S.L. Viehl's Blog

February 17, 2017

My guy and I both like lighthouses, so when we got the chance to go inside the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime museum, we couldn't resist:

Signs all around the lighthouse property warned us that climbing the lighthouse's spiral staircase was the equivalent of walking up a fourteen-story building. I wasn't worried; while I'm not going to win any marathons my legs are pretty strong.

Looking up from the base of the lighthouse:

So we climbed. We took a few short breaks on the landings (I'm not so athletic that I can climb up 219 steps without stopping.) The staircase narrowed the higher we went, and we had to wait for people coming down the steps, but finally we made it to the top.

The view proved to be pretty spectacular:

There was a little window that allowed you to see inside the lighthouse's gigantic Fresnel lens, too:

And then there was the climb down, which was not half as tough as the climb up:

If you're ever in the area I highly recommend it as a terrific experience, especially for history lovers.

At the top of the lighthouse I experienced some extraordinary clarity, too. While everyone around me looked nervous, excited, and even a little intimidated, I felt right at home. My guy marveled at the small size of the room where the Lightkeeper worked to keep the beacon burning, but it looked right to me -- maybe because it was about the same size as my work desk. I also liked how hard it was to get to the top; you really had to want it to do all that work.

One lady mentioned how dull the Lightkeeper's job must have been, not to have any television or radio or things to do. I could see him sitting and reading by the light of the beacon, or writing letters, or simply watching the boats come into the harbor -- none of which seemed boring to me. If I had been born in 1888, I would have applied for the job.

I've always thought of retreating from the world into my work as going to my ivory tower -- the old chestnut most writers use -- but from now on I'll think of it as manning my lighthouse.
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Published on February 17, 2017 07:07 • 4 views

February 14, 2017

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Published on February 14, 2017 04:00 • 3 views

February 13, 2017

I'm unplugging this week to have some fun. See you on Friday.
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Published on February 13, 2017 04:00 • 2 views

February 10, 2017

I spotted this multi-job freelance op over in the Paying Markets forum at AbsoluteWrite.com:

"Underground Book Reviews is a community of independent authors. We write a new review of an indie book each week, free of charge.

We are looking for reviewers, columnists, judges and blogging partners in 2017. All positions are paid freelance positions, starting at $15 per article, with the potential of earning up to $75 per review. If you are interested, please fill out our contact form with the title “FREELANCE REQUEST”. Include a short resume and a link to an article or review that you have written, as well as a link to your personal website. An online presence is a must, and active involvement in the indie community is a huge plus."

I took a look at the web site, and it seems pretty interesting. With the huge volume of indie titles being published, the ops might result in steady work, too. Disclaimer: as always with any freelance position, please do thoroughly check out the job requirements, restrictions, and any applicable fine print that might be included before you sign on.
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Published on February 10, 2017 04:00 • 13 views

February 6, 2017

One thing I'd like to do this month is repurpose some cardboard and paper from my recycling bin; this stack here consists of two somewhat dented clothing inserts, a 2017 calendar insert, a lidless chip box and the view-panel sleeve my new laptop skin came in. I have no idea what I'll make out of them, but I figure one project per week should be a decent challenge.

Her are some stats from the EPA on recycling:

In 2014, in the United States, about 258 million tons of MSW (municipal solid waste) were generated. Over 89 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted, equivalent to a 34.6 percent recycling rate. In addition, over 33 million tons of MSW were combusted with energy recovery and 136 million tons were landfilled.

In 2014, 89.5 percent of corrugated boxes were recycled. About 61 percent of yard trimmings were composted. Organic materials such as paper and paperboard, yard trimmings and food were the largest component of MSW generated. Paper and paperboard accounted for over 26 percent, and yard trimmings and food accounted for another 28.2 percent. Plastics comprised about 13 percent of MSW; rubber, leather and textiles accounted for over nine percent; and metals made up nine percent. Wood followed at over six percent, and glass over four percent. Other miscellaneous wastes made up approximately three percent of the MSW generated in 2014.

Recycling and composting of MSW results in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction. In 2014, the 89 million tons of MSW recycled and composted provided an annual reduction of over 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, comparable to the annual emissions from over 38 million passenger cars."
(You can find the entire report by clicking here.)

My tiny town has started weekly recycling pick-ups, so I could just dump everything in the bin now, but I think it's still important to find new ways to reuse things. Recycling anything costs money for hauling, sorting, storing and processing. Repurposing costs little to nothing, and allows you to make something yourself versus buying it new, so you can also save money.

You don't have to make a huge art project out of recyclable materials, either. For example:

1. Instead of buying note pads or shopping lists, save whatever you print out, flip it to the blank side and stack it in a clipboard -- instant scratch paper. You can also cut it down to a smaller size and stack it in an open box.

