying clients telling them where they can stick their $1, instead try using that time to write an email telling them why they're misguided in their approach, and what you can offer them instead. If it doesn't work, you haven't wasted any more time than it would have taken to tell them off; and if it does work, you've got another job, not to mention the added confidence of making a successful sale!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Valentine's Day: Celebrating Mr. Perfect

In April of last year, Michael's picture appeared in Glamour, along with a corny quote from me. This Valentine's Day, Mr. Perfect appears in print again!

You can make your own romance novel cover here. I got the idea from Kristin King and Julia Temlyn.

Anyway, our Valentine's Day ended up being a two-day event, thanks to the snowstorm we had yesterday. Although the roads were still passable, we didn't feel like going anywhere in the snow, so we postponed our dinner plans and occupied ourselves with the, um, other types of Valentine's Day activites. Tonight we celebrated Valentine's Day, part II, with dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Update on Nathaniel Hammel and RobinHood Press

I received several comments and emails today regarding RobinHood Press and Nathaniel Hammel. (Thanks, by the way, to everyone who has gotten involved and shown their support!) I also discovered that the announcement (and the graphic next to it) has been taken down from his site. I'm not sure what precipitated that, but I hope it was other writers taking my suggestion and emailing him! :o)

Don't think that this means he has reformed, though - also this afternoon, I received an email from him in my inbox, still maintaining that he is right. Here's a sampling of what he had to say:

Don't be mad because there are people out there who agree with me.

Don't respond to this letter please, I have alot of wonderful people to be serving inspiration to, people who love art and writing not nick-picking

Aside from his spelling errors, his email reminds me of those employers who accuse us of caring about money instead of writing, simply because we want to get paid for our work. Clearly he hasn't changed his attitude one iota, no matter what he's done to his website.

What a joke: RobinHood Press and Nathaniel Hammel's latest rebuttal

It's so pathetic it's funny. In my last post about Nathaniel Hammel and RobinHood Press, I mentioned that "fair use" of copyrighted works usually has to be in the form of criticism, comment, education, etc. Here's his response:

All graphic used on my site are for educational purposes to expand the creativity of the Writer's and Artist's mind, after all my website does allow people to share their stuff through the writer's club for free.

Somehow I don't think I'll be able to explain to this guy that's not what the law meant by "educational purposes."

He also accused me of just wanting to bash him, which is interesting since all I have done is to inform him of copyright law and quote the actual law to him. Equally amusing is what he said in an earlier email:

water off a ducks back. I am a proffessional, and don't need to go back and forth with you.

Maybe he should learn to spell professional before he calls himself one.

And, finally, a threat:

I've talk to my Lawyer, and he will personally write a letter to you telling you that what I said is right. I also have a few Authors and artists who will put a letter together for you to read too.

Well, if his lawyer has the same degree of "proffessionalism" as he does, I'm not too worried about what he'll have to say.

Of course, I maintain my earlier advice: Stay away from RobinHood Press and Nathaniel Hammel, and do everything you can to warn other writers and graphic artists!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More on RobinHood Press and Nathaniel Hammel

I couple of nights ago, I blogged about RobinHood Press and Nathaniel Hammel, a supposed "publisher" who has acknowledged using other artists' graphics on his site without their permission.

I also indicated that I had emailed him in outrage that commit such blatant copyright infringement. After exchanging several heated emails with this guy, I am become more and more convinced that 1) he is really, really stupid, and 2) he either doesn't understand copyright law, or doesn't care to understand, or both.

By way of warning fellow writers to stay away from this guy - and any graphic artists who run across this blog to check his site for their work! - I am going to reprint some of our email exchange here.

My first email to him consisted of the following:

I visited your site, where you say that the graphics are not all yours and that you don't remember where you got them. THEN DON'T USE THEM!

As a PUBLISHING COMPANY you ought to know that unless you paid the artist in a work for hire arrangement, YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO USE THOSE IMAGES. Giving acknowledgement to someone whose name you don't even remember doesn't make it any more legal. Even if you DID remember their name, it wouldn't be legal. The copyright belongs to the artist unless you have a contract with them that states otherwise.

