Uncategorized · Writing Stuff

Don’t Be Vocal – Read the Fine Print

close up of eyeglasses
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m a mercenary. I want to be paid to do things, and I’ll do a number of things to get paid.

One of the things I do is write content for various online sites. A lot of them are kind of wonky in how you get paid – page views, sales through Amazon affiliate links, all that kind of good stuff.

I thought I might add to my current sites, so I wandered around the interwebs, and I came across “Vocal.”

Interesting place, I thought. There seem to be a lot of users and a lot of user generated content. It seems to be good content, too. Stuff that will draw in readers.

Maybe I should sign up!

But then…I did what you should do. I read the fine print.

Terms of Use:
“You retain ownership of the intellectual property rights in your User Content, subject to the license you grant to the Company below and elsewhere in these Terms of Service.

By transmitting User Content on or through the Services, you grant the Company a nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, fully paid, assignable, transferable, sublicensable license to use, reproduce, store, modify, edit (e.g., fixing typos, making editorial changes), truncate, aggregate, display, perform, distribute, prepare derivative works based on, and transmit such User Content, in any medium that now exists or may arise in the future, and otherwise exploit your User Content (including, but not limited to, use of your name in association with your User Content to identify you as the “Creator”) in connection with the Services and the Company’s (and our successors’ and assigns’) businesses, including after your termination of your account or the Services, and you waive any and all moral rights and publicity rights in such User Content. You represent that you have all of the necessary rights to grant this license to the Company for all of your User Content, and that such license is granted without infringement or violation of any third party rights, including without limitation, any privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, trademarks, contract rights, or any other intellectual property or proprietary rights. You agree that this license includes the right for other users of the Services to access and use your User Content, subject to our terms and conditions regarding such use and the right for the Company to allow its third party business partners (including social media services) to use your User Content and that this license has no restriction as to the medium, dissemination method, type of services the Company or its business partners may offer, or the type of systems or products that may be used in conjunction with your User Content.”

What does that mean?

You might “own” your content, but they can do whatever they feel like with it forever and ever, amen.

Well, at least they pay me, right?

How to Earn Money:

“You may be paid for user engagement with certain User Content that you submit to the Site. The Company determines amounts payable to users derived from User Content based on proprietary algorithms developed by the Company and subject to change in the Company’s sole discretion, without notice to the User. Generally, the algorithms measure and assign weight to such user engagement metrics as popularity of the content with visitors as measured by number of unique visitors; visitors’ interaction with the content; amount of time spent by visitors on the page; and shares on social media. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Company reserves the right to modify its algorithm at any time, which may result in decreased revenue to users for similar content, and to suspend monetization program altogether.”

So, let’s review, shall we?

You own your work, but they can use it as much as they want, however they want, in perpetuity, and you have no say over any of it.

That sounds fair.

And you get paid, but they figure out how much they pay you, unless they decide to stop paying you, and they can’t actually tell you exactly how they figure out how much they pay you.

Another totally fair aspect of writing for them.

Now, maybe I’m being harsh, and maybe you think that you’re digging this place and going to write for them.

Clearly, this one is not right for me: I don’t want people to use my stuff ad infinitum without having to pay me or get my approval to change and use, and I really don’t want them to stop paying me just because they don’t want to pay me.

But if you like them? Cool.

I will never tell someone that they should only write for money or that they should only write for free. As a writer, it is up to you to decide what you want for what you do. You have your reasons, and I’ll stay in my lane and let you make your own decisions.

But. Please. Read. The. Fine. Print.

Writing Stuff

Keep Starving

Ad for "Starving Writers" to write for freeSometimes I foolishly check out Craigslist to see if there are any writing gigs. I know better, but I do it anyway. It’s kind of like going to Applebee’s and thinking that you’ll have a good meal. Hope is eternal and stupid.

But sometimes you find something that makes it all worth it.

This particular ad is a double whammy.

First – it’s actually called Starving Writers. I suppose that’s honesty in advertising because if you submit to it, your compensation is “published.”

I’m not sure about you, but the last time I tried to get coffee by telling a barista that their compensation is that they practiced their coffee-making skills, they didn’t give me the coffee I ordered. They were even a wee bit annoyed that I had gotten them to make the coffee and then refused to pay actual money for it.

Second – they tell you that “it doesn’t cost anything” to submit your work to them.

