Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Freelance Writers Den – Review

The Freelance Writers Den will be opening up to new members soon.  I tweeted about it last week, but haven’t really discussed the Den anywhere, so I thought I’d write a quick review. 

I signed up for the Den a few months ago.  At the time, I was taking their Blast Off Class and one of the perks for registrants was that you had the option of becoming a Member, even though the site was closed to enrollment at the time.  I’d seen mentions of the site here and there, but I’d never joined before because there is a monthly fee ($25) and, as many of you know, there are an awful lot of free resources out there.  Here’s why I decided it was worth the cost:

The Freelance Writers Den includes forums and a lot, I mean a lot, of training material. They offer transcripts of their classes for Members of the site.  I’m a big believer in investing in my education and have taken a number of different online courses over the years.  For me, though, I don’t need to actually be involved in a class to get something out of it – usually the material is enough.  Also, the classes are worth a great deal more than $25, so I think it’s a pretty good investment, if you’re going to do the work that will make the experience beneficial – basically, if you’re going to sign up and do nothing, don’t bother.  But if you’re going to learn new techniques or brush up on things, and then do the work to get new assignments, I definitely recommend it. 

I don’t spend a great deal of time in the forums, just kind of pop in there once in a while.  Though, I did edit my own website significantly after getting some great feedback there.  It’s Rhetoric Unlimited, if you want to take a look.

My main reason for joining was that, prior to going full-time again this past spring, I hadn’t actively worked as a writer in a few years – the assignments I’d been taking over that time were from set clients and not too much in web content.  I knew I had to brush up on changes in web writing, seo content, etc.  It was worth the cost just to brush up, because the material really is good and you can find something significant on just about any type of writing.  Another perk, though, I found new platforms – blogs to check, places to submit, etc.  The first query I sent out to one of those blogs got accepted, and that guest post paid $50 – so I essentially paid for the first two months with one assignment.

I’m giving you the link below to reserve a spot.  It’s not open right now, but once it opens, they’ll give you the option of joining, if you’re on the list.  When they do open to new members, it usually fills up pretty quick – I feel like a used car salesman telling you that, but it’s true.  Before I actually joined, it opened up and I thought about joining… waited two days and it was already closed when I went to do it.  Literally, that quick. 

One more thing – the link below is my affiliate link.  If you’re adverse to using affiliate links, feel free to search it on your own… you’ll still get to the same site either way.  

Grow your freelance income… reserve a seat in Freelance Writers Den.

Monday, July 01, 2013


The Amazing Chris Eldin
This morning, I woke up to an alert on facebook – one of my writing friends (the awesome Stephen Parrish) tagged me in a post to alert me to the following articleIt hit me so hard, it literally knocked the wind out of me. I had to walk away from the computer before I could finish the short article. I absolutely could not stomach the comments.

Chris deserved a tribute - prose and poetry, and something outlandish, because that’s what she would have done for anyone else. And the article was just some little news story, by someone who didn’t know her, had no idea how many lives she touched or who she was… it was printed at the time of her death – almost a year ago. THAT realization might have hit me even harder than the news. We didn’t know. I think many thought the same thing I did – she was on a social media break and would come bursting back into the blog-o-sphere with some new jolt of energy, rallying the troops or just adopting some new persona to amuse the masses.

I first met Chris Eldin at her early blog, A Bench Press , and all around the blog-o-sphere on different publishing sites. Later, she was the driving force of Book Roast. Then she moved on to her own site, Chris Eldin.

There was a tribute to her after Blog Roast was retired that Shona Snowden was kind enough to link on facebook, and I’ll include here - The Last RoastReading through the lovely comments from friends and admirers is probably the best way to show you who she was.

I first met Chris when she was using the blog name, Church Lady. She was witty and energetic and amazing. If her personality didn’t win you over, you were daft. But her writing, well, that was probably even more amazing. I fully expected to see her published. I’m usually not wrong about that, either. We chatted on a lot of different blogs and boards, because we were both working on middle grade fiction and our circles all seemed to intersect. But honestly, as much as I adored her, I only knew the writer. We talked fiction and even when we did email, it was always about doing some bit of marketing or blog tours for a new author, or some new contest running around the writing circle.

She was tireless in her efforts to help new authors succeed and market their work, without pay or for any motivation other than maybe being driven to clear the path. She was an innovator in every sense of the word. Some writers have mentioned getting together to do something in tribute. If you’re stopping by here and are in the process of organizing anything, please let me know.

Chris, if you’re still checking your blog feeds, I hope you’ve found peace, and light, and love. And I hope you can feel it with every essence of your being.

You are and will be missed.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Club Blogs... How I Miss Them

On Sunday, I spent the entire day reading.  The. Entire. Day.  Can you hear the angels sing? 