I would never publish my work with someone who displays such blatant disregard for copyright law.

Katharine Swan

His response was littered with the same types of mistakes that I noted in my earlier post. More disturbing, though, it betrayed a huge lack of understanding for copyright law:

That is only true if I was useing their graphics to make money. I've read these laws before I posted anything, as long as I do not claim them to be mine it is legal. The sites and place; however that I do go to, are sites where alot of people share pics, and most of them do not have destination of who's they are. I think too, that Thiose artist would be pleased to note that their artwork was apreciated. When I read the law book of copyright, which you can get from www.loc.gov, will tell you you can not claim any artwork, writing, or copyrighted material, and states what you should post when your artwork is not yours.

Still in the hopes of making this guy understand that he really can't do what he is doing, I wrote back with a summary of the "fair use" doctrine, which I got from the very site he sent me to:

You need to reread your copyright law. You probably should hire a lawyer to help you understand it.< Use the falls under the definition of "fair use" is the ONLY way you can use someone else's work without permission. "Fair use" is defined by copyright law to be "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research."

Your site definitely does not fall under these categories.

Copyright law also states that these factors should be used in determining whether use is "fair" or copyright infringement:

"(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

"(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

"(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

"(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."

I have news for you - a website IS commercial, meaning that you have violated the first point.

You are publishing the entire images (after all, you can't quote art), which is a violation of the third point.

Additionally, you are publishing those artists' work, which could affect their ability to publish or sell the artwork in the future. Therefore, you've also violated the fourth point.

Your disregard for copyright law is as astounding as your refusal to read it correctly. There is absolutely no way that your use of these artists' work is fair.

His response indicated something much more serious than a misunderstanding of the law: a refusal to see it any other way, not to mention a complete disregard for other people's rights:

First off, you are being very rude to the artists, I have never recieved any complaints before and you are intittled to your oppinion, but I must point out you just verified my point the last time, I have not published the images, only shared pictures or images there is nothing wrong with that. I also do not claim any picture to be mine. I do not make any money off other's art work, and if you have seen my sight and the copyright guide I have posted. Now I am a Publisher and Printer, I have created a site for poeple to share their works for free, and invited you to do so. Lets say you have a poem out there and I come accross it, I can post it, and If i don't know it's yours, all I have to do is write at the bottom "Anonymous" and it would be legal.

You are talking to a person who went to school for 4 years to help become what I am today. Sorry you have taken offence and you may do what you please. And... I want to point out something elso for you, I could have Copyrighted my web-site but didn't, because my web-site is everyones!

Of course, by this point I am completely and utterly furious. I am reminded of something I read on Writers Weekly once, that there are people who think that everything on the Internet is free for the taking. This guy goes a step beyond that and says that the Internet is not real publishing...at the same time as he is apparently offering writers a chance to publish their work "for free" on his site.

I wrote the following response:

No, actually, you CAN'T post someone's poem if you run across it. It is NOT legal. And yes, posting writing and graphics on the Internet is PUBLICATION.

Unless you created the image or poem, or have a document stating that you own the copyright, or it came from a copyright-free site, YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO PUBLISH IT.

Yet another point of copyright law that you obviously don't understand: you don't have to file with the copyright office for the work to be protected under copyright law. An artist or author automatically owns the copyright to any work he or she produces, without having to register it.

I am not at all being rude to the artists - I am protecting their rights. You should be ashamed of yourself. I guarantee your "publishing" business will never go anywhere if this is how you operate.

I also included a link to a Writers Weekly article on copyright law. I'd like to think he'll read it and realize the error of his ways, but I highly doubt that.

I do business on the Internet every day. I communicate with my clients via email and Internet, write content for them to post to the Internet, and keep several blogs. Despite this, I have had very little problem with people stealing (or trying to steal) my work.

Even so, Nathaniel Hammel and RobinHood Press serve as a sharp reminder that copyright infringers do exist. It's scary to think that some people are so nonchalant about stealing other people's work, and it's those people who make writers wary of posting anything to the Internet.