After I finished making a little altar to worship their absolute kindness and generosity, I tried this with a contractor. I told them that I wouldn’t charge them to give me a quote on doing work around the house, and I wouldn’t even pay them for their work once I hired them. I’m not sure what their problem was, but they refused to even come to my house! I don’t get it. Why weren’t they totally appreciative of my willingness to take their work for nothing?

I’m 100% behind writers helping writers. Getting the names of other writers out in public, championing other writers’ work, reviewing books that you enjoy. These are all ways to help out and get writers the audience they need and deserve.

As someone who ran a small press for almost 10 years, I paid my writers. I didn’t make any money. I bought a few stories each month – $25 for short stories, $10 for flash fiction.

The stories appeared online, and once a year, I created a print anthology. Each author got one, plus the option to buy more and sell them. I finally turned a profit on an anthology, “Loving the Undead. An anthology of romance…sort of.” It wasn’t a huge profit, but it encouraged me.

I kept the press going until I couldn’t pay my writers anymore. Due to some health issues, I couldn’t work as many hours and couldn’t afford it. But I didn’t ask them to work for free.

Writers need to support each other, and that means in all ways, including financially. Buy their books, buy their anthologies, subscribe to their Patreon accounts, and join in on their Kickstarters. Writers do this to earn a living. They need to pay bills, just like everyone else.

[I do want to mention that I am also completely behind the idea of anthologies and books that are published for fundraising for various purposes. I organizations who make money from charity anthologies. They often get big name authors to help champion their cause and raise awareness. That is very different.]


My Table

Let me take you back…about thirty years ago, to be exact. I spent a morning working down in my grandfather’s basement. Pop-pop had a full workshop from his many years as an engineer, and I think he was probably pretty happy that (even though he had granddaughters instead of grandsons), they were still interested in what he did. So we spent that summer morning building a cube. It was simple, it was easy, but, for me and my eight-year-old self, it was awesome. Later on, I drew flowers on it with a marker, and it disappeared somewhere down the line. But it was a big, solid block, and I think I even used it as a trashcan for a while.

Of course, Pop-pop was way better at it than I was. We still have one of the “Pop-pop chairs” in my house – one of the chairs made for my sister and me when we were little kids. They were awesome, and they’ve held up to years of abuse.

So, to me, making stuff is important.

Fast-forward. A few years ago, we got a big, comfy recliner to go in the bedroom. The only space for it was next to the bed on my side. The problem was that it was a bit bigger than we thought. It didn’t fit with the bed and my bedside table, so I moved my bedside table and began using a simple little IKEA table. It worked, and it fulfilled its purpose. But no matter what, it was a black, thin, fake wood (can it even be called “wood” with the word fake in front of it? And when it’s that obvious? And doesn’t that also imply that there could be some confusion and someone could somehow imagine that it was made of wood?).

More forward movement. I went away for my final residency at University of Tampa for my MFA in Creative Writing. And I came back to find something in the garage – Patrick had begun making me a table. Like from scratch. And from wood. Actual, honest-to-goodness pieces of wood that had once upon a time been part of a tree. He took some time to get it finished up properly, and just this past weekend, he finished it up and moved it into the bedroom, into its proper place.

Now let me tell you why it’s so awesome.

  1. Many years ago, I heard a story about Richard Pryor. Apparently he had an awesome idea for a joke one night when he was asleep. Being the clever sort, he had a tape recorder at his bed-side, and he woke up enough to share the brilliant joke with the microphone. The next morning, he woke up and listened, ready to hear – and jot down – his masterpiece. Except it wasn’t there. All that was on the tape was mumbling, punctuated with a lot of laughs. From him. He had no memory of what was so funny, and he had no way of interpreting his noises.

    Why bring that up?

    Because I’ve done similar things, only worse. Falling asleep, inspiration strikes! I know what to write about! I’ve come up with the first line – or the last line – of whatever I’m working on! I’ve solved the problem with my plot! (Or character! Or setting! Or whatever!)

    And my brain convinces me that I don’t need to write it down

    But I do need to write it down! And since it’s always late and dark that means fumbling around for something to write with or write on. But no more.

    Because Patrick is so awesome that he made the top of my table a whiteboard!

    So now I can just grab a handy marker and scrawl it out on the table so that, in the morning, I can look at it and say, “What the hell does that mean?” (I have a note in my phone that says “Robot Roosevelt.” Still have no idea why.)


  1. It has a totally custom, totally amazing inlay of a hummingbird. Last summer, I got this hummingbird tattoo.  Since I like my body art to be unique (or mostly unique), I contracted with Victoria Shipman to draw me a hummingbird and a blue rose – two images I wanted to merge for my tattoo. Well, Patrick took the original artwork and used the hummingbird to create the inlay. Super awesome sauce, right?


