Announcing NaNoWriMo 2008!

I have been so busy lately that I didn't even participate in the 2008 Muse Online Writers Conference. I am, however, planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. (I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2007 but never actually wrote anything; in 2006 I "won" by completing the 50,000 word challenge.)

If you don't already know, NaNoWriMo stands for "National Novel Writing Month" (though it's actually international now). It's essentially a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel just in the month of November. You can outline before November 1st, write character development pieces, etc., but you can't actually start on anything that would contribute to word count until the clock strikes 12 on Halloween night.

I'm thinking of attempting again to write the novel I planned to work on last year, but never got to. (I never wrote a single solitary word. A stunning failure to follow my equally stunning victory in 2006.) The outline is already written, so I just need to go back and review it, see if I want to make any changes, etc.

You will notice that in the sidebar I have a NaNoWriMo 2008 Participant badge, which links to the NaNoWriMo site. Below that is a calendar widget that will show you my overall word count, as well as how I am doing each day; if you click that it will take you to my NaNoWriMo profile. Supposedly, the calendar widget should show light green for days when I have met my minimum word count, dark green for truly spectacular days, light red for days when I didn't meet my minimum word count, and dark red for days that really sucked.

Let's hope red isn't the predominant color at the end of the month...

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By Katharine Swan On Friday, October 31, 2008 At 12:15 PM 0 comments

Freelance writers: Free online backup!

Almost a year ago, I blogged about discovering MozyHome, an online backup service that gives you 2 GB of space for free. I have been using the free service ever since, and I am extremely happy about it. It saved my neck this summer when I was having computer problems!

As a freelance writer, your life's blood is on your computer, which makes backing up files a necessity. Unfortunately, it's hard to remember to back up — and even if you do, a natural disaster or a burglary could relieve you of both your computer and your backups! Online backup solves both problems: Your backups are stored off-site, and you don't have to remember to do a thing!

As you can tell, I love using online backup. I'm starting to run low on space, though, which is why I'm excited about a promotion that Mozy is currently running: If I refer someone, both of us get 512 MB of extra space (on top of the 2 GB you get with the free account). The deal is good until November 30.

If you are interested in trying out MozyHome, please use my referral link:

https://mozy.com/?ref=BK4U93

I love MozyHome, and I would love to get some additional free storage space, as I'm sure you will too once you try it out!

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By Katharine Swan On At 9:25 AM 0 comments

Update on my first deadbeat client

Remember that deadbeat client I was having problems with a while back? Well, here is the whole sordid story. This will be a long post, so bear with me — it's worth taking the time to read!

My deadbeat client is Bill Cameron, the owner of METROMODE Magazine. His company is called Cameron Ink, Inc. Click here to see his MySpace page (which he recently changed so that it no longer mentions METROMODE, even though it's in the URL).

Basically, I was hired to write for the magazine earlier in the year by Bill's editor. I wrote for the April issue, it was published, I got paid. So far, so good.

The second issue I wrote for was the June issue. It was a double issue, so I wrote a total of three articles. I was also promised a kill fee for an interview that I put a lot of work into, but that just didn't happen. I was owed a total of $325 for this issue, which I was supposed to receive about a week into July.

Shortly after the June issue was released, I received an assignment for the next issue, which was supposed to be released in August. The article was due around the same time I was supposed to receive payment for the June issue. For the August issue I was to be paid $100.

When I didn't receive payment for the June issue, I emailed the editor and discovered that he hadn't been paid, either. I then started emailing METROMODE Magazine's owner, Bill Cameron. Bill claimed that he didn't have the money to pay me yet due to an advertising mixup, but would pay me as soon as the ad revenue for the issue started coming in.

I followed up with Bill once or twice a week over the next several weeks, but the story was always the same: He couldn't pay me yet, but he would as soon as he could. Oh, the details changed — he stopped citing the advertising mixup as his excuse, and started saying instead that it was because he was having to delay the August issue due to the economy; and he talked about a payment plan, but refused to give me any concrete details — but the end result was always the same. No money.

Eventually I began to believe that I was being strung along, so I contacted the editor and the other writers to see where they were at. The editor, I discovered, had been paid in full for the June issue, but not for the August issue. Neither of the other two writers had been paid for either issue. Between the four of us, the amounts owed totaled more than $2,000!

When payment for June was roughly two months late, the four of us sent him an email (via my email address, but approved and signed by everybody) demanding payment for both issues within two weeks, or we would report him as a nonpaying client to WritersWeekly.com, the BBB, RipOffReport.com, etc. Initially Bill's response was to basically threaten to not pay us at all if we reported him. (What he said was that if we reported him, he would put every penny he had into bankruptcy procedings, to ensure that we wouldn't get anything.) Then he changed his mind and started talking about a payment plan.