For those of you who are as infuriated as I am about this, I ask you to do the following things:

1) Write to Nathaniel Hammel and RobinHood Press to tell him that publishing other people's work without their permission is not okay! You can contact RobinHood Press on myspace or from his website.

2) Spread the word! Post on your own blog, send out a mass email, etc. - do whatever you do to get the word out about something important.

3) Tell every graphic artist you know that they had better check this guy's site and make sure their work isn't there - and tell them to pass the word on to their friends!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Writers Beware: RobinHood Press and Nathaniel Hammel

Not that I think this company will even get off the ground (it's that awful), but I still feel it my obligation to pass on this information. Plus, it's too funny, in one of those you've-got-to-be-kidding ways. (And with a little "Screw You!" thrown in.)

I think some of you know that I have a MySpace page that I set up for networking. Well, this evening I found the following email in my MySpace inbox:

Congratulations for your acheivement [sic] in writing.

RobinHood Press, Inc

Hello, My name is Nathaniel Hammel. I am the proud owner of RobinHood Press, Inc. We offer a beautiful and specialized Publishing and Printing Pack for the Author(s) of the later day.

We provide awesome tools for the Writer to either, market themselves, or let us market for them through our Print on Demand Pack, saving time and money.

We also have an exclusive Writers Club, featuring a News room and discussions, a place for Authors to post there writing for free, join in writing competitions, and much more!

Please give us the chance to be apart of your life, and pass the word on of us and our company.

Visit: www.robinhoodpress.biz

Please and thank you for you time in reading this, and I hope it will do you good.


I have a knee-jerk reaction when I receive spam on MySpace: I delete it. That's exactly what I did with this note, before I really even read it. Then I found a friend request from him, too, and decided to visit RobinHood Press's MySpace page. It's nothing to write home about, so to speak, so I also clicked over to the Robin Hood Press website.

This is where it gets scary. Nathaniel Hammel apparently fancies himself both a writer and a graphic artist. The main page of his website states:

All artwork and graphics are not all mine, like the one to the left. I do not remember where I received these images due to the fact that I go through so many, but I give respect and acknowledgement to all the artist which [sic] created these pictures and graphics. The only graphics I claim Are the ones located in the My Graphics Page.

Basically, he's announcing that he's using other artists' work without permission - without even knowing who they are! How does someone with absolutely no understanding of copyright law even think he can go into the publishing business?

After the outraged email I sent him, he may remove or change the text - but whether he will remove the artwork, who knows.

After sending him my email, I browsed his site a little more. I was appalled by how bad the writing is - simple words are misspelled, commas are misused, etc. After noting the frequent mistakes, I checked the email I had deleted, and sure enough - that has several mistakes, as well.

I think Nathaniel Hammel is a scumbag for using other artists' work without their permission, not to mention mildly stupid for allowing so many mistakes in his portfolio, website copy, and even the "marketing" letters he sends out. And like I said, I highly doubt that RobinHood Press is going to go anywhere. Even so, I recommend that my fellow writers stay far, far away from anyone who shows this little professionalism.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Website coding and learning backwards

Well, most of you have probably had a chance to check out my site's new look. (If you haven't yet, please go take a look!) I am prouder than I probably have a right to be, partly because I did nearly all of it myself.

Basically, I took the free template that this blog uses and changed everything: the background color and graphics, the header layout and graphics, the width, the fonts, etc. And although it took me most of a day, I'm proud to say I did it myself...and it was fun.

The next day, I also changed it even more to make a site for selling my doll stringing instructions.

For me, coding is all about being able to learn backwards. The only HTML I ever learned frontwards was the simple stuff: codes for paragraph, font, and special appearances. The rest I've all learned by taking templates (free myspace layouts and blog templates) and a lot of Google searches and trial-and-error. A little bit of coding knowledge (and the ability to Google) has enabled me to figure out what various coding means.

It's done me pretty well, I'd say.

