Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No self-respecting writer...

Here's another gem from this week's WritersWeekly.com — and just in time for Writers Worth Day, too!

In the Whispers and Warnings section of this week's issue, there's a complaint about Cantara Christopher and cantarabooks.com. Apparently a writer submitted a poem to them, and when they offered to publish it without remuneration, said he'd have to think about it. They then withdrew his work from consideration, and sent him a rather rude email containing this statement:

No self-respecting writer who is serious about a career at your stage would consider payment to be more important than inclusion in a prestige publication like ours.

The letter goes on to talk about how widely read and respected their two-year-old publication is, but it's this sentence that stopped me up short. I mean, really — what they're implying here is that to expect compensation is disrespectful to yourself. What??

Where I come from, it's the opposite — giving your work away is disrespectful to yourself, no matter what stage of your career you are in. How do you expect to have a career at all, if right off the bat you establish a reputation for undervaluing your own work?

The funny thing is, I've never even heard of this publisher, so all their high-and-mighty talk is laughable — not to mention sounds just like every publisher who offers "exposure" in lieu of compensation. If they were so great, don't you think could afford to pay writers?

Newbie writers, pay attention: Never write for publishers who don't pay, but promise great things from the "exposure" you'll get with them. It's nothing but a fairy tale concocted by greedy publishers!

It's called a conflict of interests...

I just want to pass on a quick warning from this week's Writer'sWeekly.com.

Apparently, Author Solutions, Inc. — the owner of three POD publishers, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and Xlibris — has started up a supposedly independent website for the purpose of helping would-be authors choose a POD publisher that is right for them. However, Angela Hoy did a little investigating, and discovered that the only three publishers the site would recommend to her were the ones affiliated with the parent company.

I think this is more than just deceptive — it feels to me like something that ought to be illegal. I think disclosing the relationship to the parent company ought to be a requirement, don't you?

To make matters worse, the website likens POD publishing with the "indie" movement. So now you've got a website advising wannabe authors under false pretenses, implying that paying to publish their books puts them right up there with the cool, artsy folk who film indie movies and release indie music? Talk about taking advantage of people...

Now, I have nothing against POD, and I've thought pretty seriously about using Booklocker (Angela Hoy's company) if and when I have a novel ready for publication. But I also have no illusions about what POD means. I know it requires your own money and a lot of work to promote your book, but it's worth it to me because — IF you go with an honest publisher — the author retains the rights to their own work and all the files for the finished book.

I think it's shameful that Author Solutions and FindYourPublisher.com are misleading wannabe writers in this manner. Talk about a conflict of interests!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy birthday to me

For those of you who didn't know, yesterday was my birthday. It was nice to have it fall on a Sunday this year, because I was able to spend the day with Michael — but I have to admit, I still did a couple of hours' work on my birthday.

The day started out sunny and gorgeous. It almost always snows in Denver right around my birthday, so this was a real treat! My deaf cat woke us early by sitting next to the bed and meowing at the top of his lungs (I'm sure he was telling me happy birthday), so we got up, went to Starbucks, and then took our drinks and our dogs to the park for a birthday walk.

I also used the Birthday Guilt Trip to get Michael to come out to the barn with me. (He's not really all that into horses, and he hasn't spent an afternoon out there with me in months.) We decided to take the dogs, and spent an hour or two with them in the back pasture while I tied and groomed Panama.

Then we went home, and I worked a little bit, took a short nap, and worked a little bit more.

For dinner we went out to my favorite Japanese restaurant, where we ordered my favorite food: sushi. Then we came home, watched a movie, and I worked a little bit more before going to bed early.

I suppose some might think it's kind of sad that I worked on my birthday, and I actually did try not to have to — but it just wasn't going to work out that way. My client needed their project finished, which meant I had to work! But honestly, it only added up to about three hours, which wasn't that bad.

What about you? Have you had to work on your birthday and other special occasions?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Is the home office deduction getting safer?

While doing some research for a client project, I happened across this article from last year, and saved it for comment on my blog:

Slowdown may boost home-office deductions

The article anticipated that in the coming year, the number of people working from home and claiming the home office deduction would increase. Supposedly the slower economy was expected to make people more likely to work from home in order to make ends meet. I assume they mean unemployed people or part-time businesses on the side of regular jobs, because it takes a lot more dedication than simply wanting to make ends meet in order to make a home business suffice as the only source of income!

