Southern Fried Love, a poem

Crispy magic fried chicken

fresh collard greens

red beans and cornbread

sliced garden tomatoes

a chunk of yellow onion.

No one else can make it right

five years ago a hole was left in the world.

Grandma could make a silk purse

out of a sow’s ear.

Remnants from her job

sewing in a slack factory; dresses.

Aloe Vera for my burns

lemon juice to lighten my hair,

home remedies.

A strange red conglomeration 

she mopped on my sore throat.

A secret salve rubbed on my chest

feeding my cold

starving my fever.

On a farm in Palmer,
Texas,

her boys picked cotton.

Grandma sewed for neighbors.

Only one cow for milk

butter bartered for eggs

couldn’t afford chickens.

Grandpa,

worthless as tits on a boar hog.

Took the cow to town

sold it to buy liquor.

Grandma went to town and bought it back.

He died drunk behind the wheel.

She never remarried,

had bad taste in men.

A trait passed down to me.

But I raised two boys in our small
Texas town,

With no support from their father,

working two jobs to make ends meet.

Our house, a sanctuary

for mistreated waifs,

their friends and mine.

But a southern

gentleman,                                                                                                                                                 

hair spun with gold,

sweet ocean eyes,

came bearing gifts for no reason.

Calling on his lunch hour

to say he loves me.

He chops cilantro,

fresh garlic,

sautés in olive oil,

browns boneless magic chicken breast,

covers it with garden sliced tomatoes,

Monterrey Jack cheese;

and bakes.

Grandma,

at her haunted sewing machine,

red beans simmering

on her heavenly stove,

just in from picking fresh tomatoes

from her spiritual garden,

made a life size image,

a blue print sewn with golden threads,

stamped with spirits approval.

Shipped on the wings of angels,

To me.

The Years, a short story

“How do I look?” Millie asked, preening in front of the full-length mirror. She was wearing the new dress she’d bought today just for this occasion.

“You look fine.” Shane answered as he glanced at his watch.

“You don’t think this color makes me look washed out?”

He lit a cigarette. “We’re going to be late.”

She grabbed her purse. “You don’t give two shits about me.” Brushing past him, Millie shot her husband eye daggers on her way out of the bedroom.

“Why do you always do that?” Shane stormed after her. “Wait till we’re supposed to be somewhere to start an argument?”

Millie spun around and got in his face. “Start an argument?! I asked a simple question and that’s starting an argument?” She rushed out the front door, her husband on her heels. He grabbed her shoulder. “Don’t touch me.” she seethed.

“Millie, what is wrong with you?” He instantly removed his hand from his wife, followed her to the car and opened the passenger door for her. “I told you that you look fine.”

Tears threatened as she got in. “Just forget about it.”

Women, he thought, as he drove his wife of 25 years across town to their high school reunion. He’d made a few more stabs at talking to her, but she preferred sitting there like a bloated bullfrog, pouting. He didn’t understand what she expected of him. He knew she felt old, but she still looked good. And that new dress looked sexy as hell on her. She looked great in that color, the color of lust, the color of the heat Shane still felt for his wife.

As they parked at Milford High School –where their son Justin was a junior, where Shane was once a football star and Millie the head cheerleader–she turned to her him. “I’m sorry. I’m just kind of bummed. I’ve been so excited all day. I don’t know what came over me.”

“Did I tell you how beautiful you look tonight?” He asked, smiling, reaching over and kissing her on the cheek.

“Don’t lie.”

“I’m not lying. You look hot.”

“No I don’t.” Millie slapped her husband on the arm, but she grinned.

“Oh yes you do.” He smiled and slid his hand up her dress.

Breath, a short story

She didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath for 50 years.

Born into sorrow, she had lived her life as a vulture for love. As she grew older her thoughts seemed to dangle just above paranoia, her fight or flight always engaged, sometimes even in sleep. Her troubles felt like mountains, her heart the river rushing beneath them. Pebbles of happiness rippled the surface, but more often life’s rocks were thrown violently against what she would have preferred remain calm waters.

She stumbled upon her ability to relax while worrying an ancient stone of shame. Like a talisman, she’d rubbed this jagged rock to smooth glass. It became a mirror, and as she gazed into it she saw that the reflection smiling back at her had changed. She was safe. The furrow in her brow was gone, the hard, ever vigilant eyes softened.

Time had done this, time and love.

She breathed deeply, let out the long, contented breath she should have known as a child, and cried.

Poem on my teacher

Well, after the massive response to the poem I posted before, (insert dripping sarcasm here) I decided I’d give it another shot. This one is called, “Mr. G’s Creative Writing Class.” *yeah, I know I’m weird, you don’t have to tell me. :)

The bombast spouted by Mr. G,
his ridicule and snobbery
of her style, her ways, her speech
(even as the debonair teacher sniffed her heat)
mortified but intrigued the mathematical genius,
the normally complacent, the mousy but brilliant Miss C.
remnant of the person she used to be,
Miss C created a system,
a way to classify the quantum changes
that would be required to please Mr. G.
She measured the risk,
took inventory,
manipulated her internal abacus,
rearranging the digits
until she identified the plastic artifice
that was the true Mr. G.
She changed her curriculum immediately.

The Mom Who Did Not Follow Her Own Advice, a story

Dawn breaks in the small town of Kankakee, Illinois and a farmer rises to milk his cows. A mother makes her way to the kitchen to cook breakfast for her family. A mug of coffee in hand, a truck driver climbs into the cab of his rig. And a young woman regains consciousness in a basement, strapped to a toilet chair.

She is blindfolded, thick, sticky tape wrapped tightly around her head, a strip over her mouth. Her arms and legs are rubbed raw and bleeding. Off and on all night, she’d tried to escape the ropes that bind her.

She cringes at the squirting sound as her bowels release, but she has no choice. She slumps forward, quietly crying. She is afraid she will not make it out of here alive. There’s a sound and she sits up, rigid with fear. The door at the top of the stairs is opening, followed by the heavy clomp-clomp of footsteps. The footsteps draw closer, closer, and the young woman’s stomach clenches in revulsion at the hot, stale breath in her face.

“So how does it feel, being helpless like your little girl? You are going to go through everything she went through and much, much more. You’re just lucky I’ve got to go to work. But oh, aren’t we going to have some fun tonight! ”

Brutal laughter follows this onslaught, as suddenly the tape is ripped from the young woman’s mouth. Scalding gruel, like Cream of Wheat, is poured down her throat. She doesn’t care; she swallows in huge gulps, excess flowing over her chin. She hasn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday, in the roadside café where this nightmare began. She almost wants to laugh. How many times has she told her daughter not to talk to strangers?

Pills are shoved in behind the food, a small sip of water, and the tape is back in place. “Now you be a good girl while I’m gone, and don’t you go anywhere.” Her captor laughter is pure hatred.

The young woman hears footsteps receding, moving back up the stairs. She lays her head on her chest and cries until she passes out.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual book review

Tonight I started reading Ted Kooser’s ‘The Poetry Home Repair Manual.’ Mr. Kooser is the US Poet Laureate, so of course I thought that the experience of reading this book, which has been recommended to me repeatedly as the best book for beginning poets, would be something on the scale of a root canal.

It is SO not that! I am on chapter one and I am laughing. Ted Kooser is a jewel, a down to earth, genuine, and delightful person. I was so impressed and I’m enjoying this book so much that I decided to stop and make myself a cup of hot tea with lemon and share with you an excerpt from the first chapter.

Speaking of himself as a young poet, Mr. Kooser says, “I let my hair grow longer and tried to grow a beard. I carried big fat books wherever I went–like Adolph Harnack’s ‘Outlines of the History of Dogma’ and Kierkegaard’s ‘Fear and Trembling.’ I couldn’t have understood a word of these books if I’d tried, but they looked really good clenched under my arm.”  Ha! Who of us that have been writing poetry since we were in our teens cannot relate?

So many things to write, so little time

It’s after midnight and I am back up out of bed after trying to go to sleep and failing. I often come to this point late at night, the point where I lie in bed, thinking of all the stories I have to tell, but overwhelmed by how in the world I can tell them all in the years I have left. I am 51, that’s not old, and with God’s grace, I will live to be an old woman, but where do I begin? Can I say everything I want to say in poetic form? I’m not sure. I keep coming back to the thought that I want to tell the story of my son. He committed suicide last April at the age of 30. I can’t do that in a poem. And then the idea comes to me that maybe I should write a non fiction book, a book to help other parents who have lost children to suicide.

Then I think of how hard it would be, and not just the emotional part, but making sure it got published, that the work I put into it would reach those who need to read it, those who it might do some good. And behind this thought comes the fear that I will taint the memory of my son. Would he want me to tell his story?  I wonder. I wonder all the time about all kinds of stuff, about human nature and life. I spend a lot of time thinking about the past. I never thought I’d be the kind of person who lived there, and it’s not as if I DO live there, but sometimes the past feels much more preferable to the present under the circumstances.  But I ramble.

