The highest compliment

There's nothing quite so good for a writer as when another writer pays you a compliment. I recently posted a link to Will Write for Chocolate, a new web comic that I've delighted in following. The author found my blog because I'd linked to hers, and linked back to mine from another of her blogs for writers. Here is the link as it appears on Inkygirl, and the compliment she paid me:



I was, of course, quite pleased by the compliment as well as the traffic she will, no doubt, send my way. I'm also thrilled to gain a little recognition in the freelance community. Whether or not it's true, it makes me feel like the effort I've put into freelancing is actually getting me somewhere (and it probably is true, considering the upward trend in my income). I only hope my hard work continues to pay off!
By Katharine Swan On Saturday, February 25, 2006 At 9:50 PM 1 comments

The reject article finally published...


A month or more ago, I blogged about an article that nobody wanted. I'd written it after going to the grand reopening party for Attic Bookstore. To refresh your memories (or just save you the time of trying to find the old blogs), I wrote the story for a local paper, who then decided that they didn't want the story after all - the bookstore's goth theme didn't fit very well with their paper. Next I submitted it to a local magazine, even though they don't pay their writers - I just thought it would be a waste if the piece went unpublished. However, I didn't exactly feel like revamping the article for no pay, so when the magazine said it wasn't their style, I withdrew it. I then submitted it to Associated Content, an online informational database that I sometimes write for. They didn't want to pay me their usual measely payment for it, since it only covered one local business, so I had to resubmit it for publication with no pay (one time rights only, of course). It took them a while, but my piece on the grand reopening of the Attic Bookstore in Englewood was finally published. I'm glad that's over; it was such a headache for a while there.

I often feel the articles I write are like my children, so the thought of having one rejected, fated to exist only on my computer, was heartbreaking. I made the decision to publish the piece even if it meant not getting paid for it, but I was shocked by the way publishers treat writers who are literally donating their time and work. Really, if they're not going to pay us, they should at least show a little respect! I guess that's why I rarely write for free (or almost-free) - any publisher who doesn't pay their writers (or pays only a couple of bucks) most likely doesn't respect their writers.

In any case, I felt that I learned a lot from the Attic Bookstore article fiasco.
  • One, it sucks when publishers tell you they're interested in a piece but then change their minds once they see it - but there's nothing you can do about it. Therefore, have backup plans - someone to send the piece to next.
  • Two, unless a piece really is time-sensitive, it probably isn't worthwhile to give it away just to see it in print as soon as possible. If the piece can wait, then so should you - take your time to find someone who will at least give you something for the time and effort it took you to write the piece.
  • And three, there may be articles like this one - the children that you wish you hadn't created - but there will always be plenty of good articles (and good publishers) to make up for it.

Well, there's my lessons for the day. That being said, feel free to take a look at my article!

By Katharine Swan On At 9:25 PM 0 comments

A heartwarming news story


Do you ever get tired of the depressing story on the news? I ran across a news video that is wholly different from the norm, about a surprising basketball hero at a school in New York. I don't even know what I can say about it, except that it is guaranteed to move you.
By Katharine Swan On At 11:43 AM 0 comments

A bad omen for all American women

Today USAToday ran an article about a ban on abortion that South Dakota is trying to pass. I was absolutely astonished by what I was reading. I mean, can they even try to pass a ban like this, with Roe v. Wade still in place? I guess the idea is probably to pass the ban in South Dakota first, and then use it to overturn Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court level. Just the thought gives me the chills. I already have enough problems dealing with my health thanks to the U.S. government, without them taking away my right to govern my own body.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if it gets much worse in this country, I'm moving to Canada. At least there, I'll have guaranteed health care, which, as a diabetic, is probably my most basic need.

Granted, the conservatives are always searching for a way to erode the rights given to women by Roe v. Wade. However, if this attempt begins to pick up speed, I will most certainly get involved, as I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and let the government tell me what I can or can't do with my own reproductive system.
By Katharine Swan On Friday, February 24, 2006 At 3:56 PM 0 comments

Staple-less and proud!

Yesterday Michael had his 10-day (well, 11-day, to be precise) checkup with the doctor who performed his microdiscectomy. While he was there, the nurse took out his staples. She used a little tool that wasn't a staple remover, but rather similar... Michael said it hurt, as I can only imagine. However, he really has healed up rather fast - faster than you would think, considering that surgery was performed through this incision less than two weeks ago.