The highs and lows of freelancing

It always happens, every time - after going through a period of being overworked ("riding the wave" as one freelancing book I read called it), I get burned out and start missing deadlines.

Another thing that I can always count on: about the same time, I start feeling under the weather.

I think it's all related, actually. I start missing out on sleep in a major way since I have so much work to do; my immune system starts slipping; and by the time my workload returns to normal, I've lost the emotional and physical endurance to push myself any longer.

I'm going through that right now. It doesn't help that at the same time, I've been frantically working on planning my wedding. Michael and I are getting married at the end of April, and I just got the invitations off a few days ago. That was a relief, but it was like pulling teeth to get it done.

I spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights catching up on sleep, in the hopes my immune system would recover and kick whatever it was that one of the kids I babysit for had exposed me to. I spent Sunday and Monday dealing with wedding stuff, Tuesday redesigning my website, and Wednesday babysitting again. (Naturally, the kid is still sick.)

I'm hoping to be able to get my butt back into gear tomorrow (Thursday), so that I can get at least two productive (read: money-making) days out of this week.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Website changes

Check it out! I have done a complete overhaul on my website

Appearance: I changed the overall look and feel of my site, because I was really sick of MS Publisher. I don't like how everything is on the left side of the screen - if you have a widescreen monitor, like I do, it looks really odd.

Logo: I also got a new logo! It's a long story, but suffice it to say I'm thrilled about this one, which Angela Watson designed for me. She also designed my new business cards for me - two different cards, actually one of which lists my title as "Literary Goddess!"

New page: My doll stringing instructions/ebook has done so well on eBay that I set up a subdomain and a microsite to sell the ebook from my website!

Upcoming changes: I'm also working on a Sales page for my site. Eventually I hope to have a number of ebooks and books for sale on this page.

Let me know what you think of the new site!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Books on agents and more about the minimum wage for writers debate

iconI just finished a book called How to Be Your Own Literary Agent, by Richard Curtis. Although I reviewed the book on my Reading For Writers blog, I thought it was worth making some comments here, too.

As a little background, after my article How Society Supports Low-Paying Writing Jobs ran in Writers Weekly I had (as some of you already know) a lot of questions from readers. Although a few of the emails I got were from delusional wannabe writers, I also got a good many kudos, congratulations, and legitimate questions.

Several of the legitimate questions had to do with finding agents. Since I've never published a traditional book myself (only an ebook, and self-published at that), I had to admit I had no idea how to answer them. Inspired, I decided to check out a few books on finding a literary agent.

One of the most intriguing books I found at the library was Curtis's How to Be Your Own Literary Agent. I am an eternal do-it-yourselfer, so anything that tells me how I can do something myself is worth reading. It's not only about the money, either - it's about 1) not getting screwed by being ignorant and expecting someone else to do it all for me, and 2) being able to feel really, really good about myself.

I learned to work on my own car so that I could get it done when I wanted to, know what was done, and not be taken advantage of by mechanics who see fair game when a woman walks in the door of their shop. When it comes time for me to seek a publisher for my first book, I intend to handle the submissions and sales negotiations myself for virtually the same set of reasons.

Interestingly, an ongoing theme throughout the book is that publishers are out to take advantage of writers. They want to maximize their profits, of course, so the writer who doesn't know what his or her contract means could be losing out on their rightful portion of the book's income. With all of these dire warnings ringing in my head, I'm thinking that publishing with Angela and Richard Hoy's Booklocker sounds better than ever. At least I'd know I could trust my publisher.

The usefulness of this book aside, I found it extremely interesting that Curtis included a chapter about writers and organizing. The passage harkens back to the ongoing debate about whether writers deserve a minimum wage.

Curtis says writer unionization - true unionization, that is - is virtually impossible for the following reasons:

1) Freelance writers aren't employees.

2) Because of the nature of the business, freelance writers can live and work virtually anywhere, making one of the union's favorite last-ditch efforts - protesting - highly unlikely.

3) Writers do a wide variety of work, making it more difficult to establish a reasonable minimum wage that would apply to everyone.