I fell in love with my computer

I have the computer to thank for my decision to start writing. (real romantic, huh?)

I had always dabbled in poetry, had my first poem published in my high school paper. But it had never crossed my mind to write anything else. For one I was busy living life, then raising kids, working, and for another, my handwriting sucks! I didn’t get bitten by the writing bug until my husband and I got together–he’s a geek–and a computer became a necessary part of my household for the first time. I thought, what the heck? I can type, why not tell the story of that crazy dream I couldn’t get out of my head? The one about the talking Iguana who ate the family Daschund.

Before I started, I went to the library and got two or three of the books on writing I listed in a previous post. And I was hooked. I had found my calling, and I still wonder what took me so long. The passion those authors felt for their craft was palpable, and infectious, the guidance they offered priceless. I knew in my bones that I could write, I had a poet’s heart, after all.

I read every book I listed for you in another post. It’s my opinion that no one should even attempt to be a writer  until they have read most of those books. And no, they can’t give you talent if you don’t already possess it, but there are so MANY things a writer needs to know, I can’t imagine a person sitting down without some kind of training and writing a great story. I’m sure there are exceptions, there are to everything, but writing takes discipline, and that’s the most important thing I feel books like this offer. Next to inspiration. Then there is the fact that if you have read the history of someone like Stephen King and how many times he was rejected when he first started, you will not become nearly as discouraged when you must deal with your own.

Some people take classes, and I suppose being in the company of other writers would be inspiring, but I don’t really feel taking a creative writing class is necessary, maybe enjoyable, and educational, but from what I’ve heard, taking a class often stifles a writer’s individuality. Bottom line, I think it’s a choice and not a requirement.

Three years after reading those books, I would consider these things the most important aspects of writing:

1. A writer is like a movie camera.

2. Use all five senses-taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight-to place the reader totally in the scene.

3. Good writing lets the reader forget they are reading.

Losing yourself in a world you create is heady stuff. And the sense of accomplishment and pride you feel when you get that first piece published is addictive, intoxicating. I have said many times since I began that I will write until they pry my bony fingers from this keyboard.

Best books for fiction writers

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction by Leonard Bishop

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of The Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction by John Dufresne

On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner

Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown

A writer's relationship with God

I have been hanging out on writer’s message boards for two years almost everyday, and something has occurred to me. The majority of the ones I’ve come in contact with don’t believe in God. You know why I think that is? Because writers have huge egos and they secretly believe themselves to be gods of a sort. And I mean really, if you think about it, they came by this naturally. They are, after all, creating and destroying worlds in their fiction, killing off the bad guys, rewarding the good guys, eliminating characters upon a whim.

That’s powerful stuff. (I hope you realize this is the wild rambling of an over-active imagination.)  But do you know why I love this blog much more than posting on a message board? (off topic here, but humor me, and this IS something I am going to address in a later post, the strange and often disturbing dynamics of message boards) If I said these things on a message board, I’d be flamed, ridiculed, or run out of town on a rail. I  won’t get that here. If someone leaves a comment that I don’t like I can delete it.  Mmmhhh, maybe “I” think myself a bit godly too?

But aaaanyway, as ELLEN says, for the record, and seriously, here’s my take on God. I believe in a Supreme being, but I don’t think it’s some big pie-in-the-sky-guy sitting on a golden throne, throwing down punishments or favors left and right. I believe that the bible, though spiritually inspired, was written by man to express his feelings, opinions, and emotions, and that if was written in good faith as a guide to others, but is therefore a good source of inspiration but not a history book.  I think God is energy, a Source we are all connected to, maybe even Nature herself. (that would make God a she, and I like that idea)  I guess that makes me a Pagan? God! I hate that word.

How to have a wonderful day with my husband?

My choice yesterday was a good one. Though it was cloudy, it never rained, but it was cool for a Texas day in mid-June. My husband and I first stopped off at a moving sale. We found a box full of sturdy drinking glasses, some nice wine glasses, very funky, and a couple of cool books–a really nice, old cookbook and a big coffee table book with profiles of the gang from Trading Spaces.

Then we went downtown to the Farmer's Market. What a happening place! They have all kinds of shops, music, restaurants and fast food, but we had already had lunch and all we were really looking for was some good, fresh fruit. (Shane eats far too much chocolate) We got oranges, apples, nectarines, plums, a watermelon and the biggest, sweetest cantaloupe you've ever seen.

The downtown Dallas library is only a few blocks over. I got Joyce Carol Oates new book MISSING MOM, RUNAWAY–short stories by Alice Munro, HAUNTED–short horror stories by Chuck Papahniuk, I hear he's the best, and I got them to put my name on the waiting list for WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen, a friend who's book I can't wait to read, and they also ordered AMERICAN WIVES by Beth Helms, another online friend. I was happy when I left the library.

I came home and made Tomato Cilantro Chicken and guacamole salad–oh, yeah, got the avacado at the Farmer's market too. The recipe for the chicken is the theme of the essay I recently had accepted by the Front Porch. It has romance thrown in there with the food. (that's always a good thing)

So, yeah, a wonderful day of shopping, cooking, eating and reading, and early to bed. My head is thanking me this morning that the day wasn't one of drinking and writing sad poetry.

What books to read for a really good time?

Big, fat, hardback books, books with heft and depth inside. Right now, on my desk are these books:
  1. The Art of the Short Story
  2. The 2006 Pushcart Prize-Best of the Small Presses
  3. The American Shorty Story-A Collection of the All Time Best
  4. Short Story Masterpieces

I have only recently discovered my love of the short story. I want to write great short stories, so I am diving into these books, for pleasure, but also in hope of learning by osmosis, to see how the great ones did it. But I have always had a love affair with books of all kinds.  And libraries. Read this excerpt from my novel and you’ll see how much I love libraries.

“The minute they stepped onto the grounds of the library, Maddy breathed a happy sigh. Grandma and Madge used to bring her and Corey here when they were little for Saturday morning story hour. But Maddy had been having her own personal love affair with the actual building since she was about six. She used to hide behind the huge marble columns as a safe, tight place to be alone with her thoughts.

The library lawn was like thick green carpet. There were black wrought-iron benches sitting under the huge trees. The hedges along the building were perfectly trimmed. Pink-blossomed trees lined the driveway, which was made of red bricks. Fat yellow roses, as big as Grandma’s, dotted the spaces between the trees. Maddy bent at one of the rose bushes and treated herself to a big, beautiful whiff.

When she and Corey walked into the library their feet treaded lighter, respecting the rules they’d been taught long ago. It often crossed Maddy’s mind when she was here that there was something magical about the sound of ancient paper rustling in the same room with the whir of a modern day printer.”


Libraries rock!

Why I enjoy creative writing?

Have you ever been writing, looked up at the clock and two hours have disappeared? If so, then you know about that “magic place” I am speaking of. It is the best part of creative writing, and one of the only reasons some people write at all. To get there. To escape the humdrum of everyday life, to become lost in a world of their own creation, to maybe even become someone else for a little while.

With so much talk about query letters and agents and how to get published and money, there is the peril of losing the ability to go back to the magic place. Or that is what my experience has shown me. When I first started writing my YA novel, THE SUN SHINES ON MADDY WEAVER, I had no concerns except telling the story I needed to tell. I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning so that I could write about Maddy again. I dreamed of my novel, the characters and events, not getting it published. I worked late into the night. Those were some of the happiest days of my life.

If I have one piece of advice for beginning creative writers it would be not to allow yourself to get caught up in the idea of publishing, the business side of things. Just write. Write for the pure joy of it. This is when your best work will come to the forefront. Like an old pro I sold life insurance with for years told me once, “Don’t worry about the mule, just load the wagon.” Everything else will take care of itself.

I am overwhelmed by information overload

I don’t know about you but I must confess that lately I have been feeling as if I just can’t keep up with all the online things that I need or want to. Yes, I admit it, I who have always prided myself on being an efficient and organized person am feeling overwhelmed. Balance is needed.

But what is a person to do? There is so much information coming at us in our modern day digital world, a bullet speed, non-stop smorgasbord of technological advancements, the latest gadgets, new business ventures or marketing strategies, social networking sites, important news that affects our business or that we are highly interested in on a personal level, blog or forum posts by peers who we want to relate to and communicate with. And if you are a freelance entrepreneur like me, there is the challenge of making a living. For freelance writers/editors, time must be made for sending out resumes and touting our talents, for online business owners there is the selling of good, we all must be promoting our websites and communicating with prospective clients. THEN there is doing the actual work and doing it well, or the making of sales, of making a great impression so that we will turn prospective clients into long time customers.

Whew! See what I mean? I’m tired already! However, I am a person who has always believed that there are no real problems, only solutions. I don’t whine. I take action. But before I could decide what action needed to be taken I had to do some soul searching and realize that I cannot be all places at all times and all things to all people. To stay at my optimum productivity while not forgetting to enjoy myself was the challenge I was facing. And you know what? I like nothing better than a challenge. William Frederick Halsey, Jr., a Fleet Admiral in the U.S. Navy, had this to say about challenges,” There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet.”