Michael has also been able to back off on his Percocet doses, which is a sign that it's probably healing just as quickly inside as well. He still is not allowed to twist or bend, and he's supposed to change position - between sitting, standing, and lying down - about every twenty minutes, but he is definitely more mobile than he was a week ago.
By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, February 22, 2006 At 5:41 PM 0 comments

Finding time to write


This week's post on my favorite web comic/blog for writers, Will Write for Chocolate, was on finding time to write. Although the post is written by and for write-at-home moms, I still found the issues and tips applicable to my own predicament - particularly with Michael home 24/7, recovering from back surgery. Between taking care of Michael, taking care of housework (well, when I can), and doing everything else we do with both of us home, time to write is at a premium. It's ironic, too, because lately I'm getting more time to write than ever: already I've more than doubled my January income, and February isn't even over yet! I'm certainly facing a challenge: how to find time to write as a write-at-home girlfriend/caretaker (instead of a write-at-home mother).

Luckily, Michael is currently taking a nap. I'll see what I can get done while he sleeps (and hope that it doesn't make me sleepy too)...
By Katharine Swan On At 5:28 PM 0 comments

The bottom feeders debate


I've gotten into a bit of a debate with Angela Hoy, over at Writer's Weekly, about bottom feeders. As you may remember from my past blog entries, Angela Hoy has ranted about bottom feeders in the past. Usually I agree with her - writing an article for $1-$5 is downright insulting - but it seems we have come to a difference in opinion. I mentioned to her that I kicked off my freelancing career by writing for internet databases, earning $15-$25 per article. At first I was somewhat naive about it, but pretty quickly I learned to only write on topics that allowed me to pound out an article in about an hour's time; eventually, I set my standards at the equivalent of $15 per hour (which was about what I got at my full-time technical writing job, so I figure that's my break-even point). Although I still write these from time to time, for the most part they served their purpose as a jumping-off-point for my career, while earning me a decent wage.

However, Angela disagrees; she thinks that $15-$25 is not enough if I'm signing away all rights. I see her point, and if the article were anything I'd want to reuse, I would completely agree - but most of these articles, while well-written, are certainly not groundbreaking. For work that I put a lot of time and creativity into, I would never sign away all rights for $25, but I just don't see the harm in it with these. Besides, higher paying gigs are harder to come by for newbies like me, and I still have bills to pay in the meantime!

For examples of my one-hour wonders, see my articles on pets, parenting, cars, and beauty.
By Katharine Swan On Monday, February 20, 2006 At 9:44 PM 0 comments

Darn funny quote of the day!

I found this quote about typos rather amusing - particularly as a writer. I've noticed the high number of typos in writing that is generally awful, and I wonder if those typos - either intentionally or unintentionally - have taken my mind off of an equally awful subject. However, I try to avoid typos in my work, so with this quote in mind I wonder if that means I have a high opinion of my topics, my writing, or both?

Labels:

By Katharine Swan On Sunday, February 19, 2006 At 8:43 PM 0 comments

Signs of success, and the "I'm a freelance writer" skit


Not very long ago, I was crowing about the sense that my workload was finally picking up. In only a few short weeks, it seems my monthly freelancing income has already almost doubled! I'm ecstatic about that, because it means that I was right when I felt I was finally starting to get somewhere substantial.

However, it's sometimes hard explaining that to other people. In the four months that I've been freelancing, I've learned to expect one of two reactions from people when I tell them I'm a freelance writer: either they light up and say, "Oh, I used to want to write!" or they kind of frown at me and simply say, "Oh." (The second reaction is more common from people who want my money for some product or service.) It's rather like asking people whether the glass is half full or half empty. The more I hear the first type of reaction, the more I realize how idealistic these people are - they likely have no clue how much time and work it takes to get started as a freelance writer. It's still flattering, though, to hear the envy and admiration. The other kind of people are starting to offend me a bit, however. You can practically hear the disdain dripping from their voice. I want to tell them, "Hey, at least I like what I do - and why don't you look me up in five years and see how disdainful you are then?" Not that I think I'll be wildly successful in five years (well, not that I'm counting on it), but I'm sure I'll be better off than they're imagining!

And, heck, if this doubling trend keeps it up, I could be doing pretty darn well by that time, after all!
By Katharine Swan On Saturday, February 18, 2006 At 12:47 AM 0 comments

Following up


I've heard it before: writers often have to follow up on their queries. I've been told stories of other writers having to remind editors once or twice before they get any sort of response. I suppose it's only natural, considering the enormous amount of queries and submissions editors must receive. Mine is only a needle in their haystack, so to speak.

As my readers may remember, I sent off a number of queries about a month ago. Many of them claimed they would respond within two to four weeks...yet most of the responses I've received have not been from those select few. I've been putting off the task of following up, but I finally decided it was time. I prepared eight follow-ups tonight, and I will send six of them off in tomorrow's mail. (Two are to publications located in Canada, so I'm giving them another week to account for the mail delay.)