  1. As you can so easily see in the picture, it holds my cable to charge my phone! Patrick threw a little hoop on the back, and if the cord is threaded through it, the hoop holds it in place. So my cell phone can sit on the table and get charged without the cable always falling behind it when I foolishly unplug it to answer a call or respond to a text message.


So, now y’all can see my awesome table and be all jealous of how awesome Patrick is.





Scary clowns are even scarier when their heads pop off…

Lego Pen - Only Kind of Scary So Far...
Lego Pen – Only Kind of Scary So Far…

I’m addicted to pens.  Who isn’t, right?  I mean, they’re awesome.  You can write with them…you can…ummm…write with them, and you can…ummm…write with them.  Look, they’re just cool, okay?

And the best part about pens is that sometimes, somehow, they’re inspirational.  You get a new pen, and then you have to write something with it.

It can be the feel of the ink, the color of the ink, the feel of the pen, the weight or heft, the lightness, so many different options, so many different ways to be inspired.

Now, here’s the thing.  I write horror.  Or at least I try to.  Dark humor, dark fantasy, dark SF, dark whatever.  If there’s something that goes bump, I like it.  I like to read it.  I like to write it.

One thing about those dark pieces.  Sometimes they include clowns.  Evil, evil clowns.  Stephen King knew it.  Supernatural knew it.  Everyone else knows it.  Clowns are just straight out scary and evil.

But I don’t know that Lego knew it.  You see, Lego came out with a new line of pens.  They are the Lego mini-figs, but different.  Their heads pop off, and they are pens.

It’s not scary enough that you’re beheading a beloved Lego character.  No, you can behead a clown and write with his head.  Oh yeah.  We’re talking about a pen that just oozes terror and horror and begs you to pick it up and write about something like, ooooh, let’s say, a CLOWN, coming to kill you.  Because, honestly, why else would Lego have made this pen?

So go get your Lego clown pens…and let the clowns begin their reign of terror.  All hail our Lego clown overlords!

Getting scarier...
Getting scarier…

Not very comfortable with this...
Not very comfortable with this…
Oh My God It's Scary!!
Oh My God It’s Scary!!

Taking Tampa by the Tale – Part V

Not Quite Urban Explorer Day!
Not Quite Urban Explorer Day!

So my travel wife, we’ll call her “Alessandra” for the sake of anonymity, decided to come along with me to one of the evening readings.  It was the first time that we’d be driving to the campus with the intention to actually park in the garage.  It was hard to find, and once we’d found it, we then had to fight our way through the rubble of construction and bush-whack from the back end of the campus to find the theatre where we’d get to hear the reading of one very boring presenter book-ended onto one of the most engaging readings of the series. 

When the reading was over, it was time to bush-whack back again, and we discovered the easiest way to get back and avoid the construction was to avoid the sidewalk and instead cut back through the empty residence

And they were creepy!  They didn’t look like anyone was coming back to them.  Bookcases against windows.  Mattresses leaning on walls.  Empty, darkened game rooms and Laundromats with unopened boxes that made it look like everything was in suspended animation.  It made me want to watch Chernobyl Diaries (no spoilers – I haven’t seen it yet!).

The next day, when I was leaving the Books Arts Seminar, I was traveling with a fellow student back past the garage and onto campus.  For her anonymity, I’ll call her “Trusting.”  So Trusting was kind of lost, having never been behind the garage and off campus like that before, and I say, “Hey, let’s cut through this deserted part of campus that’s deserted and spooky!”  And she, not knowing me at all, says, “Sure!”  Because she’s obviously never watched a horror movie.

Well, luckily for Trusting, it wasn’t a horror movie, but at some point between the previous night and that afternoon, someone put up “Caution” and “Restricted” yellow tape in a big X, trying to stop anyone from exiting – but not entering, which was really strange.  We had to cross through the X to get out.

And in that moment, I flashed on the movie I’d seen about urban explorers, and something tripped in my brain, and I was no longer content looking at pictures and videos of urban exploration, I got the urge to do it.  The person in the movie was right – there’s totally something that makes you want to go wherever you aren’t supposed to go.  If I didn’t have a witness with me, and if the security cameras weren’t as blatant as they were, perhaps I would have tried some doors and windows.