So what did this ‘ordinary person’ decide to do? Prioritize. And my first priority is to my business. Making a living, promoting myself and my business, has to take precedence over everything else, otherwise you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’d be stuck behind a desk that belonged to someone else doing work for them, not enjoying this freedom of the entrepreneur. But as I stated before, there must be balance. All work and no play doth a dull boy Johnny makes. I can’t forget to enjoy myself. That was the main objective of becoming an entrepreneur in the first place, to have fun making a living, one with no glass ceiling, but also one where I was the captain of my own industry, and of my own time. Therefore, the next challenge was to become a discerning online consumer. I have carefully selected the best of the best of the blogs and websites that keep me informed about the things that affect my business as well as the things that interest me and keep me entertained. I have subscribed to the feeds of my favorite blogs so that I receive an email each time there is an updated post. I chose my very favorite websites and added them to my favorites. I set myself a schedule, with time allowed for work and for play. Wait. I just had an epiphany. If you have the true heart of an entrepreneur, work IS play! Let the games begin!

What is special about leaders?

I was thinking last night about leadership and what makes a good leader and it occurred to me that even above intelligence and strength, there is one common trait all famous leaders possess.  The leaders I thought of when I thought of this special trait were John F. Kennedy, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr, and surprisingly enough, but not so surprising when you think about it, famous notorious leaders such as Adolph Hitler, David Koresh and Jim Jones. Why did these evil leaders come to mind? Because the trait I realized they had in common with great leaders of the past is charisma.

In my opinion, charisma is something you either have or you don’t. It can’t be taught, bought or borrowed. It is an elusive trait, and it is hard to put your finger on just what makes a person charismatic or what charisma really is. Haven’t we all known someone personally, that when they walked in a room, every head turned, the atmosphere became charged with energy, even the lighting in the room felt as if it had changed?

And what about famous motivational speakers like Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer? When these men take the floor, people listen. A person with charisma, as history proves by the number of souls who swallowed the doctrine of Jim Jones, even dying at his command, instills instant trust and confidence in those they comes in contact with. Why is that?

Why did we love JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr. so much, aside from the fact that they had great visions? I believe there is more to it than that. And what about Bill Clinton? Many people, including me, found president Clinton highly charismatic, and continued to do so even after his White House sex scandal. Why?

First or third person, which is better?

I have been writing fiction for four years and I have seen this argument, first vs. third person, on every writer’s board I have belonged to. So I decided today that I would tell what I know and think about this subject. If you are a brand new creative writer I think what I have to say may help you decide which viewpoint is best for the story you are telling.

Let me first explain to the best of my ability the difference in first and third person point of view in writing. Most of you probably already know this but I need to introduce this article with the proper information before I proceed, so bear with me. First person is when you use “I,” you are telling the story from the perspective of the self, “I” did this and “I” did that, or “we” were there. This point of view limits you, when writing, to only what the main character can see, think or feel. They are not privy to the thoughts, feelings or observations of anyone but themselves.

Third person, on the other hand, allows the writer to tell the story from the perspective of more than just one character. There are two main types of third person point of view that the writer has at his/her disposal.
  • Omniscient - The writer has license to tell the story from everyone’s viewpoint. They are all powerful, able to tell what each characters is thinking, seeing and feeling.
  • Third Person Limited–This is where the writer tells the story from one character’s point of view but instead of first person, using “I” the story is told as an observer, as in “She” or “He” though you are actually in the character’s shoes, you are a step removed.
So, which point of view to use and why the big debate about it? Well, many writers believe, and they swear that publishers and agents agree with them, (which I think is really just subjective. If you are a good writer you can tell a story well from any viewpoint.) With first person there is a much stronger intimacy between the reader and the main character. You know everything they are thinking, seeing and feeling. But of course you can not know what the other characters think, see or feel, although in first person you can speculate. Still, first person is, in my opinion, harder to pull off. You take the chance of sounding monotonous, for one thing.

Personally I prefer third person limited and I will tell you why. It is a matter of mechanics and knowing that I am getting it right, that I won’t be able to jump out of point of view if I can only know what my main character is up to, but as opposed to first person I get the opportunity to tell the story from a distance that allows me some power over her/his thoughts and feelings, because I am telling it from MY perspective as I perceive it.

Living in a cruel world, a poem

This is a poem that I wrote a few months ago and decided I wanted to share with you today. I would love any feedback.

Cartoon Cruel World

When the sun trades shifts with the moon
Dudley the Dashing springs forth from his silken bed.
He flies handless and unholy in his purring SUV
across the concrete jungles of The Land of Pretend
drinking a double café latte and crunching granola,
spilling inane words into his cell phone, snorting powder,
maneuvering around his secret hangover and his hidden fear,
massaging his ego in the rearview mirror.
In his chrome and glass castle, as life leaks
from the giant Rolex glistening through the skylight,
Dudley shines his pearly whites upon his minions,
a sea of masks each carved from private spite.
As the sun burns a hole in the day
Randall the Reliable throws manna to Nature’s children.
Randall’s run-down mobile home sits
in the shadow of Corporate Jeopardy,
on the trash strewn shores of the Lake of a Thousand Yesterdays.
In gratitude, Lady Fishtail’s Choir of Singing Trout
lifts its collective head, gasp the polluted air
then serenade Randall and his plastic pink flamingos.
The birds dance in place next to the dying trees
beside Randall’s mobile home.
Randall smiles, bows to the choir,
then moves his beaten self to tend his garden.
There is a hint of aspiration in the air.
Randall looks skyward as he whispers a prayer
for himself and his water-bound friends.

Can I train myself to be an entrepreneur?

I was reading Laura’s blog Writing Thoughts this morning and really enjoyed her and other bloggers’ opinions on whether entrepreneurs are born or bred. There are links in the article to several other posts where bloggers besides Laura weighed in.  So what is my opinion on this subject? I think certain aspects of an entrepreneur are hereditary, such as drive and determination. Not everyone has that type of personality. Some people are just naturally laid back and couldn’t sweat stuff if they tried. Sometimes I wish I were that kind of person. However, I probably wouldn’t have accomplished near what I have in my career if I had been.

But I will not say that I strictly believe that entrepreneurs are born and not bred. I believe that if anyone has enough passion and conviction they can be their own boss and be successful. It’s all about vision and perspective. Still, I bet those laid back people need a bigger does of those attributes than the entrepreneur who is a naturally ambitious and driven person.

How I found peace listening to Joyce Myers?

I love Joyce Myers. I started listening to her YEARS ago! She is tough and tells it straight up. And this woman of God always has a message that seems to be meant just for me. Yesterday I turned on the TV early in the morning and landed slab dab in the middle of a message about not hanging around negative people. I am going through a challenge right now of trying to break a bad habit of going to a place where just these kind of people hang out. I have been telling myself that because I was a positive person that the thinking of these people couldn’t affect me, that I could be a positive influence on them, in fact. Well yesterday Joyce made me see that my ego was what that was about and the only thing that was happening was that their negative thinking was rubbing off on me. The devil is smart, never think he’s not. He is patient too. He has been sending me to this place for about 2 years, and slowly, without me really seeing what was happening, the negativity around me has been rubbing off on me in increments, just enough for me not to realize that I was changing, and not in a good way.

Well devil I’ve got some news for you today! I am done. You can’t have me, you will NOT take my joy. My natural state is joyful and peaceful, filled with the love of God. I am returning to that state and I vow to never return to the place where these sad and desperate people choose to spend their time. There is a country song that says, “Dirt doesn’t stick to her, she’s better than that.” And that’s me.

What about you? Do you find yourself surrounded by negative people? Joyce Myers said yesterday that the excuse most people make for not removing themselves from these kind of people was that they didn’t know where they would go or who they would hang out if they did. The challenge is to find a way to surround yourself with positive people. Change is not easy, but by God it’s worth it.  Remember that old saw, “Birds of a feather flock together?” Or you an eagle or a turkey? As for me, I choose to soar, even if it might be a solo journey for a while until I find other eagles to befriend.

Why aiming for perfection maybe a bad thing

I found this really great post at Cultivating Greatness on how perfection can slow you down. I must admit that I am a perfectionist and I agree with so much that was said in this post. When you want to do everything perfect you often never attempt something at all! Or that has been the case for me. Take creative writing, for instance. I used to write without worry, but the more I learned about the craft and the competition to get published, I pretty much decided that I might as well not bother. That negative thinking, along with my need for perfection, has just about put an end to my muse. What about you? Are you a perfectionist? If so, be sure to read that great post I linked to. It helped to inspire me. In fact, I am writing a poem today!

Having good kids is a blessing

I had a long phone conversation with my son this morning that helped me tremendously. It’s something else, ain’t it, when you child seems to have more wisdom about a situation than you do. But hey, at least that tells me that I raised a good kid. Justin is very level headed.