That was my task for today, pitiful as it is. But hey, I generally work over the weekend, too, so can you blame me? This weekend - or at least sometime in the very near future - I have two articles to write/finish. And then next week I have another couple of assignments to tackle. Freelancing keeps me busy, that's for sure!
By Katharine Swan On At 12:38 AM 0 comments

Whistle while you work


After a little more procrastinating, I finished the writing I needed to do tonight. I tried listening to some music while I worked, and ended up musing on why certain kinds of music are more distracting than others. So that I could get on with my current assignment, I promised myself I'd turn my musing into blogging later on.

The conclusion that I've come to is that it has to do with words. I find it supremely distracting to hear other people's words, even as part of a song, while I'm trying to create my own words. Therefore, the types of music that have always been best for background music while I write are also those that don't have any lyrics to distract me: New Age, mostly, and select movie soundtracks.

When it's the right music, however, I find that music is highly conducive to creation. The right background music can help sustain a particular mood or image or feeling that I need in order to write a certain piece. For instance, in the past I've used Enigma as a backdrop for suspenseful or supernatural fiction, while something more monotonous and soothing helps me to write nonfiction.
By Katharine Swan On Friday, February 17, 2006 At 1:47 AM 0 comments

Words of Wisdom by Michael


"I'm a sucker for quotes... Will you quote me on that?"
By Katharine Swan On Thursday, February 16, 2006 At 7:31 PM 0 comments

Writing hard...or hardly writing?


It's been harder than I expected to write with Michael around, even now that he's doing more on his own. I didn't get very much done yesterday. Tonight or early tomorrow I have to turn in my weekly work for a writing gig, so I'm playing catch-up right now. I also have some bigger articles that I have yet to get to. I might have to lock myself into the study for a few hours tomorrow in order to get any decent amount of work done.

I have, however, been working quite a bit on hunting for new gigs and sending off resumes, so I guess all my time is not wasted. Part of that time has been dealing with potential scammers. Speaking of which, Angela Hoy has a very useful article in this week's issue of Writer's Weekly, on warning signs that an ad for freelance work may be trouble.

Interestingly, just a day or two before the weekly ezine came out, I was going to send her an email about Suite101.com. I didn't know about the site's long history, and I wasn't sure if she already knew about it. I should have figured she would. Anyway, I almost fell into Suite101.com's trap: I applied in response to an ad they ran, and even exchanged an email or two with the contact before I read the fine print and realized they were paying per 1000 hits on your article. Now, I happen to agree with Angela Hoy that pay-per-click sites are bad news for freelancers. As she has said many times, writing is a profession, just like anything else, and writers should be paid the same as any other professional. As I told my contact at Suite101.com, you wouldn't pay your plumber a fraction of a penny for every time you flush your toilet after he works on it; you pay for the work itself, and writers should be treated with the same respect.

I also have been following Writer's Weekly's column, "Whispers and Warnings," particularly the bit about Dragonfire. When Writer's Weekly first ran a blurb about them as a paying market, I sent them some of my work, which they (fortunately, now, it seems) were not interested in. Now it appears Dragonfire is not paying their writers. If anyone else has had problems with Dragonfire, by all means, check in with Writer's Weekly - they'd no doubt love to know, and might even be able to help!

One other interesting tidbit for writers - check out the new web comic for writers, Will Write for Chocolate. Pretty funny, and all too true! The same writer posts My Life in a Nutshell, a web comic about various life-inspired topics, and Inkygirl, a blog containing freelance job postings. I'd recommend these sites to any writer.
By Katharine Swan On At 5:41 PM 1 comments

Nurse by day, writer by night


The last few days have been interesting. I've been taking care of Michael quite a bit, of course. It's funny how you take being able to bend and twist for granted; now that Michael can't do any of that, I am realizing how often we utilize those motions on a daily basis. Michael can't do simple things for himself, such as bend down and pick up something that's fallen, get food out of the lower shelves in the fridge, load or unload the dishwasher, put on socks or pants, or even turn on the shower. As a result, I have to be handy to do all of these things for him as he needs them. At first, he even had a hard time getting in and out of bed on his own, but he is gradually getting better at that.

Nursing Michael requires a lot of my time during the day, and writing is difficult because he's right there all the time. Some of my current assignments require some more concentration, and I just can't give them the attention they need when Michael is talking to me or might interrupt me for something. It's not his fault; it's just hard for me to focus on my writing when he needs me so much. As a result, I end up doing mindless things, like browsing the internet, during the day.