Instead, I think that flush of excitement is what led me to agree when the MFA program assistant, let’s call her “Flunkie” for this, pulled up in her golf cart and offered us a ride to the edge of campus, right next to the drawbridge, to help reduce our walk.  It was starting to drizzle.  We both said yes.  Since I had two bags (my computer bag and my purse), I took the back bench that faced outwards.

It was the scariest carnival ride ever.  No, there was no fear of it being old and creaky, but it was fast and felt out of control, hitting every bump of the bricked drives, swerving at the last possible moment, and hopping the curb (“Ooops,” Flunkie said), and missing a turn because she called out and waved to her friend on the porch of Plant Hall, losing track of her driving (“This is fun, kids!” she said, missing – or finding it ironic – that we were both almost twice her age.).

We got off and I won’t bothered with the clichéd weak-kneed, but I did feel like I had just survived a near-death experience, having spent most of the trip picturing myself flying out of the car and into a face plant with maximum injury and maximum bloodshed.

And then it got even more fun.  As we walked across the bridge, it went from a drizzle to a cloud burst.  I walked my mile back to the hotel with squishy sneakers, dripping wet hair, and a waterproof bag that leaked.

Still in Tampa…


Motivation, Praise, and Ego Stroking…

Encourage/Discourage Image by Stuart Miles

So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation.  And the lack of it. 


But back when I was working on my Ph.D., I read McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers.  In it, one of the authors, Hofner, believed that motivation was based on choice, effort, and persistence.  She also pointed out the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.  Intrinsic is always stronger; however, it is not always present.  Sometimes that extrinsic motivation (the grade, the diploma) is the only thing there, and in those cases, teachers can use that to help motivate students who have not achieved internal motivation. 


Some of it the internal motivation is praising ourselves.  I just began reading “The Writer’s Workout,” which, so far, seems to be a very interesting and helpful book, and it brings up how we need to praise ourselves.  That helps.  Writers do have egos, and they do need stroking.  But sometimes that’s not enough (or even wrong).  Sometimes there’s a need for external motivation.


If writers just want to write for themselves, that’s internal motivation.  However, if they want to actually be published, they need to go to external motivation.  That’s people buying your work, liking your work, or even willingly talking to you about your work.


My external motivation that I’ve gotten lately, other than selling work, is the fact that I got accepted into two different MFA programs in Creative Writing/Fiction.  One even included a lovely note about how much they enjoyed my writing and how much they looked forward to working with me!  Lovely and nice to find that in the mailbox!


But there’s a limit to it – the motivation that is. 


While the praise and ego stroking is nice, there’s also what I consider the anti-motivator.  Sometimes we see what other people accomplish, and instead of it motivating us, it makes us competitive.  Like the episode of “Malcolm in the Middle” where a new teacher comes to the Kreylbornes and makes them compete with each other, our egos make us want to fight to come out on top.  We care if we’re 99.99995 or 99.99993.  And, really, why should that matter?

So let’s just forget about motivation and self-praise and ego stroking.  Let’s just write.



I Dreamed My Teeth Fell Out


Really.  It was like I would just be sitting there, and then I’d feel something, and I’d put my hand in my mouth and another tooth would have come loose and dropped out.  It seemingly kept going – and I kept feeling more and more empty places in my mouth.

Being the absolutely brilliant human that I am, the minute I woke up, I knew that I was not alone in that dream.  It’s one of the common shared dreams, like falling or having to go to the bathroom.  (Although I must say that I almost prefer the having to go to the bathroom dream – at least then once you wake up, everything is better.)  But this dream stuck with me, and so I had to go do my dream research.  Or get someone else to do it for me, anyway.

And it turns out that dreaming about your teeth falling out has to do with anxiety and changes, according to most sources.  Which makes perfect sense when you know that I just got back from Borderlands Press Bootcamp on Sunday night.

I knew I was in for a good weekend – or at least an interesting one – when on the first night, we were told we would either learn how to become published writers or we would learn that we wanted to write as a hobby.  And that while they couldn’t each us how to write, they could sure tell us how not to write.  It was a weekend full of helpful suggestions and lots and lots of information.  Of course, just because people are encouraging doesn’t mean that they want to encourage you.  The whole “you show such promise” and “I can really hear your voice” and often said in order to cover up the “but there’s no plot” or perhaps the “have you even taken an English class? ever?”

But even taking everything with about as much salt as you might find around the side of a margarita, I decided that I was in it for the long haul.  I came home ready to refine my work and send it out again and again and again.

My dream teeth, however, seem to have had a different viewpoint as they took to the hills after this personal revelation.  So we’ll see who’s right – me or my teeth.