I was telling him that I felt untethered, that I felt like I needed a major change in my life but really feel stuck as to what to do about it. He gave me some suggestions and lots of motivational words and advice that have brought me much peace. I have a much better handle on things now. I have set myself a goal, a clear goal, of which direction I want to take and feel as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

Change is hard, but sometimes it is the only solution. And thank God for kids. WAHMS, I am here to tell you that though it seems hard at times, when those babies grow up and become your adult friend and confidant, there is nothing better in the world.

How to develop good work habits?

I have been thinking a lot lately about good work habits. I am convinced that being disciplined and organized are two key components of success. I have no idea how someone who is messy can get anything done, although I do know of people who are, I just think they are probably the exception rather than the rule. But I honestly can’t think of anyone I know who is successful at what they do that isn’t disciplined. Success is not something that falls in your lap. Of course, winning the lottery is a different ballgame. That falls in your lap. However, that’s not the kind of success I am speaking of. I am talking about a sense of personal achievement, of a job well done. That kind of success can’t be measured in monetary value, although it most often happens that if you do good work the money will come. What about you? Do you have good work habits? Let’s talk about that.

Life for the top one percent of Americans

While we are on the subject of self improvement I wanted to turn you on to an online, free test I just took. I guess I am not as bad off as I thought because the results came back that I could live in the top two percent. The test is basically about attitude and self image, how you view your life and your future.

Self improvement has always been a big part of who I am, I am forever reading books on how to improve my thinking, anyway. I was happy to see the results then, to this test. They said I scored high on optimism and passion, but lacked self discipline. I agree. On the website these are the things that they consider living in the top 1%.
  • Having enough income to live the life you want. No longer worrying about day-to-day expenses and knowing that you and your family will have enough to maintain that lifestyle in the future.
  • Being physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Feeling energetic and alive at any age. Having happy and rewarding relationships with family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Being fully engaged and passionate about life, facing every day with a feeling of expectation and excitement.
It’s no wonder only 1% of Americans enjoy this lifestyle. It just doesn’t happen. It takes learning the specific skills that are present in all high achievers. Sadly, these are not the skills taught in our nation’s schools and universities.
By simply taking this test you are already ahead of the pack. You are taking the time to learn about yourself and steps you can take to “Live in the Two.” Are you game? Their experts have identified five distinct categories, or character traits, that ultimately determine the likelihood of one’s achievement. The results will be emailed to you. Have fun and come back and let us know what they said about you!

What type of a blogger am I?

I was over at Alicia Sparks’ blog, Writing Spark, yesterday and found this fun test called the Technosailor Self Importance Test. It only takes a few seconds to answer a couple of questions and you will be told what well known blogger you are most like.

My results?: You are most like Matt Mullenweg!  Though you recognize your authority, you do not relish the idea of using your power too aggressively. Instead, you rely on peers a lot. You do participate in the social media world, but it is not something that occupies a lot of time. You most liklely devote yourself to projects that you feel passionate about and tend to evangelize those things quite a bit. I can live with that! Why not take a minute out of your busy day and have some fun finding out what blogger you are most like? It’s Friday after all, have a little fun.

Experience with Yahoo paid blogging service

Up until November of last year I had been writing creatively full-time since 2003. I didn’t make any money to speak of, just a check here and there, for an essay in The Front Porch, an article in True Romance, a little money here and there for odd and end telecommuting jobs I took on while I searched for a publisher for my middle reader novel. My husband paid all the bills.The day after Thanksgiving changed all that. My husband informed me that he was in love with someone else, that “he loved me but was not in love with me” anymore. (Whatever.That is just a cop out to try not to hurt someone’s feelings. If a person ever tells you that, run as quickly as possible away from that relationship.)

My husband also informed me that he was moving to Tennessee. Of course I was devastated, but that’s not what this post is about. What it it IS about is the fact that I had to figure out, and quick like, how I was going to support myself. In hindsight, as we always see things clearly, I realized that I should have been making a living all along. I had never been totally dependent on someone else before. Believe me, I never will again.

So what was I to do? I needed to start making money immediately. I had just gotten started doing the paid to blog thing, which I do now full time, but back then I was only doing it sporadically and working for PayPerPost, now my main source of income, you don’t get paid for 30 days after you make a post. I began scouring the freelance job boards religiously, looking for steady work, but that takes time, to apply, to be screened, to compete with all the other freelancers who are looking for work. And I wanted to work from home. I didn’t have a car, for one thing. And I loved working from home for another.

That’s when a light bulb went off in my head. Associated Content! I had written a couple of pieces for them and it was easy work, it usually took me less than an hour to write an article and I could write about anything I wanted, and I got paid quickly. Boy did I ever get to work! I started writing 6 or 7 articles a day, seven days a week. Each article paid between $6 and $10. Within a couple of weeks I had money, MY money. And the pay to blog money was beginning to trickle in. I was SUPPORTING MYSELF!

Ok, now you are probably wondering why I am telling you all this. Here’s why. Though I love working for PayPerPost and I DO make a living working for them, I want to make more money. I want to move back to my hometown. I want to buy a car. With PPP there is a limit to the number of opps you can take daily, two per blog, which is a good thing, this assures that your blog maintains its integrity and quality of posts. Opportunities drop all throughout the day. They spread them out so that all posties get a chance to make money. Which is only fair. But it becomes mind numbing to sit at the computer, refreshing the screen, waiting for new opps to drop. So I started thinking yesterday that I needed something to do to make money in between searching for new opps.

(You may be thinking to yourself “why doesn’t she find freelance writing jobs?” I’ll be totally honest with you. I enjoy the fact that I don’t have a boss, or a deadline, that I can work my own schedule, and that I don’t have to spend time scrambling for new work. When I do decide to write something freelance it is on my own time and it is stuff that I WANT to write about. That let’s me enjoy being creative, which was the whole point of my becoming a writer in the first place.)

Enter the light bulb moment again. I had noticed that there was money in my Paypal account from Associated Content. Huh, I thought. I haven’t written anything for them in months, why are they paying me? It was only change, but still, I was curious. So I visited their site and discovered that the payments I had received were for page views of my AC articles. Wow. That means I will get paid into perpetuity, that I will always have this passive income. And I realized that if I started marketing my AC page I could make more money. There was one writer who wrote a breaking news story and made $500 in one month from page views. Then it hit me. I could write articles while I flipped back and forth between PayPerPost waiting for new opps to drop. I could kill two birds with one stone. That would keep me busy AND I would be making money. Up until I made this decision I found myself checking my email ten times a day and checking my stats five, killing time. Of course I could have been working on traffic generation or networking, but when I do that I need to give it my full attention and concentrate on nothing else. Besides, if you want to get the good paying opps at PPP you must be on your toes.

I decided to go one step further. I start a new blog. (I love creating blogs, and I was happy to have an excuse to start a new one! And I love learning, I love a challenge, one I create for myself. ) I am going to delve into their site and learn everything I can about how to make the most of AC and blog about it. If you are an AC writer let me know and I will add your blog or your AC page to the sidebar of my Associated Content blog. If you aren’t an AC writer but want to become one be sure to follow along and learn with me. Man, am I ever long winded! :)

How to be truly original while writing an article?

I am not trying to be a negative Nelly, but something occurred to me yesterday. I spend a lot of time reading other writing blogs, blogs about blogging and blogs about making money online, and I have begun to notice a trend. The majority of us are talking about the same thing. Notice I said “Us.” It is a challenge to blog everyday and come up with something original to say, something that some other blogger in our genre hasn’t already covered.

So I have set myself a challenge. I am going to try to make each blog post I do, the ones that aren’t about services and products, contain content that is off the beaten path, that hasn’t been done before. Of course this is going to be a major challenge because, I mean, how much can be said that hasn’t already been covered? And it occurs to me that we live in a recycled world. Even the TV shows we watch, the movies, have the same actors playing different parts. Fashions that were popular in 1970 are back. Morals that were once thrown out the window are returning to the landscape of life.

That makes creating original, never before done content a hard job, but I am going to give it a shot. Maybe I am even creating an impossible task, for anything you want to know can be found on the internet, and usually in spades. The only thing I really know to do about that is to write stuff about writing, blogging and making money online that is more editorial and opinion generated, more personal and from the heart. We’ll see how it goes.

Associated Content was a disaster for me

For those of you who keep up with me on a regular basis, you know that I posted this article a week or so ago about how I was going to start writing for AC again, and you also know that I started a blog called Writing Success at Associated Content at the same time. I was all fired up after seeing that I had received performance bonus payments in my Paypal account from AC, even though I hadn’t written anything for them for many months. The payments were only change, but still, I thought I could make a little extra money writing articles while I was waiting for new opportunities to drop at PayPerPost AND make money through the AC Performance Bonus for page views.