I tend to do more of my writing during the evening, particularly once Michael falls asleep. I've been getting to bed about an hour after him - generally around 3:00 a.m. - and between my late hours and the alarms going off every four hours throughout the night to remind him to take his Percocet, I've been sleeping pretty late every morning. And then the whole cycle begins again, since I don't really like writing first thing after I wake up when Michael is around.

Right now, Michael has already fallen asleep - early compared to our recent habits. While he's sleeping, I'll try to get some more writing done. Tomorrow may be a busy day - I have to go pick up a new prescription for his Percocet and get it filled, possibly early in the day if snow is a possibility later on. And I think Michael may actually run an errand with me later on in the day. I might want to go to bed early myself.
By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, February 14, 2006 At 10:43 PM 0 comments

Superficial


So apparently the lawyer's "superficial" wounds inflicted on him by Cheney have now caused a minor heart attack... But no, he's doing just fine! No White House scandal here...
By Katharine Swan On At 2:32 PM 0 comments

Cracks on Cheney


Check out this article on all the jokes about Cheney's hunting accident. The journalist quotes many, many jokes that will keep you rolling!
By Katharine Swan On At 2:30 AM 0 comments

The grossest thing I've ever seen in my life!

It's funny - working with kids, I was always able to keep my head when they got hurt, but seeing Michael's wound still freaked me out - probably because there wasn't an emergency to focus on. (I think that classifies me as action-oriented.) Michael was allowed to take his first shower tonight, but we weren't supposed to leave the soggy bandage on, so off it came! And this is what we saw:



I was expecting regular stitches, not staples, so seeing seven silver slivers intersecting the wound, like rungs on a ladder, was rather disturbing. Also, the wound was longer than both of us expected - the picture doesn't show the actual length well, because of the angle I took it at, but it's only a little under two inches - maybe one and three-quarters.

No wonder Michael is in pain, even on Percocet!
By Katharine Swan On Monday, February 13, 2006 At 12:16 AM 0 comments

My new toy...I mean tool


With a gift card for Wal-Mart, I recently bought a terrific new toy...I mean, tool for my freelancing. :o)

I wanted a digital voice recorder for recording interviews, so that I could type up my notes and pull quotes later on. However, it is very important to me that my voice recorder have the capability of transferring files to my laptop, and not very many voice recorders can do that. I found my solution in the form of an MP3 player by Creative. It's my voice recorder with a USB interface - and, as a bonus, I can also put music on it! :o)

I doubt I'll use the music option very often, but it's still nice to have it there. In any case, the MP3 player is even nicer than most voice recorders, because it is so small and discreet... i.e., I can easily record a conversation without the other person even knowing it. That would have come in handy several times over the past year...

I'm really excited about my new toy, and I'm hoping I'll have an opportunity soon to use it!
By Katharine Swan On Sunday, February 12, 2006 At 9:48 PM 0 comments

More on our idiot VP


Check out this CNN video on Cheney's hunting accident.

The anchors can hardly keep from laughing - they keep stumbling over their words!

It's also amusing that while the anchors are speaking, the visual is a loop of images of Cheney in office...at press conferences, with the troops, etc. It's probably at the behest of the VP himself. Of course, with a headline like this, he probably does need to remind the general public that he is the VP and therefore above such mistakes.

The accompanying article also mentions that the hunters were all wearing orange jackets... So how did Cheney not see the guy?!

For another source of apt commentary, read this AlterNet blog posting on the incident.

Let this incident be a reminder that no matter how much of an advocate for firearms a person is, gun accidents can still happen!!!
By Katharine Swan On At 8:07 PM 0 comments

The latest GOP idiot


Ummm, so Cheney shot someone...accidentally?

We always knew our current presidential cabinet was made up of idiots, but this just proves it...

Hey, Cheney! Guns don't kill people... People kill people! (Or wound them, as the case may be.)

The irony speaks for itself...
By Katharine Swan On At 7:49 PM 0 comments

Michael's homecoming -- PICTURES!

Michael came home today around 3:00. So far everything is going well - he needs help getting dressed or undressed, and doing things such as lying down, since he can't bend or twist, and if he's sitting his back and legs need to be at exactly 90 degrees. It may be like this for four to six weeks, so he might be home for longer than we thought - and I may as well.

I used Michael's camera phone to take some pictures of him in the hospital. Here he is all dressed up for his surgery:



After the surgery (all drugged up):



As he became more alert, Michael had to go to the bathroom more and more. However, at first he was having a really hard time going - he couldn't do it lying down with the urinal, like they wanted, and it took so much work to get him standing that he often couldn't relax enough to go. By evening he was finally able to go easily - and did he ever go! I didn't know the human bladder could hold this much!!!