2. If you have a shredder, you can shred your junk mail and use it as packing material for the next package you ship.

3. Keep a used envelope to store coupons for your next trip to the market. These also make great holders for lottery tickets, extra bookmarks, sticker sheets, or anything flat.

There are plenty of resources online to help you, too. Here's a blog post by Francesco Mugnai about projects made from recycled cardboard that is particularly fabulous (I love the chandelier and the cat furniture).

In the weeks ahead I'll report back on my repurposing projects as I finish them, and show you what I did to reuse the materials.
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Published on February 06, 2017 04:00 • 1 view

February 3, 2017

In a few weeks I'll be heading to the county quilt show I attend every year, so I'm making a new crazy quilt tote to take with me. This is mostly for fun, but also to show my sewing sisters that I'm not all work and no play.

I have been all about the work these last few months. Along with the new copy writing job, I've been immersed in a big project nearly every day since October of 2016. I'm finally at the finish line, too (I should cross it some time tonight.) This is the largest and longest ghost writing job I've worked on since I went freelance, and it's taught me quite a bit. What I'll take away from it -- aside from the very nice paycheck -- will help me improve my scheduling, how I juggle my work sessions with home life, and how much time I devote to things other than writing.

How much time you work and play often determines how successful you are, but it can also affect how happy you are in general. My most productive ratio seems to be seven to one, or one hour of play for every seven hours of work. I learned a long time ago that if I spend my entire day working (this includes housework as well as writing) I go to bed feeling exhausted and creatively drained. The flip side is just as If I blow off work and play all day I am swamped by guilt and worry over the work I'm neglecting, plus I can't sleep.

Finding my optimum ratio was actually a by-product of my plan to hand-make all my Christmas presents last year. For five months I devoted at least one hour a night to my gift projects, all of which were fun for me. I then noticed how much better I felt in the morning when I went to work. I started tracking my work/play hours along with my mood in my personal journal, and settled on seven to one as the ideal balance.

To find your happiest work/play ratio, here's the process I used:

1. Track the time you normally devote to work (things you have to do for income and/or family) and play (things you want to do for fun) for one week. Be honest, too, because inflating or deflating the hours spent won't give you a real picture of how you're spending your time. Mark the days when you felt at your best and most productive.

2. Take the work/play ratio from the day you felt at your best during the first week, and use them every other day during the next week. Again, mark the most productive days.

3. For the third week, take all your best day ratios and come up with an average, and use that ratio every other day. Keep tracking your best days.

4. Take the ratios from your best days during the third week, average them again, and use that ratio every day for a week.

You can keep doing this until your average ratio figure stabilizes, but after a month you should have a pretty good idea of what your best work/play ratio is.
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Published on February 03, 2017 09:33 • 2 views

January 27, 2017

I'm finishing up a big project for a client, so I'll be unplugging for a week to complete the last stretch. See you next Friday.
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Published on January 27, 2017 04:00 • 1 view

January 23, 2017

Literature Map is a reader recommendation generator that seems to work off what readers authors share, and I'll quote here: "The more people like an author and another author, the closer together these two authors will move on the Literature-Map."

Ah, vanity, thy name is byline. I didn't think mine would even register on it, but lo and behold:

(My map is a bit bigger than this, but I couldn't fit it all on the blog and have it readable.)

Some PBW trivia: Judith Ivory and I belonged to the same RWA chapter way back when I was rookie, and we talked a couple of times, mostly about gardening. She's a lovely and very kind lady, and I probably share only one reader with her, but I'll take it. I laughed when I saw Rob Thurman's name (not pictured) since I never imagined we'd share readers. I'm also a little startled by how many names I didn't recognize, but I guess that's because I don't read much genre fiction these days. Must remedy that.

I nicked this generator link from author Sara Donati, who has a very interesting map of her own and blog post about it here.
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Published on January 23, 2017 04:00 • 2 views

January 20, 2017

I spotted this multi-sub op over in the Paying Markets forum at AbsoluteWrite.com:

"We are a horror fiction magazine open to submissions! This will be for our April Issue, both in Print and on Kindle. It is our second issue. Our Featured Author for this issue is Jack Ketchum. We'll be open for about a month!

Pay for Short Stories is $50 plus a print copy. As an added bonus, we do not maintain copyrights over your work. As soon as we publish, the rights return to you.

We also accept:
Flash Fiction
Creative Non-Fiction

And, if you'd like to review, there may be a spot open for that as well.

Visit us to find out more! We have a bunch of shenanigans going on!


Instantly reverting rights and shenanigans are always good things in my POV, so you horror writers should check it out.