Well, that enthusiasm has been extremely dampened after I submitted five articles, (all previously published on my blogs, in AC’s defense, but before the Performance Bonus was implemented I submitted previously published or non-exclusive content to AC and still received between $6-$9 an article.) This time I was rejected for upfront payment on all but one article, which only paid $4.00.

I blogged about this on my AC blog and said that unless I made good money from page views through the performance bonus I would not be writing for AC any longer. Then this morning I found a comment from the founder of Associated Content in reply to my post, asking me not to quit, and telling me to market my page. My reply to him was that I felt the balance wasn’t fair, I was writing the articles, I was getting paid next to nothing or not at all and I was expected to do the marketing, and asked him what HE was doing?

I would REALLY like to hear from ALL writers on this subject of Associated Content. You can choose to comment anonymously if you write for them and don’t want your identity known. I am wondering if I am being unfair or if you agree with my take on this.

Change your life by changing your thoughts

I have found myself in the mood this week to browse personal development and self improvement blogs and I found this one that I love! It is called Changing Your Thoughts, a subject which I am extremely interested in of late. Changing your thoughts can change your life, because we create our reality with our thoughts, both the negative and the positive of our realities. We can turn a good day bad with negative thoughts and a bad day good with positive thoughts. It really is that simple to me. Well, of course unless there is some major tragedy, then no amount of thought can change that. Of course, even then, however, your thoughts are crucial to how you will handle the situation.

How to submit articles online?

There are rules that apply to submitting articles online that don’t affect your regular mail submissions. I thought I would take the time today to point out some of these rules. There are so many of us that write for online publications these days that I figured these would be helpful to many of you.

1. Always follow the instructions for online submissions to the tee. Of course, this applies to snail mail submissions too, but with online submissions, for instance, you really need to check carefully whether the editor wants the article in the body of your email or as an attachment. And if they DO want an attachment, you need to check carefully to see which kind, Word (.doc extension) or Rich Text Format, (.rtf extension) for instance. If they don’t give a preference I always send the article as a Word document. But you may want to ask first.
2. As with standard submissions always use either Times New Roman or Courier font. This is an industry standard, but for those of you who are new to writing you may not know this. Never use an oddball font or fancy lettering when you write an article, either online or off.
3. Double space your article. Between paragraphs just do a single hard return.
4. If you have sidebars (which are related bits of the article that you want highlighted outside the body of the article) list them at the bottom of the article, i.e., sidebar 1 with the information, sidebar 2, etc.
5. Include a list of the experts you contacted at the bottom of the article with their contact information, phone number, email, etc, so that the editor can verify any quotes if they choose to.

These are just some standard rules that will help you make sure your online submission is up to snuff. Every little thing you can do to make yourself look more professional is one more feather in your online writing cap!

How to deal with my fears and anxiety?

I was reading Successful Blog today where Liz Strauss has this hilarious post about blogger fear. She did something similar to what a bunch of us did a few weeks ago, using reverse psychology to make her point. Great post, Liz. There are also some links to other post from the B5Media channel on fear that you will want to check out at the end of Liz’s article. But reading it got me to thinking about fear on a more serious level. I will be honest with you. I have been dealing with anxiety for many years. I used to have massive panic attacks.

But over the years I have educated myself in the art of meditation and biofeedback, I have read everything I could get my hands on about what causes panic attacks, read self help books on how to deal with it. And I have become much more spiritual, all of this helping tremendously in controlling the panic impulse.

One thing I have learned in my studies is that I am no alone. Did you know that the times we live in have been pegged “The Age of Anxiety?” But did you also know that half of the world’s population lives on $2.00 a day? Will you finally admit that the weird weather we have been experiencing is the result of global warming? Are you aware of the fact that the number of uninsured Americans rose 1.3 million between 2004 and 2005 and has increased by almost 7 million people since 2000? Add to this the tragedy of September 11, 2001 and the war in Iraq and you have a recipe for fear.

If you find yourself experiencing a pervasive sense of fear you might tell yourself that you are anxious over personal concerns, like job related issues or relationship trouble. And of course, these things do cause anxiety. But I believe that the deep sense of fear many of us feel stems from the state of the world we live in today.
So what can we do about it? The only real recourse we have to deal with fear comes on an individual level. We can’t change the world, but we can change ourselves. And the world can be changed, one person at a time.

If you are experiencing anxiety, I would like to make several suggestions that will help you. One is educate yourself about anxiety and its causes. The other is to start your day in quiet meditation. Meditation is not some pie in the sky guru stuff. It doesn’t require candles, chants, or any other of that hocus pocus. Just sit quietly and clear your mind of all the clutter and concentrate on your breathing. Take the time to count your blessings, think positive thoughts. Another thing to do is to learn to keep things in perspective. Though you may deal with disappointments, heartaches and troubles, these things are not the end of the world. Check your ego at the door and realize that you are not alone. Ego is one of the main obstacles to happiness. It tells you that you are separate, but you are not. We are all part of the whole, there is a oneness to the world and you belong in it. Practice kindness in all our your interactions. Love truly is the great healer.

I would also strongly suggest that you read this wonderful book, “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is Ms. Gilbert’s personal journey through fear and depression as she travels for one year, to Italy, India and Indonesia. I laughed out loud when I saw myself in this book. You don’t have to travel anywhere to relate to the things she experiences. This book has changed my life.

Fear is an obstacle to joy. But it doesn’t have to be your legacy, or the legacy of our world. Start changing the world today by improving your own quality of life and letting your light shine rather than hiding it under a bushel.

How to get started writing poems?

I am not claiming to be a great poet, but I have won a couple of poetry contests and have had dozens of poems published. So I think I am qualified to offer beginning poets some tips that will help their poetry sing.
It is easy to write a simple rhyming poem, just about anyone can do it, hence “Roses are red, violets are blue–anything after that will need to rhyme too.”

But what separates a run of the mill poem from a great poem are several factors:

1. Find a way to express your message with uncommon words–sometimes what makes the difference in a great poet and an average poet is a simple matter of laziness. Take the time to use your thesaurus or dictionary, put your thinking cap on and engage your heart in finding just the right word instead of settling for what anyone else would use in its place.
2. Read a lot of poetry–Learn from the masters. I am not saying that you should copy anyone else’s style, but I think you will find that your favorite poetry will end up being similar to the style that you write. A great place to start reading classic poetry is at Poets.Org.
3. Be bold and honest–now when I say this I don’t mean spill your guts all over the page. What I am talking about is being genuine, not being afraid to show who you really are, and what your true feelings are. Believe me, your readers will be able to tell if you are being sincere. That is what makes a great poem, touching people, connecting with them.
4. Don’t fear criticism–One of the biggest obstacles for many writers is the fear of failure and the fear of being judged as lacking by their peers. Put this notion aside when you begin to write your poem. In fact, try not to even think about what someone else will say about it, just tell your truth and tell it well. I can’t count the number of poetry forums online where the snooty so called “poets” will take every opportunity to slap down a newbie’s work. Ignore them, or better yet, don’t join their club. They get off on criticizing and think great poetry is that which makes no sense.
5. Use metaphors sparingly but effectively–I believe this is one of the most important tips I have for you. Just the right metaphor in the right place in a poem can make the whole difference between a good and a great poem. The way I come up with great metaphors is the use my heart and to really feel what something is “like”. Think it out. For instance, how can you say something about how a snowflake is like something else without repeating what others have said a million times? This is the fun part to me, coming up with unique and beautiful metaphors. You want your readers to think “ah, yes, it IS like that!”
6. Write with clarity–Express your message clearly so that it can be understood. This really is a skill that takes every effort with poetry because you want it to be beautiful words, however, the words have to be understood by your reader so that the message is more than the sum of the words.

I hope these tips will help you in your new found love if you are a beginning poet. I have been writing poetry for over 36 years and it’s made a world of difference in who I turned out to be. Writing poetry is therapeutic. Believe me, I know. It has saved my sanity on several occasions.

How much money can one make from paid to blog programs?

I want to crow a little bit this morning. It is seldom that I brag, but I gotta tell you that I am so excited I just had to share. As most of you know, I blog for paid to post services for a living. Last week I made $579 doing this, the brunt of it through PayPerPost. This week I have already made $395 and I still have Thursday and Friday to go. I blog Monday through Friday, and sometimes on Saturday.  You have no idea how much relief this gives me, knowing I have made this kind of money. But the opps at PPP have progressively been paying more and I have worked hard to get my traffic up so that I qualify for good ones.  This beats the hell out of eating tuna fish and beans.

How to make a living by blogging for paid to blog services?

I wrote last week about how well I was doing working for paid to post services. Since then I have received several comments and a couple of emails asking for advice on how to get started working for paid to post services and how to become successful at it.

After thinking it over I have decided that the most efficient way to explain is to offer my own experiences in this blog post. This way, anyone who is wondering how to begin and how to succeed with paid to post services will have access to the information. I am going to go through the steps I took getting started and the things I have learned along the way that have helped me succeed.