4) Perhaps most importantly, the National Labor Relations Act of 1933 excludes independent contractors - i.e. freelance writers - from the right to strike.

Curtis has some extremely good points here, and basically what they mean is that we're on our own here. He does point out, though, that a good agent can act in lieu of writer organization - your own personal negotiator. Additionally, he cites the National Writers Union as having made a major impact in the way book, newspaper, and magazine publishers treat their writers.

With all of this in mind, I urge all writers to do the best they can to promote living wages for writers - but to remember that, for us, the most important battles are often those we wage in our own careers.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

And a whoo-hoo for Harry Potter!

Okay, I admit it - I'm a Harry Potter fan. Not a crazy, drawing-lightning-on-my-face kind of fan, but I definitely enjoy those books. And - as I'm sure most other aspiring children's authors do - I dream of having even a tenth the success of J.K. Rowling.

So as you can imagine, I was pretty excited when I heard the seventh book is due out July 21. I've been on the library waiting list for the book for months now, and I'm number 142 on the holds list. I imagine they'll get a ton of copies, so with any luck I'll be reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by the end of August.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Determining your writing rates

The writing wage debate is such a hot topic, especially lately with the debates about Associated Content reopened, that I wanted to offer a few tips for beginning writers about determining their rates.

Back when I was only freelancing on the side for extra money, I read a book on how to make six figures as a contract technical writer. I wish I could tell you the title and author, but unfortunately it was two years ago, and I can't find the title in the library catalog where I checked it out.

Anyway, one of the things that made an impact in that book is its discussion on how to determine your rates. It basically walked you through the steps of determining what you would like to make each year or month, and breaking that down into an hourly rate. The formula reminded you to take into account business expenses such as buying your own health insurance and office supplies.

Another book I read some time later added another variable to the equation. Believe it or not, a full time freelance writer doesn't write eight hours a day. Realistically, you need to account for time-consuming tasks such as searching for jobs or publications, developing ideas, querying, networking, building and maintaining your website, blogging, advertising... The list goes on and on.

The point is that there are a lot of things you need to take into consideration when determining your rates. Here's what I think the process should consist of:

* Decide what you absolutely have to make each month in net profits in order to pay your personal bills.

* If you know you absolutely can't live without shopping, dining out, or any other type of superfluous expense, be sure to add that in there too. The best way to have the money for it is to plan to have the money for it.

* Add whatever you need to make each month to cover your business expenses. This might include ink and paper, stamps and godzilla-sized envelopes for sending submissions out, etc.

* Divide this number by the number of days in a month that you intend to work (i.e. I do at least a little work most weekends). That's your daily goal.

* Divide your daily goal by the number of hours that you can actually devote to writing each day. For many freelance writers, this is only about 4 or 6 hours. Trust me, all that other stuff - trolling the markets, querying, standing in line at the post office, marketing your services online - takes up more of your time that you would think.

So now you have an hourly goal. Fantastic. But what do you do with that when most projects you get pay by the word or by the project?

Clients generally don't want to pay you for your time, but for your services. In other words, no one is going to look out for your own interests but yourself, so it's vital for you to have a good idea of how long a project will take you, and what you need to make in order for it to be worthwhile. Again breaking it down into bite-sized pieces, here's how I think the process should go:

* Before ever accepting a project or providing a quote, find out all of the pertinent details of the project. This includes how many words or pages the end product is expected to be, the specific topic (so that you know how much research you'll need to be doing), and how long you'll be given to do the project (rush orders generally deserve a more generous rate).

* Figure in the time needed to make two revisions. You should always figure revisions into your quote to make sure you doavoid lowering your hourly wage with unexpected revisions. If you want, you can tell the client that there's a discount if he or she doesn't ask for revisions (or only asks for one), but you should also let them know that your quote only covers two revisions. This won't apply to all projects, of course, but if you think there's even a chance that you'll be asked to make revision, make sure to include that time in your quote.

* Decide how long it will take you to complete the project, revisions as all. Estimate as generously as you dare - the mechanic's rule of thumb says that any time you're trying to complete something in a limited time frame, something will go wrong.