Since the article is a year old, I can't help but wonder if the IRS really saw the predicted increase in home office deductions.

I also found it interesting that the article claims the home office deduction is no longer a red flag for an audit. I've heard that before, but I've been somewhat reluctant to give any credence to it. I'd rather be safe than sorry; and besides, removing all personal items and activities from my office space would be too complicated, so I'm rather content not taking this deduction.

What about you though? Do you take the deduction, and do you think there's any truth to the statement that the home office deduction is a red flag for an audit?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Should flexibility equal a pay cut?

Today Lori over at Words on the Page blogged about a Morning Show segment featuring a woman who made $1,100 a month sitting by the pool and writing articles for $1 to $20 each. It's upsetting for many of us who are serious about our writing careers (as opposed to a career working by the pool), because it undermines decent wages when clients hear that articles can be had for $1 apiece.

Of course, I think the point of the segment was actually that she was making a living while sitting by the pool, and that she was earning any money at all by doing it. In my experience, this is a pretty common attitude: that we should expect a pay cut for the convenience and flexibility of working from home.

I have mixed feelings about this. I've accepted a pay cut in order to work from home — but in my total monthly income, not in what I get paid per hour. My hourly is actually considerably more than what I got as a full-time technical writer, but at the same time I've chosen to work fewer hours in order to have enough time to work with the horse I rescued a few years ago. The lower income is worth it to me, and I'm lucky enough that my husband's income allows me to make choices like this.

However, the number of hours I work is none of my clients' business. Sure, I may pay for having a flexible work schedule, but I pay for it out of the hours I choose not to work, NOT out of my hourly wage. Don't let clients tell you that the convenience of working from home comes at a price, because technically they are getting a convenience too: the ability to hire someone just for one job, without having to pay benefits or an annual salary.

Asus Eee review

I've been using my new netbook, an Asus Eee 1000HP, quite a bit since yesterday, and I've noticed a few things that I think are worth mentioning — both good and bad.

I mentioned in yesterday's post thhat I like the screen. It's matte instead of glossy, which cuts down on light reflections in a major way. Very nice.

The downside of the screen is that it doesn't quite have the same pixel resolution as my Averatec — 1024 x 600 instead of 1280 x 768. The end result is that even though the screen on the Eee is a tiny bit smaller, things appear a tiny bit bigger on it. I don't mind it, but I still prefer the pixel density of my Averatec.

The machine also runs extremely quietly — quiet ever than my Averatec, which I already thought was quiet. It seems to run a little bit cooler, as well.

My only real complaint is the placement of the right-hand shift key, which you can see in this picture:

Keyboard and screen for the Asus Eee 1000HP

Where the shift key is placed is way too far a reach for my pinky finger, meaning that I hit the up arrow key unless I consciously make an effort not to. I'm sure I'll get used to it, but it is a little disappointing since I wanted two computers with keyboards that I could transition back and forth between with relatively little adaptation needed.

With that small exception, I am really quite pleased with my new netbook. I will start testing the battery on and off the power save settings in a few days. The battery is supposed to reach its full capacity after being discharged and recharged a couple of times, so I'll wait until I've had a chance to do that before I start testing it. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My new netbook arrived!

Here is the moment you've all been waiting for, I'm sure: To find out what I think of my new netbook, the Asus Eee I ordered over the weekend.

When the netbook arrived today, I was amused to see the little box for the little computer:

My new netbook, unopened yet, in its little shipping box

Almost there. This is like Christmas!

Almost there...

My new Asus Eee 1000HP!

The very first thing I noticed was that I really like the screen. One of my pet peeves is laptops with glossy screens, because light reflection makes it so hard to see anything sometimes. So I was thrilled to see that this screen is matte, just like my Averatec.

Matte screen on the Asus Eee 1000HP

Here is a side-by-side comparison of my Averatec and the new netbook. As you can see, they are not that much different in size — but they are different.

Averatec 1000 series vs. Asus Eee 1000HP

Averatec 1000 series vs. Asus Eee 1000HP

I've spent a large chunk of the afternoon working on getting my netbook set up. I like Windows to be configured a certain way: I like the look of classic Windows, I like my power button to be set up so that pressing it puts the laptop into hybernation, etc.