The first thing to keep in mind is that it takes time to start making good money through paid to post services. I have been doing this full time and steadily for a year. So be patient, don’t start thinking you can make a full time living getting paid to blog right off the bat, it’s going to take some time. (though not a year by any means if you follow the advice below)

An ordered list seems like the best way to explain how to get started and how to succeed so here goes:

1. Get your own domain–When Paid to Post first started out most bloggers that I know of used free blog hosting services such as Blogspot. But over time almost all of the paid to post services are changing their requirements, asking bloggers to have their own domain. The expense of having your own domain is nil compared to the money you can make once you get going, so don’t sweat the cost. Just find the most affordable hosting company that fits your needs and take the plunge. Getting your own domain is empowering anyway. You are in control of what happens, not at the mercy of a free blog hosting company, whose rules can change at any time.
2. Create Niche Blogs–I was actually lucky, because I had already decided on my own that having niche blogs was the way I wanted to go. Little did I know that eventually the paid to post services would prefer niche blogs over personal, run of the mill, talk about whatever is on your mind blogs. Pick topics that you are passionate about. That is the most important thing. You will be blogging daily, so it needs to be something that can keep your interest on a permanent basis. Don’t worry about finding the most popular niches, there are paid opportunities for everyone. Just pick niches that you are knowledgeable about and/or highly passionate about.
3. Blog consistently and provide quality content–The majority of paid to post services require that your blog be 90 days old with regular blog post all during that time. These post must also carry quality content, not just filler or two or three sentence posts. Have something to say and say it well. Which leads to the next step:
4. Build your traffic–The one thing you must have is dedication and patience to become a successful paid blogger. The opportunities pay more to blogs that have more traffic, page rank, and Alexa scores, things that must be worked on consistently and over time. For those 90 days, while you are waiting for your blog to be approved by the paid to blog services, while making quality, consistent post, network with other bloggers on social networking sites like Blog Catalog, Technorati, My Blog Log, Bumpzee; the list of social networking sites goes on and on, but those are my favorites. Also join sites like Digg and StumbleUpon. Be a regular contributor to these sites, visitor other blogs and comment, make friends, let your blogging be a way to communicate. Join blogging forums.
5. Never create a blog with only the intentions of making money–For one thing, it’s against the terms of service of most paid to blog companies, and for another, if you are not sincerely interested in your blog you won’t have traffic and if you don’t have traffic you will never reach the level of success that you want to have, as both a respected blogger and a money maker. I love the saying by Wayne Dyer, “Do what you love and the money will come.”
6. Study ways to be a successful blogger–I love learning, I am like a sponge. When I want to be successful at something I believe the way to do that is to emulate those who are already successful at what they are doing. There are so many great blogs, many that are listed in the sidebar of this site, that will help you learn how to become a successful blogger. If you are dedicated, the desire to learn more, to learn how to change templates, navigate your blog editor, install widgets, join affiliate programs, add Adsense, find new social networking sites, find new ways to build traffic, and so many other things that successful bloggers know, will be a natural part of the blogging experience.
7. Sign up with paid to blog services–when your 90 days are up and you have done all of the above, I can pretty much guarantee that you will have a blog that will qualify for paid to blog services. YOU WILL NEED A PAYPAL ACCOUNT.

Here is a list of the paid to post services that I am signed up with and recommend:

PAYPERPOST–I was asked in an email how to get started with PayPerPost, the paid to blog service where I make the brunt of my money. The person who sent me the message said that it was very confusing, but that she had signed up even though she didn’t have any blogs on her domain yet. Well, if she doesn’t have any blogs she won’t qualify. PayPerPost, like all of the other paid to post services, is for BLOGGERS. And as far as it being confusing, I can’t see how it is. You just have to read the instructions and learn, like anything else, but it makes it a whole lot easier to start out learning on the forums, which you will find a link to on the main page of PayPerPost, the link which is in the title of this section. But I will say that they way it works, the basics, are that new opportunities are posted off and on all throughout the day and night. By spending time refreshing the page you will find opps that you qualify for. You gotta type fast! You click on the opp, then must type in two captcha words. There are 70,000 bloggers working with PPP at this point, so learn to be fast on the draw and a fast typer when you enter the captcha. Then you can relax, for you have six hours once you grab the opp to write and submit the post. All of the advertiser’s requirements are listed in the opps. Advertisers get to vote for or against your post, so be careful to do a very good job and your tack rating will qualify you for better and better paying opps. An advertiser can ban you from other post if they aren’t happy with what you wrote. Payment is made through PayPal 30 days from the day you make the post. There is so much to learn, but it really isn’t hard, just a matter of dedication to learning and becoming the best blogger you can be. A new system is coming out this month called Argus which is supposed to increase the ability advertisers have to choose bloggers they want for their opps, and also create better paying opps for bloggers, (although the pay has been getting better and better at PPP over time.) Argus, from what I hear, will be based more on traffic than on page rank, though page rank up until now has been the holy grail of qualifying for better opps. We’ll see. I’m looking forward to seeing what Argus does for PayPerPost and for me.
Sponsored Reviews–This is my second favorite paid to blog service. Though I only get maybe two or three assignments a week, you get to choose the price you will charge and I often get assignments that pay very well because I am selective about the assignments I apply for and charge what I think I’m worth. (Never undersell yourself, just use common sense based on how well the subject matter fits your blog, the word count and other requirements, and the rating you have been given by Sponsored Reviews) You have a week to write the post and they pay within days of approval.
PayU2Blog–This is my third favorite paid to blog service. Though the assignments only pay me $5.00 each, they only require 60 words normally and are easy to submit once the post is done. They pay weekly and also have forums to help you learn how the service works and give you the opportunity to befriend other Payu2Blog bloggers. This is a good place for beginners to start.
Blogsvertise–This service sends you assignments through email with the advertiser requirements after you have signed up and become qualified. They also have grab bag opportunities you can check out daily that are listed in your blog section. It is very laid back, friendly, and easy to do. The opps for me run around $10 each. They pay 30 days after the post is made.
Loud Launch–Loud Launch sends out email notifications when new opportunities appear on their site. Each opp requires 150 words. Your payment is based on the popularity of your blog. Right now I am at $7.50 per post. I haven’t used Loud Launch in a long time, but only due to the fact that I spend most of my time working for the other services listed above. But it is still a great service and a good place for beginners to get started. They pay around the first of the month for all the post you have done through the 20th of the previous month.
Blogitive–this is also a good place for beginners to get started with paid to blog services. The opps don’t pay that much, $5.00 last time I checked, but you must start somewhere, and page rank, as far as I know at this point, is not a big part of qualifying for assignments. They pay weekly if I remember correctly.
Review Me–I have never had one single assignment from Review Me, even though I have been signed up with them for a year. To me, this site is exclusive to bloggers with page rank of 5 and above. (If I am wrong about that someone correct me) That’s just my perception. (Reaching a page rank of 5 is like wanting to win an Olympic medal, it takes a lot of work and time, but boy will I celebrate if I ever get there!)
CreamAid–Cream Aid is a whole different animal of the paid to blog services. You sign up, receive notification that a new conversation has started, sign up to join the conversation, post about it, and add the widget under your post so others can join the conversation. If your post gets picked by the advertiser you get paid the amount of the royalty shown when you join the conversation and are paid with 24 hours. If someone joins the conversation from your widget you also make a little more money.
Smorty–I like Smorty. It is easy to use, the payment for opps is usually decent and they pay quickly. The interface is very simple, the system the most basic. The only thing I find is that there are so many bloggers signed up that if you don’t get the email notifying you that a new assignment is listed before everyone else does the opp is no longer there. Still, sign up anyway and you may find that your situation is different.
I am not positive that all of these services require that your blog be 90 days old, so make sure and check out each one’s terms of service. But you are going to need to do that anyway. The best advice I can leave you with is to learn, learn, learn, and dedicate yourself to staying on top of what new developments there are, and be the best blogger you can, and you WILL be a successful blogger for paid to post services!

It is not so bad being single during the holidays

With Thanksgiving less than a week away and Christmas just around the corner my thoughts turn to family, as do most of ours. But there are many people across the world who have no family or their families are too far away for them to be with during the holidays. There are also those, like me, who are single and don’t have a honey to spend to holidays with.

This is a hard time of year for people in these boats. But I have decided that it is all about perspective. Keeping a positive frame of mind, being grateful for the things you DO have rather than concentrating on your losses, remembering happier holidays of your youth, and being around friends that care about you, can make the difference between a happy or sad holiday season. A new year is coming and we never know what is just around the corner. And as far as love goes, as it says in Desiderata “Love is as perennial as the grass.” Call me Blanche Devaro or maybe Tammy Wynette. I am going to keep trying until I get it right.

How to build a career as a creative writer?