It’s really not uncommon for me to spend a good portion of the day reading.  I read fairly constantly – articles on writing, web design, work-related such and such.  I peruse websites, check fb, and, yes, I do open up a few books during the course of the day – both reference and whatever novels I happen to be chewing on. 

But on Sunday, I opened up a new novel, fell into the first chapter, and didn’t come up for air for the entire day (except when I absolutely had to).  I’ll be writing a review of that novel to post on the blog sometime this week… I’m still savoring it.

Just that simple joy, of being able to read for the enjoyment of the story, got me to thinking about the old Book Club Blogs.  Back in my early blogging days, I hosted a few book club blogs, and they were a lot of fun.  I hosted one on the book, Lottery, by Patricia Wood – and the awesome author stopped in for the conversation.  Prior to that, I’d hosted ones for The Mists of Avalon and, on my first blog back on a community blogging site that’s now defunct, I hosted Willa Cather’s, My Antonia.

Blogging, as a medium, has changed considerably in the last few years.  I think that may be one of the reasons that seasoned bloggers have moved on to other platforms.  There just isn’t the same discussion that blogging once encouraged.  Now, people check in at blogs on their readers or through their email.  They page in but don’t participate in the same way.  The standard blogging principal five or six years ago was to encourage comments you should always end your post by posing a question or asking for feedback.  We looked at it as a way to start the conversation.  Today, the standard is to approach each post as an article.  Some bloggers even turn off the comments, so readers don’t see the glaring “0 Comments” attached to every post.

So, I’m going against today’s common rationale to pose this question.  Would there be any interest in resurrecting a book club blog?  I could easily just choose my own books and post reviews, but I’m wondering if any of the other bloggers still tooling around the blog-o-sphere might like the group discussion.


Friday, May 03, 2013

The Soul of the Person

Basic Translation to the e card pictured above:

I listen,
Not to the words;
I listen,
To the glances, the gestures;
I listen,
To the soul of the person.

I ran across that picture on Facebook – sometimes curated content is fairly awesome.  The translation might not be exact (my Italian is very limited) but that’s the gist of it. 

As much as it is an amazing instruction for living your life – it also struck me as dead on when it comes to fiction writing.  I struggled for a long time with the “Show, don’t tell” thing.  When you take yourself out of the work enough, you can see it… you can certainly read it in other people’s work.  When you spoon feed too much information on what your reader is supposed to think/feel/understand, the characters ring empty.  You’re telling me who they are, but I don’t really believe you.

I’ve read a lot of writers (published and non) who use the dialog to “show” you who their characters are.  Technically, it’s not telling if you have one character explaining himself to another… except it is. 

I listen, not to the words…

Well, that sounds a little counterproductive to us writers, doesn't it?  They’re all words. 

Except what you really want is for the words to disappear.  You don’t want to be so overly enamored with the way you sling a phrase that your characters have no soul.  That’s what you need to capture – their soul.

How do you determine the soul of a person in your real life?  Is it what they say to you?  If you have a person who tells you how smart they are, do you believe them?  My general rule is that when a person has to tell me they are smart, they’re not.  Either they’re not confident in their mental prowess and are attempting to overcome that by becoming the persona they’re putting out there.  Or they’re just wrong.  And quite frankly, an idiot doesn’t tend to know they’re an idiot.  Often when someone hands you boastful characteristics that they’re attributing to themselves, they’re lying. 

While we can tell the reader certain things, the character can’t be real unless your reader can listen to their soul.  You have to show this.  In real life.  In fiction. 

A lover might say, “I love you” often.  But, if that same lover cheats, forgets your birthday, puts his own needs and wants above any thought of you, do you believe him? 

Love is an action.  The words don’t matter; it’s the act, the movement, what’s shown.  Character is not the words.  You can speak words of great character, but unless you’re walking the walk – just like life, they’re just words.

The tricky part is aspiring to make your writing more than just words.  So how do you listen to the soul of the person?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Naming of a Thing

If you look at my updated profile, you’ll see that I’ve had a change of career.  After handing in my resignation last month, I am now a full-time writer.  It’s funny, because I think I always was a full time writer… I was just dabbling at 40 hour a week career doing something else.  As much as I liked what I did for a living (my clients were amazingly awesome and the work with web configurations was way more fun than I would have thought going in), I came home itching to write.  The itch was strong enough that I still took on freelance assignments, even though it meant I was essentially working 7 days a week.

I was skyping with one of my longtime writing buddies right before I made the big jump.  The funny thing – he’s known me, in all of my online venues as well as through private conversations, for years.  He never knew I’d been ghost writing.  I’d never mentioned it.  Weird, right?  Why wouldn’t I talk about my writing with another writer?