And this is the picture of himself that Michael texted me with to wake me up this morning:

By Katharine Swan On Saturday, February 11, 2006 At 6:57 PM 0 comments

Michael's big day (Reprise)


I have great news: Michael's surgery went very well! He was in and out pretty quickly, with no complications.

I stayed with him until about nine o'clock this morning, when they finally wheeled him off to the OR. The nurses gave him something they called "smile in a vial" at about 8:30 - and oh boy, that was smiles for me as well! Michael said some pretty goofy things while he was on that stuff. For example, when the surgeon's assistant asked him which side his herniated disc was affecting, he said - sounding completely surprised - "My left, but I never thought of that before!" As if he would have been there if he hadn't thought of it! After the SA left, I teased him about his funny comment, and he proceded to give a detailed explanation of why his comment was legitimate. :o)

When they finally took him to surgery, I went into the waiting room, where I had my breakfast and took a nap. The doctor came and woke me up around 10:35 or 10:40 to tell me the surgery had gone smoothly. Although the disc fragment came out easily, he joked that he thought he'd given birth to a baby - the fragment was huge, about the size of a large marble, judging by the size he showed me with his fingers. He said that the nerve looked very irritated, so he'd given Michael a shot of steriods to reduce the inflammation.

About an hour later, the receptionist in the waiting room notified me that they'd taken Michael from recovery to a private room. I went up to see him at about noon, and stayed there with him until 6:30, when I left to get food and feed the pets at home. When I first got in there with him, he was pretty groggy, but he gradually became more alert throughout the day. When I get back we're going to try to watch a movie on my computer, and hopefully they won't really make me leave when visiting hours officially end.

Speaking of which, I'd better head out...
By Katharine Swan On Friday, February 10, 2006 At 7:11 PM 0 comments

Michael's big day


Tomorrow morning Michael goes into surgery. It'll be an early day for us - we'll have to be at the hospital by 6:30. Ugh...have I mentioned that I am so not a morning person??

Michael is a little nervous, but not as much as he has been in the past week. He mostly just wants it over with so that he can get on with his life (and hopefully regain sensation and strength in his left leg again).

In any case, I will most likely be spending the day at the hospital - possibly the night and the following day, too, depending on how long the nurses put up with me. :o) I don't know when I'll have a chance to access the internet, but I will post an update to my blog as soon as I have an opportunity.
By Katharine Swan On Thursday, February 09, 2006 At 9:33 PM 0 comments

New "regulars"


I'm happy to say that I've found a new "regular" gig to replace my blogging gig...for a little while, at any rate. It's a gig writing press releases. I get paid per release, when I turn them all in at the end of the week. I like the fact that it's a weekly paycheck, instead of a monthly check like the blog was - not to mention it's paid through paypal, so I get my money immediately. (I love paypal, by the way - I think every writer should have a paypal account.) During the next couple of weeks, I won't be babysitting as much, so that money will be quite welcome.

Also, I may be starting an editing gig very soon. I'm hoping to get work as soon as tomorrow. I want to have plenty of assignments while Michael is under the weather; if this goes well, perhaps I can justify cutting back on my supplemental work hours!
By Katharine Swan On At 9:26 PM 0 comments

Payment received!


Today I received payment for the first of my BIG articles! Whoo-hoo!!! :o)
By Katharine Swan On At 4:46 PM 0 comments

Warnings about article mills


In this week's ezine, Angela Hoy of Writer's Weekly published another article on low-paying article mills. (The ezine had run an article on the same topic in late December.) This article talks about how it shouldn't be a surprise when this low-paying article mills with zero respect for their writers change their contracts - in this case, actually charging writers to continue to write for them. Read the WAHM.com thread about the company in question, ArticlesandContent.com: this company claims that they're weeding out the bad writers by ensuring their writers are dedicated enough to pay a monthly fee for the privelege of writing for them - but is that really what they're doing? Seems to me that they're more likely to weed out the good writers, who would of course know that they can find better opportunities elsewhere. In any case, the company sounds horribly unprofessional and uncivilized toward those writers who have pointed out that they don't need to pay to find work.

I see these kinds of writing gigs constantly - employers who want you to write long, involved, and well-researched articles for under five dollars. What's more, they want you to devote your time entirely to producing their content for them...which would generate an income of, what, $10 or $15 a day? Do they think all writers come from third-world countries, that we would just all jump at the opportunity, or do they actually think we want to take their job for a little "fun" writing on the side?