* Multiply the estimated number of hours by your desired hourly wage. Or, if you're trying to determine whether a project is worth taking on what the client is paying, divide the project's flat fee by the number of hours you think it will take.

All too often, writers don't realize how long a project will take them, or how unrealistic it is to expect an eight-hour writing day. Breaking the thought process down into these steps will help you to not only realize your worth, but also make sure you get it.

My writer's self-contract - join the meme!

There's a new meme going around, where writers are posting contracts with themselves. Kathy Kehrli cheated and tagged everybody who reads her blog (tsk, tsk), so I am posting my own self-contract.

I, Katharine Swan, do hereby agree to the terms of this contract with myself, effective immediately upon posting.

I will hold myself to be a professional writer, and act accordingly in all dealings with clients and potential clients. I will strike the word "employer" from my vocabular, and remember that the only person I work for is myself. I will endeavor to uphold my own standards of pay and the quality of my work at all times.

As a professional, I also understand that my goal must be not just to write, but to grow. I will endeavor to take every opportunity to challenge myself, to improve my writing, and to perfect my business. As part of this, I will actively market my services, maintain my website and blogs, participate in the writing community, take jobs that challenge me to build new skills, and pursue the things I want to do as well as the things I have to do.

I will remember that the first and foremost reason why I am a writer is because I love to write. This does not mean that it is acceptable to work for little or no pay, but that it is unacceptable to perform work that does not contribute to my overall happiness in some way.

Well, I think that's about everything I can think of. I'm tagging Harmony, scriptgirl, and Julia.

The debate over Associated Content

On Wednesday Deborah Ng triggered a discussion about Associated Content, which quickly turned into the blog version of a bar fight. It still amazes me how hateful some of the responses were... And Deb said quite clearly that she was not intending to cut Associated Content down! Still, it seems that many of AC's writers can't seem to defend the site without their fists getting in the way.

In any case, I thought I'd share my own experience with Associated Content. It's not necessarily negative, but it's interesting.

I live in the Denver area, and as some of you may know, that's where Associated Content is. A little less than two years ago, I was looking for a new job in order to get away from the maniacal little man I worked for. Finding a full time writing job in Denver isn't easy, I'm afraid, and I ended up responding to an ad for a part time editing position.

This "editing" position turned out to be for Associated Content, so my first experience with the company was in an interview. I had already written for a couple of content websites at this point, and the two AC editors who interviewed me seemed pleased about this.

After complimenting my work a bit, they explained the job. Most of it was to be done from home, with a weekly staff meeting every Friday morning that I would have to attend. They said very clearly that they didn't turn anything down - anything that was submitted would be accepted. They also explained how article prices would depend on the demand for related advertising. Interestingly, they made a big deal about how they'd recently paid one guy something like $50 or $70. I was amazed - I'd been making $15-$25 per article for the sites I was writing for - but if I'd had more experience in the business I would have known that 1) that wasn't that great for a well-researched article, and 2) if it were common they wouldn't have made such a big deal about it.

I'm sure you have wondered at least once by now why I didn't get the job and become one of those rabid defenders of Associated Content. I'll be honest: I screwed my own chances, although I can't say I'm sorry now, having seen where the site has gone since then. (I'm sorry, but their pay sucks...which I'll get to in a moment. Also, no company who spams job boards as frequently as AC does will ever have my respect - and I'm not alone in this opinion, I dare say.)

As I already explained, I was looking for a full time job to get out from under my control freak boss's thumb. A part time job was not going to cut it; and I couldn't do the job on the side until a full time opportunity came up, because there was no way my boss would give me every Friday morning off.

My mistake was asking them at the end of the interview about the possibility of full time. (As I got further along in my job search and went through more interviews, I learned that this is a very bad idea. You're not supposed to ask about hours, money, or benefits in the first interview - which is silly, because while you're pretending not to be interested in these things, everyone knows they are basic survival needs.)