Asus Eee 1000 HP

It's not technically operational just yet, though, at least not for my purposes — no word processing software. This evening I will be going over to my parents' house to borrow my dad's external CD drive and install Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and a few other programs onto the netbook. If my Averatec ever dies completely, I'll probably have to consider buying an external drive for myself — but for now that shouldn't be an issue.

Stay tuned for some operational observations, as I'm sure I will have some as I become acquainted with my new netbook!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A freelance lunch break

One of the things I really like about working from home as a freelance writer is the ability to eat better than I did back in the days of 30-minute lunch breaks.

A freelance writer's lunch break

No, I don't eat salads every day (nor arrange them so nicely when I'm not taking a picture), but my diet is a heck of a lot better than what I ate on my lunch breaks when I worked "real" jobs. There's only one type of lunch available when you have to choose from when you only have 30 minutes to get there, order, eat, and get back.

Sure, as a freelancer I'm more often tempted to eat at my desk while I work, and I don't think I'll ever completely win that battle. I've tried enforcing a strict one-hour lunch break before, but it just doesn't happen. I've decided it's better to eat at my computer when I feel so inclined, and take a break (whatever time of the day it is) if I start feeling like I need it.

How about you? Has freelancing improved your diet, or has it been compromised by the gravitational pull of the fridge?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Biting the bullet and buying a netbook

After months of blogging and thinking about netbooks, I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy one.

Several factors contributed to my decision. A major factor and instigator was that I started having major computer problems early last week. I noticed my computer was running extremely slow and crashing frequently, checked the CPU and it being hogged by one of my programs (my antivirus software, ironically — and a different program than the one that screwed things up before). I deleted the program (screw antivirus software, I don't need it!), and things are back to normal — but I'm now more worried than ever about my computer's eventual demise.

The other reason was because I discovered one of my favorite netbooks back in December, when I wrote my first round of netbook reviews for writers, is on sale at BestBuy.com: the Asus Eee with Celeron processor. I bought it because I remembered that what I liked best about it was that the keyboard and screen size were comparable to my Averatec, which should enable me to go back and forth between the two without having to adjust to the keyboard every time.

I also did some research, and discovered that the reason it felt slow to me in the store was probably because it enables you to set the slower at a slower speed (around 650 MHz) in order to save power when you don't necessarily need the faster speed. With the power save setting being used, the screen brightness turned down, and WiFi turned off, it's supposed to get between 4 and 5 hours of battery power. There are many times when I am just using Word on battery power and could stand to take advantage of that feature!

I'm getting this netbook primarily to be a backup machine in case this one has problems again — or, heaven forbid, dies altogether. I should get it in a couple of days (I ordered it online on Saturday, with 3-day shipping), and I will let you know what I think when it arrives!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Snow day!

We've had a nice reminder lately that nothing about Colorado weather is normal, not even April showers.

It rained all day Thursday, and snowed and threw ice pellets at us all day Friday. This morning Michael and I woke up at 6:30 to our power being out. It came on about two hours later, around when the snow turned back into rain. It didn't stop until mid-afternoon.

Michael had already asked for Friday off for other reasons, which turned out to be lucky because he wouldn't have wanted to drive home in the crazy snow we got around rush hour Friday evening. Which brings me to what I see as a really big achievement: getting work done with Michael home. It doesn't usually happen, but I managed to withstand temptation, ignore distractions, and accomplish several very productive hours of work with him present.

By the way, join me in wishing a very happy birthday to Kathy Kehrli, whose birthday was yesterday!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Not such a good deal, after all?

The other day I blogged about AT&T's $50 netbooks. I was considering going this route when they came to my town... Until I saw the data plans.

A $60 monthly plan buys you 5 GB of data transfer a month. If that sounds okay to you, consider that until fairly recently you could get unlimited data transfer for the same price through AT&T's (then Cingular's) EDGE service, which you accessed with your regular laptop via a PCMCIA card.

If you don't want to pay so much a month, your only other option is a $40 monthly plan that gives you 200 MB of data transfer per month — hardly enough to check email, yet it's two-thirds the price! Bet you can guess which plan they want you to pick...