We're already past the middle of January, which leaves eleven months and eleven days to write in 2017. My count for the month is already 55K, so I feel like I've started as I mean to go on, and I need to. I'm currently working out with the clients what I will write for the next eight months, and beyond that I've been reserved to write until December, so there's even more to do before 2017 wraps.

Working out a writing schedule for an entire year can seem daunting, especially for the organically minded, but it's really just a matter of deciding what you want to do and how much time you want to devote to it. Most pros eventually figure out what they can comfortably/reliably produce, and (unless they're superstars who can do whatever they like and still make millions) map their time out accordingly so they know what and how much to pitch in advance.

Here are some tips to help you plan your 2017 writing year:

Calculate your daily count: Write at a pace that's good for you for a week or a month, and keep track of your total wordcount. Divide the total by the number of days it took you to write that, and you'll learn your daily count, or how much you can write in a day. This should allow you to calculate how long it will take you to finish any project.

Get a writing calendar or planner: 2017 Calendars are super cheap right now, and devoting one strictly to your writing schedule will keep all your plans and quotas in one place. You can also use a digital version on your computer or your phone.

Factor in time off: Unless you live by yourself, write seven days a week, and never leave the house, there will be days when you can't/won't write, so it's a good idea to know when your holidays, family events, vacations, etc. land on your year. Mark these on your writing calendar first so you can see them while you're scheduling your writing time.

Allow recharging space: Try to take a little time off from writing every month to allow the well to refill, recharge your creative batteries, etc. This month I'm taking only be a couple of days, but next month I've reserved a weekend for fun and two days to attend the county quilt show.

Have a reward system for making your goals: I get paid by the clients when I finish their projects, but that's my income. I've found that having a little reward to look forward to helps keep me motivated, so I make a point to give myself one every time I do make those goals. Rewards don't have to be big or expensive things, but they should be something you really like. For example, last week I took my daughter out for lunch at a neat Japanese restaurant we both like, and this pic is the bento box lunch I had, which was a delicious reward.

Are you going to schedule your writing year? Got any tips to share? Let us know in comments.
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Published on January 20, 2017 09:46 • 1 view

January 16, 2017

Over the last couple of weeks I've heard a lot about the closure of All Romance ebooks, which has evidently is going to cost a lot of writers overdue royalty payments. I don't know enough about the facts or circumstances to comment on what happened, but any time writers end up losing money they earned I sympathize. I hope everyone affected by this manages to recover and find new and more reliable venues for their work.

As a freelancer I had to part ways with a client who offered to pay me royalties instead of my contracted fee. I accept only flat fee work from my clients, one project at a time, payable on delivery. Until I get paid for the last finished project I don't do any new work, either, which keeps my risk minimal. This also makes my income reliable, and keeps both sides honest and happy. As much as I liked my former client, I am an independent contractor now. I have no desire to go back to hoping I get a royalty check and that the figures are authentic.

My line of work is not a gold mine; I don't make income ad infinitum with flat-fee, on-delivery, per-project contracts. I sign over all rights to the work to the client, so there are zero royalties. When the work is done, I'm paid in full, I'm finished, and I move on to the next project. These are some of the reasons that writing for hire is not for everyone. You have to go into the project knowing that once it's finished, it belongs to the client entirely. I'm fine with that (I prefer it to byline work, actually) but for some writers this can be very difficult.

How you profit off the success of writer for hire work is by repeat business. What makes money for your clients creates more new jobs for you. Once you have a list of regular clients who will pay you well to continue writing for them, your income stabilizes. That means you don't have to hunt for new clients or go for weeks or months with no money coming in. It doesn't happen overnight -- it took me two years to build my client list -- but if you're picky, and only work on projects that interest you with people who inspire and respect you, you can make a decent, reliable living.

There are other benefits, too. A freelance writer doesn't have to pay 15% to an agent to get work, or wait months on an editor in NY to make a contract offer, or wonder when royalties will be paid, or if they're even accurate. If you go flat-fee only, as I have, you don't have to deal with royalties at all. In time you can even forecast your income by advance bookings; mine presently stretch to the end of 2017. I'm not being smug about that, either -- I've worked very hard at making this gig work, but there's always plenty of competition out there. As a freelancer you have to keep giving your clients the best you can, or they will dump you for someone better.

Sometimes taking a different direction can change everything, too. All I ever really care about is the writing, and making a living from it. I have always written very fast, and once the work is done, I always want to move onto the next thing, too. That's why writing for hire was a perfect fit for me; I just didn't realize it until I left traditional publishing and went 100% freelance. So if you're starting out, or considering making a radical change as I did, first think about what you want, and what you're willing to do for it.
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Published on January 16, 2017 04:00 • 5 views

S.L. Viehl's Blog

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