Co-workers stealing chairs

I guess it was only a matter of time...

Working from home with cats

You'd think that, working from home, I'd eliminate the problem of my co-workers stealing my favorite chairs.  Ha.  I used to love to sit and work in that rocker — it is unbelievably comfortable, especially with a chair to put my feet up on and a lap desk for my laptop — but since we got the new kitten over the summer, that has become one of our older cat's refuges.  Since there are few places where Cleo feels safe from Ivan the Terrible, I haven't had the heart to move her, so she succeeded in annexing my rocker — you can see she even has her own fleece for it.

It was partly from losing my rocker that I had to get a new, more comfortable desk chair — the old one just wasn't cutting it, now that I no longer have the rocker to retreat to when my butt gets tired of a hard wooden seat.  Unfortunately, lately it seems Ivan has taken a liking to it.

A word of advice for anyone thinking of freelancing full time: Kids and pets can be just as distracting (and sometimes as annoying) as co-workers in an office!

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By Katharine Swan On Thursday, February 24, 2011 At 11:43 AM 0 comments

Freelancers: Do you take minor holidays?

I couldn't help but notice that some of the writers' blogs I follow had new posts up on Monday, President's Day.  Michael got that day off from work, and since I've finally learned that I don't get any work done when he's home, anyway, I decided to just take the day off too.  Actually, we both took yesterday off as well, and enjoyed a long weekend together.

But this brings up an interesting point: Do you take minor holidays off, and if so, which ones?  It seems to me like many writers take fewer days off than other people, so I'm curious what holidays my readers take.  I really only take the holidays that Michael gets off, because as I said, it's really difficult to try to work while he's at home.  I think if I had kids at home, I would probably also take the minor holidays that the schools recognize.

What about you?

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, February 23, 2011 At 10:54 AM 2 comments

Are ebooks creating increases in self-publishing opportunities?

I blogged recently on Livre du Jour about some of the amazing statistics for self-published ebook authors.  Here is the original article from USA Today:

Authors catch fire with self-published e-books

Amanda Hocking, who has been selling her popular ebooks via Barnes & Noble's and Amazon's self-publishing programs, has had almost unheard-of success for a self-published author.  According to the article, she sold 164,000 ebooks in 2010, and more than 450,000 ebooks last month.  She has written maybe half a dozen YA dark fantasy novels, and she seems to be doing a good job of marketing and pricing: 99 cents as a teaser price for the first in each series and for her short novella, and $2.99 for the later books.  According to the article, she gets 30 percent of the sale price for the 99 cent books, and 70 percent for the $2.99 books, so you do the match.  Suffice it to say that girl made more in January alone than most people make in a year!

This brings up an interesting issue: Is self-publishing becoming more accepted, or at least more acceptable of a career choice for authors?  I'd argue no on the former, yes on the latter.  That may seem contradictory, but it's obvious to me that digital self-publishing is providing opportunities for authors such as Hocking who simply never would have been published at all a decade ago.  Yet the stigma of self-publishing is far from gone: People on the B&N forums are constantly complaining about the fact that the site search doesn't allow you to eliminate PubIt! selections.  One can hardly blame them, either — although there are some high quality self-published ebooks, such as Hockings's, there are also a lot of ebooks with crappy covers and book descriptions that are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.

Ultimately, though, I think self-publishing is on the road to greater acceptance.  It's taken the market a while, but ebooks are becoming more accepted now — the New York Times has even started including them on the bestsellers lists.  Since digital publishing makes self-publishing much easier and more affordable, it's providing alternative avenues that hasn't previously existed for many writers.  While that is sure to mean more junk hitting the virtual shelves, it will be weeded out by the market, in favor of the good stuff (like Hocking).  I think this is just the beginning of a major shift in how publishing works!

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By Katharine Swan On Thursday, February 17, 2011 At 3:13 PM 2 comments

My workspace makeover, part 1: My desk chair

I've come to realize something that may play a major role in my recent productivity struggles: I hate my desk.  I haven't worked there for months — I've been taking my netbook into the living room and working on the couch.  It's comfortable for a little bit, but after a while I get uncomfortable there, too, and working there all day definitely doesn't do much for my productivity.

There seem to be a few reasons why I don't like my desk:

1) My desk chair
2) It's messy
3) The glare

Cleaning it is going to be a big job because I will need to make some new files and put some old files in storage.  And the glare of the window is only going to be resolved by getting newer blinds that do a better job of blocking the light.  (I have a shade on the porch I can put down, but in the winter the sun is too far south for the shade to help me much.)  So I started with the easiest of the three to fix, which luckily was also the biggest problem: the chair.


The vintage wooden chair I was using as a desk chair

I got my wooden desk chair back in 2007, and at the time I was thrilled with it.  It was much more comfortable than my old chair, which I suppose says a lot about how bad my old chair was!  But it isn't designed for long-term use, and doesn't make me sit back enough.  After three years of hunching over my desk (or avoiding sitting there altogether), I was getting tired of it.

I have an older desk with a small foot well, though, which eliminates a lot of modern desk chairs.  Plus I didn't want an ugly chair — call me superficial if you want, but I wanted it to go with my antiques at least a little better than the typical black desk chair would.  I really liked a smallish burgundy fake-leather one at Target, but it was pricey for not having an adjustable height.  Luckily we found this one at Office Depot, on sale for half the price of the Target one.

A much better desk chair for a freelance writer!

It's far more comfortable than my old chair, and fits decently at my desk.  I think I will want a low foot rest to keep under the desk, though, because with the chair at the height I need, only my toes touch the ground.  Oh, the joys of being short!