It's times like this when my sense of fairness steps in and says Uh-uh, no way. If I decide to get a netbook, it will be at the regular price — and with no chains attached!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Three articles on writing and publishing

Today there are three articles on NPR that I want to share with you. All three have to do with writing or publishing.

First of all, Strunk and White's Elements of Style turns 50 today. This little book is a well respected guide to grammar and writing. As I told Kathy Kerhli, I can't say I've ever read it, but it's sitting on my shelf. Maybe someday I will see what all the fuss is about.

Second is a review of three books on writing and publishing a novel. I've read Stephen King's On Writing, which I loved even though I don't really like his novels. The other two books are Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

Third is an interesting story about the current trend in the publishing industry of paying bigger bucks for fewer books. Publishing houses are apparently paying 7-figure advances to a few lucky authors — but it seems like you have to be famous in order to get it. (Even the supposedly "unheard-of" authors discussed in the article are paid the big advances after their first novels make a splash, so yeah, the famous thing still applies.) At the same time, they are publishing fewer books — not good odds for those of us who aspire to novelist status.

I also wanted to share with you a "bonus article" on a book that doesn't focus on writing, but is definitely related: No Right to Remain Silent, by Lucinda Roy. You may remember that Roy was the professor that tried to get help for Seung-Hui Cho, the troubled shooter at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people two years ago today. Roy's book talks about potential motives, but also about the writing connection. I think Roy's voice bodes well for the quality of her book: calm, soft-spoken, but self-assured. Clearly she wrote this book because she felt certain things needed to be said. Be sure to listen to both the radio spot and the excerpt.

The day after Tax Day

Yeah, I've been busy this week — so busy that I didn't do my usual "taxes for freelancers" posts as Tax Day approached. See, this year I didn't get my taxes done several months early, like I have the past three years. Michael and I worked on our taxes (since we're filing jointly) Sunday night, and I mailed our Federal return (Colorado offers free online filing for state) on Tax Day.

Once again, we estimated our tax liability pretty closely. We got a little bit of a return from the Federal government, which we put towards our estimated payments. We owed the state a whopping $5, which I found immensely amusing.

I also mailed my first quarterly estimated tax payment for 2009. Ouch! January and February may have been slow, but since March was (and April is looking) more or less back to normal, I didn't reduce my estimated income. So a larger percentage of my income than usual (since I make four equal payments) went to paying estimated taxes for those months , and that hurt a bit.

It's a huge relief to have all of that behind me. There's no way I'll do them so late again — having at the back of my mind for three months weighed on me more than I realized. What about you? How did taxes go for you this year, and are you relieved that it's over?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Netbooks for writers: Upcoming attractions

A friend and fellow freelancer, Kathy Kehrli, recently sent me an article on the value of netbooks for businesses. It was an interesting article with a lot of good points. I agree with it that netbooks are more powerful than most people assume, although I personally wouldn't want one as my only computer — and since my laptop is the size of many netbooks anyway, why bother?

(One thing I do disagree with in this article: that netbooks are too small for practical typing. I don't think that is true if you get a "large" netbook — i.e., one with a 10 or 11 inch screen, of which there are a couple. I've also typed on the ultra-tiny Sony Vaio, and I found the size of the keyboard to be comfortable.)

Here's something that is more likely to change my mind about netbooks, though: AT&T is going to start selling $50 netbooks with a data plan contract. As long as the data plan is reasonable and I can install Word, I will probably buy one, as it would be nice to be able to check email or research articles online when I don't have access to a free WiFi connection.

Monday, April 06, 2009

A change of scenery

Lori Widmer's blog post on coffee shop dwellers has made me crave a change of scenery. It's a beautiful sunny day, a nice change after an often windy and sometimes snowy weekend, making it the perfect weather for a short walk over to our local Starbucks. I think I'll head over there as soon as I finish my apple and feed the dogs.

I find that periodically I need to get out and work someplace else in order to get anything done — staying home day after day increases the likelihood that I'll get burned out. It's been a while since I've worked at a bookstore or a coffee shop, so I think I'm overdue.

I also sometimes like to work outside. In the summer, I enjoy sitting on our porch and working, at least until it gets too hot in the afternoon. Last year I also occasionally took my laptop to the barn and worked after mucking stalls, which my horse grazed on the grass within my sight. I don't think I'll be able to manage anything like that at the new barn, unfortunately — unless I want to try working in the hay loft, which has windows that overlook the pasture.