As a matter of fact, I remember the exact wording I used - and I still cringe thinking about it. I guess I knew I was on thin ice, because I got nervous and said, "How do you think the part time thing is going to work?" Looking back, I think it probably sounded a little too much like I was questioning their decisions, even though I only wanted information on when the job could become full time.

I knew instantly that I'd said the wrong thing. Their eyes cut toward each other and then away again, as if making a decision on the spot. I don't remember what their response was, but it was something lame. I wasn't entirely surprised when it took them two weeks to let me know that someone else had been selected for the position.

Sometime after that interview, I decided to try submitting to Associated Content. I signed up and submitted a content article that had been turned down by one of the other websites I wrote for (too many other articles on the topic). Associated Content tossed seven bucks my way - and I was soon to find out that was high.

I'm not sure exactly how many articles I've submitted to Associated Content to date. I didn't submit anything in 2006. In 2005 I submitted maybe a handful of articles; some got $8 or $10 because they were part of a promotion, and a couple didn't earn me anything at all. One of those had been turned down for a paper and would be dated very quickly, so I figured it was better off published than sitting on my hard drive doing nothing. The other they published without contacting me or making an offer whatsoever; to this day I am not sure if I hit the wrong button during the submission process, or if they stiffed me.

Also, for a while they were running a special - a guaranteed $4 each for academic papers - so I submitted a whole bunch of my old school papers and got some extra dough that way. I have since developed moral concerns regarding academic paper mills; my only consolation about my early folly is that the papers are all in the public domain, and therefore students who cheat risk getting caught.

The point I'm getting to is that after a dozen or so submissions, I was averaging $4 an article. Not really worth it in my opinion, and I don't care if it's on the side or if you already have the bills paid or what - if a retail manager offered you $2.50 an hour because "it's only a second job for you," or "you don't really need the money," you'd be really offended. I still don't know what is so different about writing that people think those kind of wages are okay.

I've heard some writers talk about the $3 articles they took on when they were first starting out, and how that's just the way the game is played. I beg to differ. I started out writing content, too, and the very first two sites I worked for paid me $15-$25 per article. Moreover, after nearly two years of freelancing (15 months of which have been full time) Associated Content is the only gig I have ever had that paid me less than $10 an article. Part of that is because after writing for AC I learned to avoid such low-paying jobs, but the point is that it can be done.

Having said all of this, I do agree with Carson of Content Done Better when he says that Associated Content does have its uses. To paraphrase Carson's post, he says that AC is good for:

1) Getting a few extra bucks for an article that's already written and is just taking up space on your hard drive.

2) Submitting marketing articles.

I've already used the first method myself, and unless I get really desperate I probably won't do it again. As for the second method - well, I've been thinking about trying out article marketing next time I have a slow period, and I just might use Associated Content for that.

Therefore, I'm seconding Carson's take on Associated Content. If you can make the system work for you, by all means do it. However, I sincerely feel that for someone whose goals are to sell their work and earn recognition as a freelancer, writing for AC is selling themselves short. You don't have to look very hard at all in order to find gigs that pay more than AC. If you think you are only worth $4, that's your problem - but if you don't like that concept of yourself, decide what you are worth, and stick with it!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Blog changes

I was sick of my Blogger cookie-cutter blog template, so I spent a good deal of time last night and today looking for a free Blogger template. I didn't like most of what I found, but I fell in love with this one!

It took a while to put all my changes into the blog, but I finally finished it. The only thing I can't figure out is how to get the number of comments to show up at the end of each post - I managed to modify the template to show the comments when you click on individual posts, but the code I copied and pasted from the old template didn't fix the main-page problem.

(Yes, I cheat when I code. I know just enough to look through the template code, locate the code that controls a certain feature, and copy and paste it into my new template. I designed my myspace pages like that, too.)

Anyway, when I don't have deadlines to neglect I'll try to come back and fix the comment problem. I also intend to replace the header - the part that says the blog title - with a custom jpeg. The hearts are just too girly for me...

In other news, I'm also having my logo redone. Stay tuned to see the new looks as they roll out! I'm in makeover mood!!!


Popular Posts