Well, that's my (short) rant for today. I have a couple of long days ahead of me, so right now I need my sleep. :o)
By Katharine Swan On At 12:05 AM 0 comments

Another article on diabetes


Diabetes makes the news a lot! This article is more of a success story, about two brothers who have lived into old age, against all odds. The article gives a really good description of how hard diabetes was to control "in the old days," and how far we've come in the past eighty or ninety years. Just like the men featured in the article, diabetes has made me more health conscious; I, too, compulsively read nutrition labels, and it makes me indignant when some foods (such as grocery store bakery products) or some restaurants simply don't offer a carbohydrate count. However, I don't agree that you have to be a food Nazi in order to stay alive as a diabetic. Modern medicine has made too many advancements for that to be necessary any longer. Even though we still have to be just as vigilant about monitoring and maintaining our blood sugar levels, the new insulins and rapid-result monitors also make it possible for us to live normal lives, complete with the same allowance (and limitations) on sweets that any non-diabetic should adhere to.

My only complaint about this article is its frequent reference to diabetes as a terminal illness. I don't think of myself as sick, and it pisses me off that anyone else feels that they should. I'm just as healthy as you are - hell, I may very well be even healthier.
By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, February 07, 2006 At 1:51 AM 0 comments

The American war FOR drugs (and how you can still sleep at night)


The War On Drugs, my ass. Do you think more money is spent on America's efforts to beat down illegal drugs? Or to increase the "good" drugs available to Americans?

I just read an article in the New York Times about the dramatic increase in sleeping pill prescriptions. The article cites that the number of prescriptions for sleeping pills has gone up sixty percent in the past five years. Sixty percent. Good god, what is this world coming to!

And they wonder why.

Well, think about it. Drug companies now dominate pretty much every commercial break on TV. So now, instead of going to the doctor and saying, "I can't sleep," and talking to the doctor about how to schedule their days to increase their sleepiness at night, people are going to the doctor and saying, "I want a prescription for such-and-such brand of sleeping pills." No room for argument or alternative treatment there.

Which, of course, is exactly what the drug companies want. While the press is running an article asking "How did this happen?" the drug companies are saying in their meetings, "Great, we met our sales goals. Now how can we increase sales even more next year?" They don't care if the entire American population is ripping towel racks out of walls during sleepwalking incidents or becoming seriously addicted to their drugs. They care about sales.

This is what happens when the health industry is a business in a free market economy, folks.

On the other side of the equation, you have all the advertising that is aimed at your doctors. You know those pens the doctors' offices always have, with drug names emblazoned across them? The drug companies give those pens to the offices for free. It's like when your big brother said, "Don't think of a pink elephant," and all you could think about was suddenly that pink elephant. The drug companies want to make sure that their drug is at the forefront of your doctor's mind, next time he goes to pick up a pen (which is also, hopefully, theirs).

I'm not the only one who thinks this. A doctor is quoted in the article saying the exact same thing I've said - except that he (as well as the entire article) acts like it's a major fucking surprise that this has happened...as if these marketing strategies were all unrelated phenomena, and oh, look what happened, sales went up!!! You've got to be kidding me. Increased sales should be no surprise - they were completely planned.

This is sick, guys. Absolutely sick that these drug companies would intentionally increase sales of a potentially harmful drug. Sick that they would play their ads during the commercial breaks of specific shows, in order to target a certain sex (and, no doubt, a certain class) of people. Sick that all this is going on right in front of our faces while we're screaming "Make war on drugs!" Sick that we then exclaim, "Hey, where did all these prescriptions for sleeping pills come from?"

Now that my rant has reached its end, I don't know what to say, except that you just don't watch TV or do anything else that would enable the capitalist sharks in our economy to brainwash you into "needing" whatever it is that they are selling.

Oh, and if you really want to solve your insomnia, try this first:
  • Stop drinking caffinated beverages - trust me, they are awful for all areas of your health. Don't believe the media hype that promotes coffee as a health food.
  • Don't exercise late at night - you'll have a harder time getting relaxed enough to fall asleep.
  • While you shouldn't eat right before bed, you also shouldn't go to bed hungry. An empty belly will keep you up just as much a full one.
  • Relieve your stress before bedtime. Write in a journal, send an email to a good friend or family member, post to a blog. Get it off your chest before you try to go to sleep, or you'll stay awake worrying about it.
  • Keep a note pad by your bed. Jot down anything that stays in your head for more than a minute, so that you don't have to worry about forgetting to take care of this or that the next day.
  • Don't take naps late in that day. Anything past early or mid afternoon will keep you from falling asleep.
  • Try to keep a regular schedule. If you go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time every day, your body will fall into a routine, and you'll find both transitions become easier for you.

And here's what they don't tell you about sleeping pills: they disrupt your sleep patterns. You won't go into REM sleep, which has brain waves very much like the first stage of sleep even though it's the farthest into sleep; your body is supposed to alternate between REM and slow-wave sleep throughout the night. And without REM sleep, you'll wake up feeling like you haven't gotten enough rest (or need way more than eight hours of sleep). A drug-induced sleep is a heavy sleep, but too heavy. Alcohol will also disrupt your sleep patterns in this manner, which is one of the reasons why people feel like hell after they've had a lot to drink the night before (especially if they went to bed drunk or just plain passed out).