Of course, I typically don't get as much work done in other places, particularly not with my horse as a distraction. However, I feel so refreshed and happy afterwards that I really don't care that it causes my hourly wage to be cut in half. I figure it keeps me going so that I can maintain my desired income the rest of the time, so it's well worth it.

Where do you like to go to work when you need a change of scenery?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

But the big companies are doing it...

I was somewhat horrified to read an article in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday about how firms are rethinking their rate structures in order to retain clients.

Unfortunately, the article is for subscribers only, but here is the link in case you are one:

Firms Try Alternative to Hourly Fees

In short, the article talks about how some companies are switching to performance-based fees to keep business flowing in the current economy. They offered two companies as examples: an advertising agency, and an online marketing firm. The reductions in rates were pretty steep, too: The advertising agency reported switching from a $15,000 monthly retainer, to a $10,000 fee for obtaining a specific booking, and the marketing firm reported dropping rates from around $135 per hour to $80 per hour with additional fees charged only if the client's goals were met.*

Lori Widmer has been blogging a lot lately about why we shouldn't lower our rates during tough times, one of the reasons being that it makes it more difficult to go back to our original rates as the economy improves. And sure enough, this article didn't address the future of these companies at all. I can't help but wonder whether they are planning on adopting the performance-based pay permanently, and if not, how they will convince clients down the road to pay a higher price whether they see results or not.

While most of us aren't charging $135 an hour or a $15,000 monthly retainer (or at least if you are, you probably aren't reading my blog), whether to lower prices is still an issue that's on our radar, whether or not we agree with it. I personally am not lowering my rates, but I'm not raising them either, which I usually do in the spring or summer.

I am curious to hear from my fellow freelancers. Are you lowering your rates, keeping them the same, or raising them despite the current economy? And does hearing that the big firms are lowering their rates change anything for you?

* Note: All of these numbers are drawn from memory, since I no longer have the print version, and don't have access to the online article. If you have either and find that I've reported the numbers wrong, please let me know.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A writer's journey, part 3

There were still some literary elements to the rest of our trip, but it wasn't the full immersion I experienced in Haworth. Nevertheless, I want to give a brief accounting of what else we did there.

After our third night in Haworth, we went for a day trip in Edinburgh. With a 3-hour train ride each way, we didn't have time to do a whole lot there: just ate a large, late lunch, shopped a little, visited the Royal Mile, and saw Edinburgh Castle.

Edinbrough Castle

Inside Edinbrough Castle

The view from Edinbrough Castle

We spent one more night in Haworth, and then returned to London for the remainder of our trip. While there, we visited the British Museum — just the Ancient Egyptian and Greek sections, as that museum is far too big to see in one day). We also went on a day trip to Paris, where we visited the Louvre and a famous English-language used bookstore called Shakespeare and Company.

Shakespeare and Company in Paris

In my element: surrounded by books at Shakespeare and Company in Paris

Even overseas, I can't go into a bookstore without feeling happy — or, as it turns out, without buying a book, even when that means I have to make room for it in my luggage!

After Paris, we had one more full day in London. Michael and I used that day to visit the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery briefly, with the primary purpose of seeing the original of Branwell Brontë's famous portrait of the Brontë sisters. It's not actually very good, particularly when compared with the other masterpieces in that room; but what I loved was the opportunity to not only see it in person, but also to walk right up to it and stand with my nose practically on the glass.

And that's it — the full story of my first trip overseas. I enjoyed the vacation immensely, but I have to say that by the end, I was more than ready to come home, as I missed my own life — dogs, cats, horse, laptop, and all — very much!

Inspiration: A writer's journey, part 2

Haworth Cemetery, with the older horizontally-laid stones in the foreground, and the newer vertically-placed stones in the background

The Brontë sisters are (or at least were) living proof of how difficult it is to put your finger on what, exactly, inspires a writer.

It was an uncanny experience to walk through the Haworth cemetery, with the Bronë Parsonage, where the Brontë sisters lived and wrote, looming in the background. The tombstones are crammed in thickly, with some laid flat edge-to-edge like gigantic floor tiles, and others set upright like jagged teeth, all with a faint green shadow growing on them. The solemn atmosphere is punctuated by the cawing of crows.