After some discussion amongst ourselves — because we wanted to be united and unanimous about everything — we decided to accept a payment plan, but only if he would make a first payment of $50 to each of us by the original deadline, and give us concrete dates and amounts for the rest of the payments. At first Bill agreed to this, but then he tried to talk us into a deadline extension. After we refused, he started saying that he couldn't give us a payment schedule, either.

Bill did not meet the payment date, so we went ahead and filed our complaints. You can see the Rip Off Reports here:

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/380/RipOff0380179.htm http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/380/RipOff0380166.htm
http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/380/RipOff0380178.htm
http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/380/RipOff0380625.htm

WritersWeekly.com also has a Whispers and Warnings forum thread about it:

http://forums.writersweekly.com/viewtopic.php?p=65493

During Angela Hoy's investigation for WritersWeekly.com, Bill suddenly announced that when the "August" issue finally went to press at the beginning of October, he decided to cut my article, supposedly because he needed the magazine to be shorter if he was going to be able to afford to send it to press. (Since he has repeatedly singled me out as the one "spearheading" the complaints, I am pretty sure I know why he really cut my article!)

Citing a writer's contract that he never gave to us to sign, Bill claimed I was only owed a $50 kill fee for the cut article. Since I have numerous emails back and forth where we discussed payment of the full amount, I refused to back down. Angela also told him that since I did the work, he owed me for the article. Eventually, Bill gave in and agreed to pay me the full amount of $425.

Also during the WritersWeekly.com investigation, Bill said he would pay us each $50 by October 25, and the rest by the end of the November. He said that in early October. Two of us did receive payment on October 25, but since he didn't mail the checks until the day before (why did it take him three weeks?), one person didn't receive their check until October 28, and the other person has yet to receive theirs at all.

We'll see whether he can come up with $2,000 more to pay us all off by the end of November. Since it took him four and a half months to come up with just $50 for each of us, I think I am more than justified in being skeptical!

Finally, I want to warn other writers, especially Colorado freelance writers and Denver freelance writers, about Bill Cameron and METROMODE Magazine. His website contact page was recently updated to say that he is hiring freelance writers. Anyone considering working for him should know that he does not have the money to pay for articles when he assigns them — he apparently doesn't have money at all until his advertisers pay him, after the issue comes out. Judging by the fact that he still owes his last group of writers more than $2,000, I would say this strategy does not work very well!

I ask my fellow freelancers to spread the word that Bill Cameron of METROMODE Magazine is not paying his writers. I just hope anyone considering writing for him will be smart enough to Google the magazine first!

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By Katharine Swan On Thursday, October 30, 2008 At 12:21 PM 0 comments

Post-deadline crunch

Sorry for the lack of posting action going on lately. Over the last week or so, I was working toward an end-of-month deadline for one of my biggest clients, and I put in some especially long hours Monday and Tuesday in order to get everything finished. On top of that, my mom and I sold at our first doll show on Sunday, and getting ready for it took a lot of time.

After finally finishing the project yesterday evening, I am taking today rather slowly: I finished a book I was reading, took the time to get somewhat caught up on email, and will be using the rest of the time to catch up on blogging and visit with my horse (who has been shamefully neglected lately). Stay tuned for some fresh blogging brilliance from Yours Truly!

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, October 29, 2008 At 12:24 PM 0 comments

A tribute to a great blogger

Today marks exactly one year since Riverbend last blogged on her Baghdad Burning blog. Iraq is not as hot a topic for Americans as it was during the first couple years of the war, but I still check Riverbend's blog regularly, because of what an influence it has been on me — not just regarding Iraq, but also regarding blogging.

In many ways, Riverbend has been the Anne Frank of the modern era (though I fervently hope her silence doesn't mean she met a similar fate!). Millions of children of all nationalities have learned from Anne Frank what it was like to be Jewish during the Nazi reign — and millions of readers around the world have learned from Riverbend what it means to be a young Iraqi woman during America's war.

The major difference is, of course, the difference in technology. Anne Frank recorded her experiences in a journal, which wasn't published until after the war and her death. Riverbend, on the other hand, was able to post her observations and commentary almost immediately — that is, as soon as she had electricity to run her computer and Internet connection.

Baghdad Burning introduced me to the possibilities of blogging. I first heard about the blog by way of the book, which was on a list of books available for review in a magazine I wrote for. (Riverbend's first year's worth of posts were collected into a book and published in 2005.) Although I wasn't chosen to review Baghdad Burning, I did check it out from the library.

At the time, I was already contributing to several client blogs, but these were fairly dry — nothing like the politically charged Baghdad Burning. Although I had kept a journal since I was 10, I didn't have a blog of my own yet. That changed just a few months later.

As of right now, Riverbend has not updated in a year. Last we heard, she had finally fled to Syria with her family, but there was some doubt as to how long they would be able to stay there. Any number of things could have happened: She could have abandoned her blog, feeling that it had served its purpose of educating readers, or she simply may have not had Internet access for the past year. The fear of many of her readers, though, is that it would have to be something much worse (imprisonment or death) to keep Riverbend from blogging.