I don't mean to sound like a hippie (or maybe I do)...but natural is better. Except for those little bright red berries - stay away from those. :o)

By Katharine Swan On At 1:03 AM 0 comments

Scams for writers to contend with


I've recently run into another "writing gig" scam that I believe others should know about.

I responded to an ad in the "Low Paying Writing Gigs" section on FreelanceWriting.com. The ad described a paying gig for blog writers. It doesn't give much detail, though, such as how much the gig pays and how. I've seen ads before that don't mention these details, however, so I was expecting they would be included in the response.

But no, this was the only response I got:
Hi Katharine,that's cool.Just go to http://www.candyham.com/ and sign up for your blog.I would suggest that you pick one topic and if you wantto write another topic, I would give you a different blog for that.Would be great if you could also include pictures in your posts.HP


I was really confused at first. I visited the site very briefly at first to look for payment details, and finding none, I didn't linger. When I visited the site a second time, however, I realized what was going on. This guy isn't running a paying writing gig! He's signing writers up for blogs on his site with AdSense accounts; the "paying" part of it is the check you receive from AdSense! Obviously he's skimming off the blog writers' commissions, or he wouldn't be doing this.

In my opinion, this "gig" is nothing more than a scam that distracts freelancers from real work.

1) You could get an AdSense account through plenty of different blog providers, such as Blogger, the one I use. If you wanted to go that route, that is. You don't need some guy trying to tempt you by creating the illusion of a genuine paying writing gig.

2) Even if this guy has the right to post the ad and try to scam freelancers, it's posted in the wrong category. The low-paying category on FreelanceWriting.com is for gigs that pay an actual rate. Sometimes the rate is as low as $1 per article - which is ridiculous, but hey, it still pays. However, for royalty- or commission-paying jobs, FreelanceWriting.com says they are to be posted in the non-paying category, since the person posting the ad is not actually paying the writer, and since there is no guaranteed rate.

Although I think this is a scam and shouldn't be allowed on genuine writers' forums like FreelanceWriting.com, at the very least I think the ad should be moved to the non-paying category. Unfortunately, FreelanceWriting.com doesn't have a feedback and flagging system like Craigslist.org, but nevertheless I've emailed them about it. The more emails the better, though, so if you agree with me please send them your 2 cents as well!
By Katharine Swan On Monday, February 06, 2006 At 12:28 PM 0 comments

Copyright notice


I've added a copyright notice in the sidebar of my blog. It occurred to me as I was falling asleep last night that Best of the Web, the company I used to write paid blog entries for, is now pulling in syndicated work. It also occurred to me that I had better claim my work to make sure it doesn't get reprinted or reposted elsewhere. I don't mind if people link to my stuff, but I want to try to avoid copyright infringement. Obviously printing a copyright notice doesn't guarantee that no one will steal my writing, but at least it should keep the honest people honest. :o)
By Katharine Swan On Sunday, February 05, 2006 At 11:14 AM 0 comments

Business cards


A little while back, I'd made up a bunch of cheesy business cards using Microsoft Visio and printing them on cardstock. Today, inspired by a Writer's Weekly forum thread on business cards for writers, I decided to redesign my business cards. This is what I came up with:


A co-worker from my last job, a talented graphic artist by the name of Eve Park, made the swan logo for me. I just used Photoshop to superimpose the text over it. Much better than the old ones, I think - which, unfortunately, aren't in JPG format, so I can't show you as a comparison.

At any rate, in order to make them look a bit more professional, I will find a better paper to print them on; I'm also going to get some kind of paper cutter or trimmer to clean up the cutting edges a little. I'll use either a really heavy duty cover stock or a heavy duty photo paper; the only trick with the photo paper is that apparently you have to use some kind of sealant so that the ink doesn't smear in somebody's pocket. I'll probably try the cover stock first, and if it doesn't seem professional enough I'll switch to photo paper.

By Katharine Swan On Saturday, February 04, 2006 At 4:57 PM 0 comments

Good news


In other news, I took a gig adding content to Judy's Book in the form of mini-reviews about Denver businesses. The deadline was last night, and the company already sent an e-check to my paypal address! I love clients who pay promptly, as it means less worrying about whether they're going to try to screw you.