In my head, I’ve always kept ghost writing and writing web content separate from fiction.  This blog and most of my online writing (with my name on it, that is) has centered on fiction.  It didn’t occur to me that anyone would ever be interested in the fact that I’ve been making money as a writer for quite a long time – since 2006.

It’s the naming of the thing.  I can call myself a writer, because I am.  Before I ever got paid a dime for my writing I would have categorized myself as an aspiring writer, but a writer, nonetheless.  I’ve never called myself an author.  Technically, maybe I could.  I have one short story published… doesn’t quite count for me – I’ll consider myself an author the day I sign my first deal for novel length fiction.  It’s my own barometer.  I don’t think anyone else has to subscribe to my labeling system.  But that little internal thing is likely the reason I haven’t much mentioned my freelance writing on this blog.  This blog has always been my venue to discuss fiction.

These first few weeks of business have been largely set up.  I completed a few assignments last week and am working my way through my business plan now - along with deciding on a new name - the naming of the thing.  I know a lot of freelancers just use their own name – Suzy Freelancer, professional writer.  I kind of toyed with that, but I’m not sure how to answer the phone.  I almost feel like an idiot, answering with my name.  Plus, it still keeps the whole thing somewhat separate.  This is my writing business – the bottom line is that it is a business.  This is my fiction writing – the bottom line being that it’s mine. 

The business writing is very much NOT mine.  You can market yourself any way you want but, if you’re writing for businesses or other entities, you’re speaking for them, your words are theirs, and they need to be carefully constructed to portray their specific message.   
This blog has been largely inactive for more than a year now… and the postings were scattered before that.  I thought about what I wanted to do here because, logically, this blog will not be an asset to the business.  On the other hand, it’s my fiction writing home.  So it stays.  Because it’s been an asset to me.

I’m working out a schedule for blogging time.  I know I’ll also have to clean out the links on the sidebar.  I just hate doing that.  Every link represents a person who was at some point very connected to the blog, my writing, and my journey.  I’m going to build a different blog for the business, attached to the website I’m working on.  Not sure if I want to cross link or not – I guess it depends on whether the readership I build back up here would be interested in the type of writing posts I’d be creating there.

For now, this stays my fiction writing home… along with weird little anecdotes about my kids, who you all know are far more amusing than me. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

An Artist in Motion Tends to Stay in Motion

Newton’s law of motion – you guys know this one.  An object at rest stays at rest, unless an external force affects it.  An object in motion stays in motion, unless something impedes it or changes its direction.  Okay, that’s not a direct quote and I’m not actually that great with scientific theory, but that’s the gist of it.

This is one of those things I’ve known for a long time, just on experience.  I know that the more creative I’m allowed to be, the more I feel like being creative.  Those people who “wait” for the muse are kidding themselves.  The muse won’t come to you unless you’re likely to do her bidding.  She’s kind of a realist that way.

True story about writing – it keeps going, long after you’ve closed down your computer.  Any writer will tell you this.  The story line is playing out in our head when we carry out mundane conversations, do our taxes, or wash the dishes.  When we’re out with normal people in the middle of a social gathering, there’s a voice in our head writing a scene.  We tune it out when something important is going on around us… but not always.

I think it takes a special brand of person to put up with us.  Whatever characteristics you’re born with, it still appears that you’re not paying attention to the people in your real world on a fairly regular basis.  Sometimes we’re not.  Often we’re multitasking.  Real world people might think, “What’s more important?  Me or the stories in your head that aren’t even real?”  If we’re honest, they might not like the answer every time.

I have the pleasure of watching the creative psychosis manifest itself in my daughter these days.  It’s funny.  I know these things about myself, and other creative types that I’ve known.  But to see my daughter have the same leanings kind of brings it home.  It’s not something you can get around – maybe it’s not something to be overcome. 

With my daughter, it’s a lot of things – but her main creative focus is music.  She went to a concert with friends – a local band someone’s sister was in.  When she came home, she gushed about how great the musicians were, showed me a tee shirt and cd she bought, and then spent the next 5 consecutive hours playing… first piano, then guitar, then bass, back to piano, her keyboard… then bass again.  It was a weekend, so I didn’t bug her about it… I think she called it around 3 in the morning.

She had a concert at school last week.  It went well and she had a short solo… did she come home ready to be done with it?  Nope.  I had to make her stop playing at midnight.  That time she was composing.  “Mom… just two more measures… I can’t stop here.”
And I get it.  Playing doesn’t quench the urge to play.  It stokes the fire.  Writing doesn’t fulfill your desire to paint your story… it propels you further.

