Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Very cold

Yesterday, while writing about researching the history of the ice cube, I wrote “mush as I love” – sounded like I’d had a glass of ice cubes with a tad too much martini in it! Sheesh!

Finished and polished The Literary Athlete column yesterday, and got it out to my editor, finally on time for once, rather than just under the wire. I think the to-do lists are helping.

I toted up how much lost work time, how many lost billable hours the Demon McAfee cost me in January and February. Are you ready for this? $1589 in lost billable hours, and that’s not even at my full rate. Yeah, they’re hearing about it.

I have to comment on the current frenzy about newspapers and magazines folding. As I see it, there are several reasons for this. One is that too many papers have been taken over by conglomerates and aren’t balancing unique local news with far-reaching stories. But the two biggest reasons I believe newspapers are failing are price and content. The NEW YORK TIMES is $1.50 PER DAY. In this economy, people can’t afford it. Yeah, the NEWS and the POST are only 50 cents, but their content’s not worth even those two bits most of the time. Newspapers are so frantic to get content out fast that they don’t care any more if it’s correct or good. Of course that’s always been the case in some newspapers, and it cycles through time periods. But I miss some of the outstanding journalism of the 1960’s and 1970’s (sure, there was crap journalism then, too, but there was also a lot of great stuff). The quality of writing has gone down, you can’t find two sides of an issue in an article any more, and there are typos and grammatical mistakes all over the place. You need to have copy editors, not just run it through spell check, which is wrong most of the time anyway. Plus, so many of the same stories are placed in different newspapers, you no longer get a sense of place when you’re in a new city and you’re reading the paper. You could be anywhere. And, despite the wails going up that ad revenue goes down, there are certain newspapers in which you need to use a magnifying glass to FIND news stories in between the ads.

As far as magazines go, I’ve dumped the bulk of my subscriptions because the content on any given month over the range of magazines is identical. Because they’re not paying writers well anymore, it reflects in the quality of the writing. And they’re edited so there are no unique voices. Every article in a given magazine sounds the same, and place four or five mags in the same genre beside each other and the content is, well, generic. On top of that, too many of these magazines are running ads by companies I find skeezy. If you’re a supposedly health-oriented magazine, I believe it’s hypocritical to run ads by companies promoting unhealthy products, and I’m not going to give you my hard-earned money.

Why would these publishers think they COULD survive?

Pay good writes what they’re worth, encourage unique voices and well-rounded content, and your sales will pick up. DUH!

I’m keeping YOGA JOURNAL and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC because they retain unique voices and have unusual, inventive features.

On the freelance front, I feel lucky because I’ve got clients on my roster who are a joy with whom to work, and whose projects I genuinely enjoy. For each of those, I’m approached about a dozen times a day by would-be clients who don’t respect my time and my work and want a lot for nothing because “it’s not hard”, “it doesn’t take so much time”, “you’re a professional, how about giving back”. I’m seriously thinking of starting a column called “Tales of the Clue-Free.” Freelancers all over the world can relate.

Gotta love Mayor Bloomberg – in yesterday’s news conference, he suggested everyone bundle up and go to the parks for sledding and free hot chocolate. Schools closed for the first time in five years.

Got some work done on the revisions of ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT. The changes that need to happen are starting to make sense. I’m also writing the chapter-by-chapter outline as I revise the chapters; then I’ll pull the synopsis out of that, and develop the one paragraph summary and the logline.

Got work done on several client projects in the afternoon, worked on some corporate proposals and some business correspondence. I’m also checking on a neighbor’s cat – poor baby is very lonely, so I’m spending a couple of hours with him, playing and sometimes just sitting in a chair reading a book with him on my lap (he weights more than all three of mine put together). Of course, before I go over there, it’s like surgical scrub time – different clothes, totally disinfecting myself, so I don’t bring over any germs, and then washing up again when I get back. Considering how I’m sterilizing all the cat bowls over here all the time, too, I may be a little over-cautious, but better safe than more sick kitties. I don’t always stay ahead of clutter, but I can’t stand dirt.. Right now – seriously, you COULD perform surgery in the kitchen or the bathroom. I’m cleaner than most hospitals. Yeah, I realize that’s not saying much in this day and age, but you get the idea . . .

And the cats are starting to lose their winter coats, so we’re back to daily vacuuming. Maybe most people vacuum every day, but in normal circumstances, I only vacuum once or twice a week. Not during spring and fall shedding seasons, though!

Good morning’s work on the Billy Root story. I’m getting back into the rhythm of it.

Back to the page. Plenty to do.

Elsa is a little better, which takes off some of the pressure. She’s still sneezing, but her breathing’s not as wet and steadier. It took about five days, but I think the antibiotics are finally kicking in.


Billy Root story – 25,373 words out of est. 60,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
25 / 60

ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT revision – 6,581words out of est. 80,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
6 / 80


  1. Good news on Elsa. Happy to hear it. 🙂

    Magazines – there’s one I used to read (or I should say looked at the photos). It was a cute idea at first, but I’m tired of the lack of editorial presence. If you use the same phrases more than twice in the same issue, people will notice. Oh, and if you repeat them four or five times, some of us will hurl and drop our subscriptions. I didn’t like that this magazine did it repeatedly and worse, they had one entire page devoted to how a particular staff member (same one every month) dresses. Frankly, I think she dresses like an urban slob, so this little feature is a waste of my subscription dollars. And I don’t find her cool or even remotely interesting, yet they feature her a LOT in that magazine. Makeovers – three in the last year. If she’s not looking any better, repeating the process isn’t going to help her.

    Newspapers – If you give your content away on the Internet, don’t be foolish enough to think anyone will pay for a print edition. Period. Just drop the paper’s price (for folks who aren’t online), up the advertising costs for your online venue and pretend your main audience is online, because it is.

  2. Hooray! Elsa is feeling better! And LOL on the typo in your last post. You aren’t by chance a perfectionist, are you? 😉

    I love the National Geographic magazine. Except some of the pictures aren’t “kid friendly.” Otherwise I’d totally subscribe to it. 🙂

    Hope you have a productive day.

  3. So did you go sledding and get hot chocolate?????

    Good news for Elsa.

    And I get no magazines. No time.

  4. I went to pick up my little small town paper, THE NEW HOPE GAZETTE, last week and found out it went out of business. I was shocked. I like reading about local news and what’s going on down on Main Street. I wish they had at least gone online for a while.

    In Philadelphia I used to pick up PGN, THE PHILADELPHIA GAY NEWS. And now I read that totally online. It’s not so much the paper format I miss now, it’s knowing what happened.

    Go Elsa!!

  5. I was going to ask the same question as PJ.. Did you?? 🙂

  6. I decided to stop all my subscriptions, too. They were piling up, cluttering my house and stressing me out. And I’d much rather spend the day with Percy Jackson than another article on how to lose weight!

    Do you outline before you start a story or only after it’s done?

  7. To keep our budget lean we stopped subscribing to magazines years ago. Every now and then I’ll pick one up or we’ll get one from the library.
    I noticed your “mush” yesterday, but knew you were under a lot of stress, no way was I adding to it! *G*
    Glad to hear Elsa’s medication is finally starting to work. And you’re making me feel bad for the neighbors kitty. Poor baby.

    I hope you have a good day and achieve all you set out to do.

  8. I’m glad Elsa is doing better.

  9. Good post, your post could really help me in my work. Hopefully this will help increase my traffic more. Thanks for sharing.

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