I believe that I owe Swan's Blog to Riverbend, as it was Baghdad Burning that first showed me how much a little blog could accomplish. Her fate may be unknown as of yet, but her blog is still online and her book is in print. Her voice can never be silenced as long as her writings circulate. If that's not immortality, I don't know what is!

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, October 22, 2008 At 1:01 PM 2 comments

Taking back my desk

For the past month or so I've been working from the couch, which admittedly wasn't very good for the state of my desk — it had gotten quite messy, as I'd been using it as a paperwork dumping ground.

I loved working from the couch at first, but lately it's become more tedious than anything else, so yesterday I decided to take my desk back. That, of course, required going through more than a month's worth of unfiled paperwork (some of which should have been filed in the trash!). My desk went from looking like this to this:

My freelance writing workstation

I'll have to retrain my cats not to jump up on my desk, since in my absence they've gotten into the habit of sitting there to look out the window. Also, it's not entirely clean yet — I still have a stack of papers in my inbox that I need to go through, as you can see on the left side of my computer.

Even if it's some work, though, I'm glad to have made the transition. This morning I am working at my desk, and I actually feel like I have my own workstation again (instead of being set up in the middle of the living room). From now on, if I want to work in the living room I'll just have to do it on battery power — though I think I've satisfied myself on that desire for a while!

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By Katharine Swan On Friday, October 17, 2008 At 9:47 AM 2 comments

Obama's plan for small business and freelance taxes

Watching the third and final presidential debate tonight, I noticed a lot was made of the taxes freelancers and small businesses would face under Obama versus McCain. Since I am a freelancer and a sole proprietor, as are most of my readers, I thought some blog commentary would be appropriate.

Senator McCain argued that under Obama's tax plan, "Joe the plumber," a lowly small business owner, would be paying more in taxes than he could afford. McCain didn't seem to understand Obama's point that since Joe's plumbing business was making well over $250,000 a year, it wasn't really a small business, and should be able to easily afford a higher tax rate.

I found some information about small businesses on The Caucus, a political blog on the New York Times' website. The blog post, which analyzes some of the errors both candidates made, supports Obama's claims about how his tax plan would affect small businesses in the United States.

According to figures compiled by the Small Business Administration, there are fewer than six million small businesses that actually have payrolls. The rest are so-called "non-employer" firms which report income from hobbies or freelance work done by their registered owners, earning as little as $1,000 a year.

Of these, according to a calculation by the independent, non-partisan Tax Policy Center, fewer than 700,000 taxpayers would have to pay higher taxes under Mr. Obama’s plan. But even some of these are not really small business owners in the traditional sense. Instead, they include lawyers, accountants and investors in real estate, all of them with income over $250,000 a year.

So are there "millions more like Joe the plumber," as Mr. McCain contended? Probably not. Mr Obama may well have been correct when he stated that "98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000."

I definitely don't think it's fair that big companies and corporations should get extraordinary tax breaks (which McCain supports) while I am held accountable for every penny — so as a freelancer and a sole proprietor (among other things), I definitely support Obama.

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, October 15, 2008 At 11:14 PM 2 comments

A blanket, a fleece sweatshirt, and a cup of coffee

Those are the things that helped me get out of bed this morning (see title).

It's currently about 9:30, and I've been awake for two hours. For those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time, you know that me getting up at 7:30 is the exception, not the norm — I am a horrible morning person, not to mention I have an uncanny ability to sleep right through my alarms.

This morning, though, I had a very good reason to be getting up so early: I had to check for an email from a client who lives on the East Coast, and is therefore two hours ahead of me. He had emailed me Monday to ask if I could do some major revisions on an article I wrote for him last week. (And, I should add, he paid me very generously for the last-minute revisions.)

My client needed the completed article this morning so that he could send his newsletter to the printer. I sent him the completed revisions last night, but I needed to check this morning and make sure he didn't need anything else before the copy was due. That meant getting up when the day began in his time zone.

As it turned out, my client didn't need anything else, but I'm glad I got up early: I've gotten a lot done this morning. So far, I've gotten a lot of work email and other administrative tasks out of the way, updated a couple of my more neglected blogs, and read my Wednesday newsletters. And I still have hours left to spend on billable work!

It's going to be a productive day — I can already tell!

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By Katharine Swan On At 9:34 AM 2 comments

I'm on fire!

I have had a very productive — and lucrative — week so far! It's great to feel like I'm "back" after working less due to my stable duties during July and August and just in general feeling unproductive all summer. No more problems with feeling I'm taking too long to complete assignments!

Today was the exception, however: I spent pretty much the entire day at the new barn. Hopefully the day off won't kill my productive streak!

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, October 08, 2008 At 11:35 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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