After The Dream

It’s the modern-day dream. Being able to work for yourself without being tied down to an office, a boss, or a company. No dream comes free though, and all freelancers have to take the good with the bad. But who are you to complain. You’re living the dream, right?

Right.  

That’s what I always thought until I spoke to Hollis Bartlett, a freelance web developer and designer I met a few days ago. He’s been building websites since 1996 and loves what he does. He’s built a very successful business for himself, and even hired an assistant developer to help him with the workload.

Unfortunately, the nature of the business just became too much for him, and he decided to hang up his mouse and keyboard and (partially) retire. Here’s an excerpt of his email to me:

I’ve grown to dislike the business. It’s a shame, because I still love creating designs in Photoshop, and oddly enough I love love love creating web design using css & html. I love putting together CMS templates with all of these components, and my favourite part is still helping people get their business online properly. The business part afterwards, however, sucks the big one. Waiting for invoices to get paid (usually late). People not paying attention to what you tell them, and constantly bugging you for shit you already told them 10 times. People don’t read emails. They assume they can call you at any time of the day, on any day of the week including Sundays.  I had one show up at my house unannounced on a Sunday afternoon.

You can read the rest of it here.

The reason I find this so poignant is that many people (myself included) dream of being able to support ourselves and our families by doing the thing we love. We work hard and put ourselves through hell to make it happen and, through luck and blood and sweat, some of us do. Hollis did.

What Hollis’ experience taught me is that there’s always an after. Always. Life doesn’t stop once you reach that dream. You don’t watch the sunset through your home office window and cue the credits to roll. Things still happen. Projects fail. Clients complain. Bills come in. Your motivation dies. The dream fades to gray.

By that same token, you don’t have to stay there. Things can turn sour, but there’s always a way to make it better. Hollis took the leap by retiring and moving to a new city. I’m sure other freelancers who got sick of the job adapted in their own way as well, whether by retiring or evolving into different services.

Will I ever be able to support my family with my freelancing? Am I ever going to be a published author? It might happen. Once I do, will I eventually get sick of it? It’s possible. What am I going to do when it actually happens? I have no idea.

Do you?

The War Against Factoids

I was listening to a radio show this morning and the host said something along the lines of: “Did you know Jon Bon Jovi’s first band was named “Raze”? I thought I’d share that interesting factoid with you.”

I’ve heard many people, both on TV/radio and in person, using the word in that context to mean a novel or insignificant fact, much like trivia. And every time they do, it drives me nuts, because they’re using it wrong.

The original definition of the word “factoid” is

Dictionary

Still the most misunderstood book in the world.

…something fictitious or unsubstantiated that is presented as fact,  devised especially to gain publicity and accepted because of constant repetition.

Now, I’m not normally a grammar nazi. If you want to misuse a word, fine. But what irks me is that some people use this as a way of sounding smart when they’re actually exposing their own ignorance (and it’s not the only word they get wrong, either).

What they’re actually doing is stating a fact and then unwittingly defining it as a falsehood by using the word factoid. Even Wikipedia has taken note of the misuse, and apparently it’s been used so often that the other, wrong definition has become common usage! So the factoid is, itself, a factoid. Very paradoxical (yes, I just did that to sound smart).

Anyway. Old man rant done. I’m putting my cane away and you kids can go ahead and play on the lawn again.

Fool Me Once, Shame On Me

I had mentioned in a previous blog post that I had a certain delinquent payment that I was trying to resolve. I wouldn’t say I was chasing the editor down. Rather, I was just emailing every single person on the magazine’s contact page until I found one that would respond. Very reasonable, right? No cuss words or stalker-ish phone calls or anything. And it just so happened that the person who responded was their publisher!

Perfect! Attention from the top!

This person was very polite, even after I sent her the delinquent invoice of $80, and said the payment would be taken care of in short order. Sure enough, after an hour, I received a payment in Paypal. But it was only for $25. Huh?

I was by turns confused, concerned, insulted, confused again, and finally curious. There had to be a mistake somewhere.

And there was. Just not where I was expecting.

I mentioned (in very polite terms) the agreement that the editor and I had at the start of the project. I referenced the amount in the job ad they’d posted, which was the same amount the editor and I discussed over the phone. $80. The publisher politely but firmly instructed me that there must’ve been some confusion, and to consult the contract I’d signed at the start of the project.

Uh oh.

Did you read?

I checked. And there it was, in black and white. $25.