When your muses have all abandoned you, write something.  Read something.  Surround yourself with those who are creating.  Creativity begets creativity.  And the motion starts with you.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Community Notebook

I started carrying a notebook when I was about 15.  Not for any particular class or reason, it was just kind of a spare that I doodled in, wrote bits and scraps of stories, and mindlessly penned song lyrics in.  That notebook would eventually become what I referred to as, “My Journal” - the first edition, anyway.  There were many editions – I called all of them, “My Journal”.

I always had one – loose leaf, spiral bound, whatever color suited my fancy when the last page of my previous journal was filled.  Of course, this was before you had phones that were basically little computers.  Back when handwriting was what you did to get the idea down somewhere until you could get to your computer.

On each of these editions I scrawled, “My Journal” – it was written in permanent marker or scratched so deep into the laminated colorful exterior of the notebook in ballpoint pen as to make it permanent.  The outside of the journal would get decorated over the course of its use in a myriad of ways.  Phone numbers would be jotted down on the fly, little doodles of characters or scenery peaked from this tattered corner or that.  I remember one journal specifically having a sticker on the front that read, “Hot and Spicy Italian”.  It was from a package of sausage, but I thought it was amusing.  Yes, I’ve always been easily amused.

I carried it with me everywhere.  No, literally, everywhere.  When I started driving, it was with me – I might leave it in the car, but only when I was somewhere that the journal might be compromised (read as beer soaked or otherwise degraded).   There was a box, and each edition would be placed on top of its predecessors as it was retired.  And a bright sparkly new journal would take its place in my every day.

My first novel was penned in notebooks.  Three of them.  The entire rough draft was hand written.  The first revision was the one that I keyed in to my computer.  That’s the only time I’ve handwritten a long piece.  It was crap.  But the process was slightly cathartic.  Even when I was writing that novel, I had a “Journal” – separate from the novel notebooks, all its own.

See, that’s what the journal is for me.  It’s not a place to write out long fiction.  It’s a place to play.  To write rough ideas of whatever it is I’m working on – outlines, character sketches, sometimes just bits of dialogue that pop into my head and I don’t know where to put them… but they’re too cool to just chalk up to nothing.  To noodle ideas, draft silliness, and otherwise spark my mind into action – most especially when it’s sluggish and unwilling to stop procrastinating.

My journals in the last few years never seem to get finished.  I still have one.  My current edition is blue.  The outside cover does not proclaim that it is “MY JOURNAL”.  It’s a run of the mill notebook in every conceivable way – except that it’s mine.  There are bits of query letters.  Notes from resumes I’ve written freelance (a mark of the economy, I suppose).  Notes of markets to check and checklists of tasks that are writing and home related in a hodgepodge that I may or may not get back to… but the act of writing it down somehow cements it in my head.  Because that’s how I am – I’m a words person.  I think in words, not pictures.  I kind of miss the stickers and doodles, though… the bits proclaiming to the outside world that it’s mine, and I’m weird… and raspberries to you if you don’t get me.

Last week, I went to grab my notebook off the dining room table before leaving for work.  I do that, still.  Grab it and keep it in the car, so that I can jot things down if I have time on my lunch break.  Only, my notebook was gone.  Of course, I could have found another notebook to use, but I didn’t want another one.  I wanted mine.  Because it’s mine.  Funny the things you’re hard pressed to relinquish.  I almost made myself late for work looking for it, and came up empty handed.

Two more days passed and I still couldn’t find it.  And then, I walked into my daughter’s room to put her laundry on her bed and noticed a notebook open on her pillow.  The top two pages were handwritten – what looked like song lyrics but I didn’t read them, because they weren’t mine.  The notebook, however was mine.  I tore the pages out and left them on her bed.  When she came home, I mentioned it to her:

Me:  Hey, I left your work on your bed.  But that notebook is mine.
Gracie Girl:  Huh? You didn’t read it, did you?
Me:  No.  That’s yours.  The notebook’s mine.
Gracie Girl:  Well, don’t read it.  It’s a song and it’s not done.  And I didn’t know it was YOUR notebook.  It just looked like a notebook.  And I needed one.
Me:  You’ve got a ton of notebooks.
Gracie Girl:  Those are school notebooks.  Or music notebooks.  I needed a different notebook.

Okay, that sounded familiar.  When I went out to the store that night, I grabbed a little something extra.  I knocked on Gracie’s door when I got home.

Gracie Girl:  Yeah.
Me:  (opening the door)  Here, I got this for you.
I held up a brand new shiny notebook.  Plain, college ruled loose leaf, spiral bound.
Gracie Girl:  *Jumping off the bed*  Yay!  For me?  Yay!

She literally hugged it.  She’s had it with her every day.  When she goes to sleep, it’s next to her pillow.  When she leaves for school, it’s in her arm, not in her bookbag with the boring, old school notebooks.  Apparently that “My Journal” thing is hereditary.