Haworth Cemetery, with the older horizontally-laid stones in the foreground, and the newer vertically-placed stones in the background

The novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, who wrote Charlotte's biography, claimed that this dreary setting influenced the "immorality" (to Victorian sensibilities) present in the sisters' writing, but I don't get a sense of their work in this place. In the museum you can sense them a little more in their things — for instance, the tiny books they made as children, and in Charlotte's pretty but modest wedding bonnet and veil, which echoes Jane Eyre's reluctance to wear jewels or an elaborate veil on her wedding day.

But I got the strongest sense of the Brontë sisters out on the moors my final morning there, wrapped in mist and solitude. Here I felt the closest to them, and perhaps the faintest understanding of what it was that inspired them to write their powerful, enduring novels. Many of their books contain a great deal of local flavor — especially Emily's Wuthering Heights, but also Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

The Bronte moors near Haworth, along the footpath to the Bronte waterfall and Top Withens

Can't you just see Jane traveling along this road in her flight from Thornfield? Or Cathy and Heathcliff in the background, shirking their religious studies on a Sunday?

Although I did not have the time on this trip to write as much as I wished, it was still a writer's journey and a rejuvenation of creativity. I worked on an article, started a new novel, and kept a travel journal with our activities as well as my thoughts and impressions. It would be vain for me to associate my own writing with the genuis of the Brontë sisters, but there is no doubt that I was — and am — inspired by them.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Literary travels: A writer's journey, part 1

I apologize to those of you who have been waiting for a post on my trip to Europe. There are actually three posts coming up, all with pictures, so hopefully it will have been worth the wait!

I've found that I can (very occasionally) leave my work behind, but I never leave behind my identity as a writer. Our trip to Europe therefore had many literary elements to it.

For starters, almost the first half of our trip was in Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived and wrote their classic novels. Since I am a huge Brontë fan, it was a given that we would go to Haworth on our first trip together overseas; and so for four nights, I surrounded myself with the setting that inspired Charlotte, Emily, and Anne.

Although of course Haworth is much more modern in some ways than in the Brontë sisters' day, it is also very similar in many ways. Main Street is the same steep, cobbled road it was back then, with the same buildings and even the same pubs that existed nearly two centuries ago.

The steep cobbled Main Street in Haworth, looking down from near the top of the hill

The moors of course are much the same as they were back then; more of the farmhouses are abandoned, and I have a feeling more of this is grazing land than once was, but I imagine this is similar to how it looked in the first half of the nineteenth century, too.

The Bronte moors near Haworth, early in the morning under a heavy mist

Haworth church was rebuilt in the late 1800s, all except for the tower, and the cemetery now has tall trees (and cawing crows) that were not there in the Brontës' time. However, the parsonage has been restored as much as possible to how it was back then (another wing was added in the late nineteenth century) and turned into a museum, complete with furniture, clothing, manuscripts, and other memorabilia that once belonged to the Brontës.

The Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, with the cemetery in the foreground

I've been a Brontë fan since adolescence, so actually being in this place was amazing and inspiring — not to mention why I knew I had to bring some work with me! I'll talk a little about inspiration in my next post.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Grammar lessons

Being a child of the 80s, when grammar was no longer really taught in school, I learned everything I know from reading — so every once in a while, I learn a grammar rule that I had never actually been taught, but had been following instinctively.

Here is an example. It always has bothered me how people use blonde versus blond. I decided a while back that it felt more correct to use blond as an adjective, and blonde as a noun (i.e., "She's a blonde because she has blond hair.").

Last night I finally got fed up and decided to check my AP Stylebook, and this is what I found:

blond, blonde Use blond as a noun for males and
as a adjective for all applications. Use blonde as a noun for
So it seems I was close, as the only thing I didn't know was the gender differentiation.

As a writer, do you ever have instances like this happen to you — where you were never taught the actual rule, but followed it instinctively nonetheless?

April Fools!

I am no good at coming up with April Fools pranks, especially not anything to play on my blog's readers. The best one — saying you're ending your blog, quitting freelancing, etc. — is way overused and therefore not so funny anymore.

But since it is April Fool's Day, we should probably do something Foolish. So you tell me — what are the best pranks you've ever played — or had played on you?


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