At any rate, you can look at my reviews by going to Judy's Book, registering (it's free), and looking for "Katharine Swan" under members. Right now I'm one of the most active members in Denver, so I'm near the top of the list. I'm debating on whether to add this link to my portfolio; it seems like it would be a nuisance to prospective employers, as they'd have to register in order to see my reviews, and in any case the reviews aren't anything special... They were more for generating income than for providing clips.

What do you think? Should I add Judy's Book to my portfolio, or should I leave it off?
By Katharine Swan On Friday, February 03, 2006 At 9:08 PM 1 comments

It gets worse before it gets better...


If this were near the end of a two-hour movie (or a 400-page book), it would be called a climax: just when I'm hoping that my supplemental work will give way to my freelancing, I'm suddenly in demand! One of the families I babysit for is now in the middle of a little crisis, so I'll be working for them three evenings next week, on top of the two afternoons I'm working for another family... Of course, once Michael has his surgery, I should be home a lot more; but it's going to get a lot busier before then! And even while I am scheduling work and babysitting, I'm racking up the freelance gigs as well: I now have four assignments to complete in the near future, as well as the potential for more assignments very soon.
By Katharine Swan On At 8:51 PM 0 comments

Surgery plans


Michael's appointments are set for next week. He has a preliminary appointment with the doctor Tuesday afternoon, and he's going into surgery Friday morning. I'll probably do a little "real work" next week, but starting Friday I plan on being home a whole lot more for a while - at the very least until we see how Michael is going to feel as he recovers.
By Katharine Swan On Thursday, February 02, 2006 At 8:56 PM 0 comments

Real work


Today I worked for one of my families again, putting together photo albums/scrapbooks for four and a half hours. It was the first time I've done "real work" all week. So different from yesterday, when I parked myself on the couch and wrote on my laptop frantically all day, trying to meet a deadline! The more days I spend writing full-time, the harder I find it is to go back to "real work" again.

I'm hoping that soon I won't have to do "real work" anymore. Of course, I'll probably still babysit - partly because it's easy and partly because I still love children - but as I get more writing work, I'll cut back more on the odd jobs that I do now (like this scrapbook stuff).

I do have an awful lot of writing work and potential writing work right now. I think I actually put in more than eight hours some days, especially once you add in my "real work" hours. It doesn't feel like I'm working 60 hour weeks, though (which I probably am, since I work on my writing on the weekends, too). That's probably because I love writing so much that it doesn't feel like work to me.

Well, I'd best be getting back to it - I have another deadline tonight.
By Katharine Swan On At 8:50 PM 0 comments

Writing jobs that come and go...


One of my steadiest writing gigs just ended unexpectedly - the paid blogs that I was contributing to. It's unfortunate, since they provided a source of income that I could count on each month. I'll have to make sure to print my posts out for my portfolios, just in case the blog sites are taken down (or the old posts removed).

However, the good news is that I have a lot of opportunities for other work right now. So much, in fact, that I'm feeling a little swamped - but loving every minute of it! I spent the majority of today working on another short story for my ghostwriting gig; now that that's finished, I have plenty of other assignments to get to work on, such as mini-reviews of local businesses, a press release, a short sample for another blog gig, a business profile, and an article on parenting-related theories.

Hopefully soon I'll have more links to add to my online portfolio!
By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, February 01, 2006 At 5:38 PM 0 comments

More updates on Michael


Michael's appointment with the surgeon was yesterday; I spent a good portion of the morning and early afternoon driving around to pick up his MRI and X-ray films so that we could take them with us to the surgeon.

Michael's condition is indeed pretty bad, as far as herniated discs go. He has nearly a centimeter and a half of disc material protruding and compressing his nerves. The doctor says that's worse than most. Although Michael isn't in much pain now, the biggest concern is permanent nerve damage; the longer the nerves are compressed, the more likely it is that he'll never recover all of the sensation in his left leg. The doctor wasn't pushy, but he did make it clear that he thought Michael should have surgery as soon as possible to get that out of there, instead of trying non-invasive treatments for a while. Considering what's at stake, it sounds like a good idea to do the surgery, so Michael is planning to schedule for next week.

As far as recovery time goes, Michael will probably be out of work for about three weeks, and complete recovery is expected to take about six weeks. The surgery is called something like a micro discectomy, and is fairly small as far as surgeries go - they just make a small incision and remove the protruding disc material. Because the integrity of that disc is damaged now, Michael will have the same odds of having further problems with it regardless of whether or not he has the surgery, so he definitely has more to risk if he doesn't have the surgery.

The end result is that starting next week, I'll be home taking care of Michael. It will probably provide a lot of distraction, but at the same time, it'll require that I be home more, which will increase my writing time. Despite the fact that it is surgery that is requiring the time off, I'm looking forward to spending more time with Michael.
By Katharine Swan On At 5:21 PM 0 comments

Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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