The sign said the chair was only intended for casual use, defined as up to 3 hours, but that's still about 2 ½ more hours than I could spend in my wooden chair.  That works for me, anyway, since I do tend to move around a little during the day — I like to work in the rocker in my office (when my cat's not in it, which is most of the time lately) or on the couch periodically.  I find I work better if I move around a little, which probably is why working on the couch all day long was causing productivity problems.

What about you?  Have you found that your comfort impacts your productivity?  What type of seating arrangement works best for you?

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, February 16, 2011 At 12:34 PM 2 comments

1,000th post!

Today's post is a big milestone — it's the 1,000th post on Swan's Blog.  I started this blog back in December of 2005, which feels like so long ago now.  That means I have kept a blog for over five years now!  Sure, I've gone through some periods of infrequent posting, and I go back and forth on which blog is my favorite (i.e., which gets updated more regularly than the others), but I've had my blogs for almost as long as I've been freelancing.  I don't know anymore what I'd do without my blogs.

What about the rest of my readers?  How long have you been blogging, and how many posts do you have?  Let's be macho and compare the size of our... um... blogs!

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By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, February 15, 2011 At 2:05 PM 0 comments

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to all my readers!  I hope everyone has plans to celebrate the way they like best.  I'm not a die-hard V-Day fan, so our idea of the perfect Valentine's Day happens to be sushi takeout for dinner and a night of Battlestar Galactica episodes.  Hey, what can I say...  I'd take sushi over chocolate, and a night in over a night out, any day!

If anyone is interested in a free Valentine's Day ebook, follow my link over to my book review blog.  Supposedly it's the original text of Pride and Prejudice, updated with some "wild and wanton" love scenes, the kind of thing that is always going to going to piss people off...  But color me intrigued.  All you have to say is "mixed reviews" and I'm interested in finding out for myself!

Stay tuned — I have some blog posts planned for this week!

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By Katharine Swan On Monday, February 14, 2011 At 3:12 PM 0 comments

Culling the herd

For some time I've kept a separate blog from this one called Reading 4 Writers.  I started the blog some years ago as a review site for writing-related books, but I rarely update it.  It also has very few visitors (something like 29 in the last month, and most of those from an anonymous comment stalker), and the books there are pretty much covered by Livre du Jour, so I've decided to let the domain expire.

I'll copy a few of the reviews over to Livre du Jour, so that those worth saving are not lost.  Normally I should be setting up a forwarding page to Livre du Jour and keeping the domain a while longer, but with only 29 visits, I don't think it's worth the cost of renewing the domain name, as little as that may be.  So in a few more days, you will see one of my blogs disappear.  Farewell, Reading 4 Writers!

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By Katharine Swan On Sunday, February 13, 2011 At 10:40 AM 0 comments

Comments and linking on my blogs

I've been getting a lot of spam lately, but what took the cake was a link request I got via my contact form yesterday.  The person who wrote to me pretended to be a teacher who was using my wedding website in class, and had a link suggestion from a student.  Something about it seemed fishy, so I did my homework.

1) The person's email address had a domain name in it that was clearly NOT an official school website.  Upon perusal, it appeared to be a link exchange type of site.

2) The WHOIS information for the above site showed that the site was registered to someone with a different name than the person who wrote to me, and to an address in a different state, so it wasn't a teacher running an education website on the side.

3) My contact forms always give me the IP address of whoever is contacting me, so I looked up the location and found that the "teacher" was writing to me from an entirely different state from where they claimed to teach.

4) Finally, I contacted the school to follow up on the person's story, and discovered that there was no teacher there by that name.  I know this was a bit extreme, but because there was potentially a kid's hurt feelings hanging in the balance, I wanted to be sure it was a falsehood before I told the "teacher" where they could put their link.

Before you comment on one of my blogs or ask me for a link, please know that I monitor all of this pretty closely.  Some of my seldom-updated blogs get a lot of comment spam, so I have to approve comments on those blogs before they are posted.  Why any spammer thinks I will approve the nonsense comments I get is beyond me.  I have also started deleting comments that clearly have nothing to do with the post, even if they are anonymous and contain no links — I suspect they are from spammers, testing me to see whether I still approve comments on those blogs.

My other blogs are set up to post comments without my approval, but they notify me of every comment, so rest assured if yours is spam it will not last long!

Also know that if you email me, my contact forms record your IP address.  I can and will check up on your story, so if you are asking me for a link, be honest about it and don't feed me a B.S. story.  If I feel my readers will benefit from your link, I will add it.  If not, I won't, no matter what your story.  And if I catch you lying to me, I won't do business with you at all.

You would think this kind of thing would be common sense — and common blog etiquette — but it just goes to show to what lengths some folks are willing to go in order to gain a link!

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By Katharine Swan On Friday, February 11, 2011 At 11:48 PM 0 comments

Website updates and novel rewrites

I have a few days' lull in my workload, so I'm working on something that has been on my to do list for a very long time: updates to my website.

I also realized it was high time to take my NaNoWriMo stuff down.  I failed miserably at finishing the novel; no need to advertise that fact months after NaNoWriMo has ended.

I kept the "Current Project" section of my sidebar, however.  Instead of NaNo stuff, I now have a generic word count widget again, which shows my progress in the rewriting and revisions I started during November 2010.  I'm going to aim to get my website updates done first, and then get back to work on the novel.  I may start out by just working on it on the weekends, and try to work it into my schedule again gradually.

I'm thinking I smell a couple of goals for February...

What are you currently working on?  Any goals for the new month?

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, February 02, 2011 At 12:46 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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