When I first decided to write full-time four years ago the first thing I did was to study. Not study for one of the many online degrees specializing in writing, but studying at becoming a better writer. My plan was to be a full-time fiction writer for the rest of my life. But as we all know, life is what happens while you are making plans and I have ended up being a full-time blogger instead. Still, since this IS a freelance writing blog I thought it only fair that I should share some of the most important tips I learned during my period of study. I didn’t take a class and I don’t believe you have to, although if you can afford it there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a creative writing course. If nothing else, you will learn the basics while making new friends with others who are learning the craft. But you CAN learn on your own. At the end of this article will be a list of the books I recommend for those of you who want to learn the basics of creative writing. They are the ones that made the most impact on me.
Now, without further ado, here are the main things I learned that helped me to become a multi-published creative writer:

1. Learn the difference between viewpoints–This was the hardest thing for me to get. I studied it extensively, due to the fact that it can be very confusing. When I talk about viewpoint I am referring to how the story is told, whether it be first person, third person limited, or third person omniscient. Those are the main viewpoints that stories are told from. Each one has its pros and cons and the decision about which viewpoint to tell your story from depends largely on your writing style and the type of story you want to tell, the message you want to convey. If you want to be more personal, first person is often the choice, though many writers detest the use of first person, claiming that it is too repetitious and confining. Personally I don’t like to write in first person for those very reasons. I prefer third person limited, which is told from the viewpoint of one character. The reason is simple. It is the easiest and most compelling viewpoint, in my opinion. Writing in third person omniscient is harder because you have to tell the story from the viewpoint of several different characters. Of course, there is also second person but rarely will you read a story or book told this way. However, this viewpoint DOES exist, so at least learn what it entails.  But the main thing is, once you start a story from one viewpoint stick with it. Otherwise you lose your credibility with the reader and most often will not find yourself published. Besides, it is confusing as a new writer to try and switch between viewpoints. However, seasoned pros often do this and do it well.

2. Pretend you are a psychic camera–This is the best way for me to phrase what I am talking about. It has to do with creating characters and setting. If you have learned anything at all so far about creative writing you have learned the first rule, SHOW, DON’T TELL. Say you have your character walking into the room for the first time. You want you reader to know what the character looks like, not by telling them specifically, but my mentioning things that they do and their body language, their habits–maybe they stumble, making them a clumsy person, or they could be cutting their eyes, which creates an aura of distrust–the way they are dressed, etc. This creates their personality for the reader without you having to explain the kind of person that they are. And you want the reader to feel like they are IN the setting by describing the surroundings, much like they were watching a movie. You don’t want to go overboard by taking away from the character or the story, but mentioning things that are in the room, setting the scene, helps your reader visualize and makes the story real. *note: the reason I included the word “psychic” is because you can convey what a person is thinking by showing emotions, like fear, anger, excitement, simply with facial expressions, body language and actions.

3. Don’t use purple prose–Wikipedia describes purple prose as: “A term of literary criticism, purple prose is used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensuously evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader’s response.” In other words, don’t fall so in love with your own writing that you lose your reader. Taking advantage sparingly of apt metaphors and similes is great, and required, in my opinion, for great writing, but take the advice of Mark Twain in this letter he wrote to D.W.Bowser in 1880–”I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”
Which leads us to this tip:

4. Edit, edit, edit–Different writers have different formulas for editing. Some writers edit as they go while others insist that the only way they can flow creatively is to just start writing, let the words flow and worry about the details later. It will take some time to figure out what works best for you. Most writers I have talked to fall somewhere in between. But no matter what kind of editor you are, make sure of one thing, NEVER allow a story to contain misspelled words or wrong grammar. Also, punctuation and format are crucial to getting your story published. By considering yourself a professional, even if you haven ‘t been published yet, you will become one.
But the main thing I am talking about when I mention editing is getting rid of the fluff, the unnecessary words, characters, scenes, etc. Most writers have to create several drafts before the story is complete. Rarely will you hear of a writer, any writer, no matter how famous, who writes a story in one draft. In fact, most writers have to create at least three or four drafts of a story before they are satisfied that it is right. Don’t be satisfied until it is.

5. Do not fear rejection–This may be one of the hardest things to learn when you start out writing. But believe you me, as every famous writer has attested to, rejection is part of the process. And just because your story is rejected doesn’t mean it is bad, it may just not be the right market for it. I have never re-edited a story based on a rejection. I just find another market to send it out to. If I have done the editing that I feel it deserves I have faith in the story itself and its ability to find a home eventually. There is a lot of competition out there too, so don’t give up. That is the main lesson I learned.

6. DON’T GIVE UP!
As promised, here is a list of books I recommend that I have read for beginning creative writers. All of these I found at my local public library, but I am sure you can find them all on Amazon or some other book seller online or in a bookstore. They are all older books so they are going to be very affordable.
DARE TO BE A GREAT WRITER by Leonard Bishop
BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott
WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg
THE LIE THAT TELLS A TRUTH by John Dufresne

eVisibility Internet Marketing Agency review

I have done a lot of research into what it takes to be successful as online business owner. I haven’t made the commitment yet to open an online store, however, because I DO realize that it takes 110% to be the kind of success I would want to be. But if I do come to the decision to become an online business marketer, I would definitely want to hire an expert in SEO and internet marketing to help me. Why? Because I see how hard it is to do it all on your own and I believe the expense would be well worth it.

After doing some research into eVisiblity, if I were going to hire an Internet Marketing Company they would be the one. I will tell you why. Of all the Internet Marketing Companies that are out there, they are one of the few that has been written up in Search Marketing Standard magazine. Another reason is that they are a Yahoo ambassador. A third reason is that McDonald’s is one of their customers. If a huge corporation like that hired them imagine what they could do for me?

Also, eVisiblity is a Search Engine Optimization Company that belongs to the Better Business Bureau and has over 10 years of experience in organic search engine optimization, pay per click management, and online media buying. If you are in the market for help with your online business I would highly recommend them.

How to balance traditions around holidays?

Sandy at 4 Reluctant Entertainers has this great post that I SO agree with and wanted to share.  She talks about how many of us are stuck on traditions that are stressing us out during the holidays and offers tips on how to change, rearrange, or discard traditions that are not worth the stress that they cause. Christmas is supposed to be above love, not money, not even tradition, though some traditions you will never want to discard, but those are usually very simple and personal things that you do just to remind yourself of your loved ones who are no longer with you. Take the time today to read Sandy’s article and figure out a way to make your holiday season as happy and stress free as possible.

I am quitting Associated Content program

A few months ago I decided that I could make some extra money by submitting my longer, more informative blog post to Associated Content and make a little extra cash. I even started an AC blog, and was ready to dive in and commit myself to blogging about my experience. I also held a discussion here on this blog, asking other writers what they thought about AC.

Well, I am here to tell you after having yet one more article rejected by them, an article I wrote on this blog with great tips for beginning writers, which if I must say so myself was very good, I will not be submitting anything else to Associated Content. It seems that they have figured out that they can reject articles for pay from writers but will still get to publish the articles by offering a smidgen for page views. Of course, the writer has to do all the marketing of the article to make any money, so basically, AC has to do…NOTHING! Just rake in the cash.

AC, you have reached a new low and I hope to see you soon disappear from the landscape of the internet and the writers who are working for you for peanuts, I hope they all wise up and leave you in the lurch. However, unfortunately, as the saying goes, “There’s a fool born every minute” and I am pretty sure you will never run out of new writers with dreams of being published that you can take advantage of.

Disappointment with Associated Content service

A few days ago I wrote this blog post about how I was done submitting material to Associated Content. Since there were fifteen comments, one from the founder of AC himself, I decided to re-open this subject for discussion. Most of the writers who chimed in who work or once worked for AC agreed with my opinion, but there was one writer who said that my vanity was hurt because I was rejected by Associated Content. That would be like saying my vanity was hurt because I was rejected by Gary Coleman for a date! Laughable. I was only throwing AC a bone or two, submitting posts from my blogs that I thought might be of interest to their readers. I wasn’t trying to make a creative statement. When I do that I sure wouldn’t waste submitting my work to a second rate site like Associated Content.

I am interesting in hearing what you have to say about AC and their new habit of rejecting almost everything that is submitted, but telling you that you can make money with page-views, which you have to market your page to get. This is so bogus it’s not even funny. Do you think so too? Will AC continue to exist if they don’t start showing their appreciation for their writers?

The dying art of washing dishes

I decided that I wanted to post a poem I wrote. It is called THE DYING ART OF DISHWASHING and was published in Foliate Oak, the school magazine of the University of Arkansas. I hope you like it.

With aging eyes, I witness modernization.

Lying against my antique headboard,

goose down pillows propped behind me,

I watch my new plasma TV,

strategically centered, magically connected,

constantly tuned in to reality.

But in this age of convenience and invention,

There’s one simple thing that relieves my tension.

I stand in front of my kitchen window,

gazing, cocooned, entranced.

Then I dip my hands in the soapy water,

and my soul begins to dance.

I travel to places I’ve never been,

Imagine myself young and free,

My broken heart mends, my guilt disappears.