Now, I could’ve gone ballistic and yelled my head off about not getting the agreed upon amount. I could’ve sent a nasty email about the bait and switch that these people were pulling on contributors who work in good faith. But really, all I could muster was a resigned thought: They got me.

1st rule of freelancing is to always check your contract. Always. Golden rule. So this situation is really my own fault. The magazine may have been sneaky and underhanded, but they did nothing illegal. I signed a contract that I didn’t read. Lesson learned, watch out next time.

And honestly? I’m just glad I got paid at all.

My To-Read List as of June 13, 2012

My dream basement!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’d know that I barely have time to brush my teeth, let alone read any books. But I always find a way, because a) reading books is fun, and b) reading books is essential to my professional and creative development if I am to succeed in both business writing and genre fiction writing stop looking at me like that this is not a justification it’s a totally reasonable argument so there put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Cool? Cool.

So here’s the list. Usually it’s single-volumes. But if there’s any particular series I’d like to read, I just list down the author’s name, instead. Allow me to apologize in advance for how short this list will be.

In no particular order:

1) Hostage Nation: Colombia’s Guerrilla Army – Victoria Bruce, Karin Hayes & Jorge Enrique Botero (Non-Fiction)
2) Across the nightingale floor – Lian Hearn (Historical Fiction)
3) Soon I Will Be Invincible – Austin Grossman (SF)
4) Lois McMaster Bujold (SF)
5) Feed – M.T. Anderson (SF)
6) The Dwarves – Markus Heitz (Fantasy)
7) Saga of Seven Suns – Kevin J Anderson (SF)
8) Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death – Jim Frederick (Non-Fiction)
9) Julie Czerneda (SF/F)
10) Ten Percent of Nothing: The Literary Agent from Hell – Jim Fisher (Non-Fiction)
11) David Foster Wallace – Literary
12) Sonny’s Blues – James Baldwin (Short Story)
13) The New Writer’s Handbook (Vol 2) – Ted Kooser, Philip Martin (Non-Fiction)
14) Mortification: Writers’ stories of their public shame – Robin Robertson (Non-Fiction)
15) The Secret History of Fantasy – Peter S. Beagle (Non-Fiction)
16) Wild Seed – Octavia Butler (Fantasy)
17) The Women Who Lived for Danger: The Agents of the Special Operations Executive – Marcus Binney (Non-Fiction)
18) Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 – Christopher Andrew (Non-Fiction)
19) Redshirts – John Scalzi (SF)
20) The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (Fantasy)
21) The Most Expensive Game In Town – Mark Hyman (Non-Fiction)

So what’s on your reading list?

Coming Up For Air

Coming up for air

Sup?

Things have been pretty busy for me the past couple of weeks. I didn’t want to let this blog sit for too long without an update, but neither do I have time to do multiple updates, so I’m putting it all into one blog post. Warning, it may be long-ish.

Freelance Stuff

Good news: Quite a few projects going on. One that I’m really enjoying right now is doing mod reviews for a little game called Minecraft. I think I must be the only freelancer online being paid for this kind of thing. Most of my other projects are small but consistent, and that’s just what I need right now. Especially considering…

Bad news: … that a feature magazine article I wrote back in March has not yet been paid. The editor is ignoring my emails, even the ones with a copy of the contract that SHE gave me. Considering my options. More on this as it develops.

Baby Stuff

I think Avi is going to grow up to be a performer or something. She loves dance videos and imitates nearly every move she sees on-screen. In fact, she already predicts her favorite videos and beats the performers to the punch!

Creative Writing Stuff

I’ve been doing a lot of work on my first novel. I’ve written others before, but I’m hoping this will be the first one I actually COMPLETE. Things are looking good so far. I’ve set a fairly aggressive daily writing quota (for me anyway), and if I can hit that 3 times out of 5 I’ll still be in good shape. And before you ask, yes. I did hit today’s quota, and then some. Which is why I have time to blog.

Flash Fiction Online Stuff

Still slogging through the slush pile. There are days when I dread logging into Submishmash, but being able to find that one gem in all the muck is a rewarding experience.

Day Job Stuff

Have I ever done a post about my new job? I don’t believe so. Well, let me just say that In-house Marketing is a far cry from Agency Marketing. A far, far, FAR cry. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at this many spreadsheets before in my life. It’s all important though, and I do think I’m getting the hang of it.

Okay, I think that’s everything. I’ll try to work on a more topical post as my schedule warrants.