I’m forgiven for sins committed over years.

All of this happens right here in my mind,

all of these things come true.

When I wash the dishes, life becomes simple.

And just for a while, I stop thinking of you.

Best document scanning service

Business owners are quite aware that with the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley they are required to properly maintain their financial records, which includes the ability to be able to retrieve them upon request. Also, The Fair and Accurate Credit Reporting Act (FACTA) requires business to safeguard the personal information of employees and customers and properly destroy it.

This is where a Document Scanning Service comes into play. Instead of worrying about where to store tons and tons of records, with a Document Scanning Service like Records Nations, where you can get a free quote before you sign up, you can have your documents scanned and stored safely. Records Nations will transfer your paper records into electronic copies. The electronic copies then become available to anyone with access to the document database. Any document can be quickly found using keywords. Using one 80 gigabyte hard drive that can hold 2.7 million documents will cost you only $120. The same storage for paper documents would be 68 4-drawer file cabinets. The cost for one cabinet is more than $120! So, for those very good reasons it only makes good sense to hire a professional document scanning service, don’t you think?

Lessons of life from sports

Robert over at Middle Zone Musings has started a group writing project and the subject matter is so compelling that I couldn’t help but join in. Robert ask the question, what did I learn from the world of sports? There are so many things I have learned from the world of sports that I could probably write a book about it. I played basketball in high school. I was actually pretty darned good at it too. I was the tallest girl in my freshman class, something that worried me–I was afraid I was going to keep growing and end up an amazon–but fortunately I peeked out at 5′6″ and stopped growing taller!

However, that height was a big advantage for me because I could make baskets. I was very aggressive and competitive too. Then, when my kids were little I pitched for an all women’s softball team that was sponsored by Taco Bell. We were called THE TACO SUPREMES. I have always had the skinniest legs and I remember one game when I was pitching and we were winning and the other team started calling me bird legs, taunting me. All that did was make me pitch better, determined not to let them get to me.

Both of my sons played sports their whole lives, starting out with t-ball when they were very young. They both played basketball and football as well. I watched my youngest son become the star pitcher for his high school baseball team. We even had a New York Yankees scout come to our house his junior year to interview him. They were seriously considering drafting him, but that same year he tore his rotator cuff and ended that dream, though he still played, he never got back that 96 mile an hour fast ball. However, he did end up receiving a partial baseball scholarship to a small university in south Texas. I really believe that Justin’s leadership abilities began with sports. He has always been the guy his friends looked up to because he is a winner, even when he loses.

With all of that said, and those experiences to back me up, it comes to me that the main thing I learned from the world of sports is that you must never, ever give up. In life, as in sports, it is determination, commitment, persistence, and the belief in yourself and your dreams that make the difference between winning and losing. It’s not the score, and no matter how bad things might look, there is always another game. Sports has taught me that the outcome is never guaranteed, but if you have the right attitude, you can handle anything that comes your way. The world of sports has taught me that I am made of strong stuff and that adversity builds character. When things look bleak you cannot give up. You have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it. If you do this you can rest assured that when the final whistle blows, no matter the outcome, you are a winner because you didn’t quit.

Aiming for perfection is counterproductive

I often refer to post that Maki at Dosh Dosh makes and that is because he is one of my favorite bloggers. With this post, Why You Shouldn’t Be a Perfectionist he has very possibly moved up to the top of my favorite bloggers list! Why? Because he must have read my mind. So many times I have thought about starting an online business, but due to my perfectionist tendencies I stop before I ever get started, worrying that I won’t be a big success.

Maki addresses this issue, and even goes as far as to describe a desperate need for perfection accompanied by anxiety and obsession, “pathological.” That’s pretty damn scary. But there are so many people who chimed in and commented, that I felt better, knowing I’m not the only pathologically obsessive perfectionist out there!

This article helped me so much that I actually joined Lynn Terry’s Self Starter’s Weekly Forum and ordered her e-book about getting started with online marketing. I have some ideas now and I am going to run with them, to hell with perfection, there is no such thing. I will make mistakes, that is part of life and part of the learning experience.

Main steps to growing blog traffic

I have been blogging for a living for a little over a year. In that time I have learned a lot about what it takes to build blog traffic. This is one of the main challenges that a new blogger faces. What is the point of having a blog if no one is reading it? And for those bloggers who want to monetize their blogs, having decent traffic is mandatory.
I am confident that if you follow the steps below you WILL begin to see a quick improvement in your blog traffic:

1. Learn the Bells and Whistles
Whatever blogging platform you use, whether it be Blogger.Com, Moveable Type, Wordpress, or many of the others out there, before you can become an effective blogger I think you need to learn what makes that puppy operate at maximum efficiency. That doesn’t mean you can’t start blogging, but to me that would be like trying to ride a bicycle for the first time without training wheels.
You are gonna fall, but keep working on it and you will quickly be sailing confidently. In other words, read the instructions and do some research. Wordpress is my blogging platform of choice due to the fact that they have so many plugins and applications that can help you have an easier and more productive blogging experience and also help you gain traffic.

2. Titles are Crucial
There are several reasons that the title of your post is so important. One is that readers will be drawn to what you have to say if your title piques their interest. The second reason is that you want your posts to be picked up by search engines.
Sites like WordTracker will help you find keywords so that you can phrase your title for better search engine optimization.

3. Content is King
I started hearing this long before I started blogging. When I was writing freelance and hanging out on writer’s message boards three years ago “content is king” was being said and it is is especially true for blogging. If you don’t have anything interesting to say, who is going to read your blog?
Blogging is a relationship between you and the reader, just as reading a book is a relationship between the reader and the author. Be yourself, be honest and genuine, create original content that is interesting and informative, use keywords for SEO, create posts with ordered lists, offer advice, write post that invite readers to join in a discussion, and you WILL begin to gain a loyal readership.
And EDIT! Don’t dare publish your posts with grammar, spelling or punctuation errors. Treat your blog with professionalism in this aspect and you will be viewed as a professional.

4. Comments are Queen
One of the most exciting things about blogging, in the beginning anyway, is when you start getting comments. Then you know that at least someone was interested enough in what you had to say to reply.
Be sure to answer all comments and keep a tight rein on getting rid of spam. There are programs in the editor of your blog software that will help you with this, but spam inevitably finds its way into your comment section., so keep your eyes peeled for it.
Trackbacks rock! That means that someone thought enough of what you had to say to refer to it on their own blog. You are definitely on the right track when you start getting trackbacks.

5. Submit to Search Engines and Directories
Submit your blog and/or RSS feed to the search engines of Google, Yahoo, and MSN. This is free. And also list your blog is several big directories.
One of best I have found is Best Blog Directory And RSS Submission Sites Mastermedia but there are tons of free directories you can list your blog with. This is time consuming but it needs to be done. You don’t have to go overboard, just make sure you have spent a good bit of time hitting the top directories.

6. Comment on Other Blogs and in Forums
I can’t count the number of backlinks I have gotten simply by commenting on blogs or in forums. Now when I say that I don’t mean go around spamming these sites. Find a couple of forums where you really are interested and want to be a regular contributor and put your blog link in your signature. Comment on blogs that are in your same niche or that you truly find interesting.
The relationships you form here will become the meat and potatoes of most beginning bloggers’ traffic.

7. Tagging and the Social Networking Sites
Sounds kind of like the name of some new alternative rock band, huh? By tagging, I am talking about using Technorati tags in your post. This will ping Technorati and help you gain readership with so little effort. There are many plugins for Wordpress that will automatically create tags for you.
I am not sure about other blogging platforms because I don’t use them. As far as social networking sites, jeez, there are more out there now than I could ever list. But Stumble Upon has been the most effective for me, along with Blog Catalog. Each blogger has their favorites.
Some people love Digg, some folks swear by MyBlogLog or Technorati (I consider any site that has a bunch of bloggers sharing information “Social Networking” so don’t sue me for putting Digg and Stumble Upon in the same class as Blog Catalog, Technorati and MyBlogLog, it’s all traffic building.)
There is a LOT more to traffic building than what I have listed here. These are just the main things I have found to get you started as a beginning blogger. Once you have gotten your feet good and wet following the steps above, my advice would be to follow the lead of blogs like Dosh Dosh, ProBlogger, and many other A list bloggers who will lead you further down the primrose path of blog traffic building. Good luck and happy blogging!

What is meant by spritual healing?

There is nothing more important, in my opinion, than the continued renewal of the spirit. Sometimes spiritual healing is the only thing that can help us solve our problems. But did you know that there are actually classes you can take an graduate from that teach you how to heal yourself and to help others heal themselves spiritually? Inner Focus will teach you things like:

- Clairvoyant Scanning
- Energetics of your Chakras
- Meditation
- Soul Centered Healing
- Protection and Cleansing
- Living from your Heart
- The Power of Choice in your Life

You will come away more connected to yourself, connected to your inner child, aligned with your own power, transformed about core issues, and totally self empowered.