Monday, December 31, 2007

Clean, Clean, Clean and Paying It Forward

I've been cleaning out the office, sending invoices, shredding, throwing old stuff away all morning, preparing for tomorrow's 1/1/1 stargate and new start to a new year (see Stellar Shaman or The Cosmic Path for more on the stargate).

So now I'm looking at my blog and wondering if cleaning it will help. The most common areas that need cleaning in a blog are the sidebars.

Obviously, most of the items on my right sidebar are for monetization sake, but does anyone ever look over there? I've got some great coupons that offer affiliate payments, the offer from Widget Bucks that gives me a referral fee (and you $25!), links, Technorati favorites panel, sign up for email and RSS feeds; but is there too much?

I recently took off the WidgetBucks items for sale because it seemed to make my page load very slowly. So I did clean that. And I think I'll get rid of the Auction Ads all the way down there at the bottom. Maybe it would be better to go to a 3-column that lets me separate linkies from monies.

I did sign up for Crazy Hip Blog Mamas and their link roll after seeing it on another site, and it does give you lots of reciprocal links and is easy to install. And for the New Year, I'm going with a pay it forward method.

Some of my Blogging Goals for increasing popularity and monetization include:

1 - Comment more on other blogs. I signed up for the group Commit to Comment on Blog 365, and I think it is a great idea.

2 - Visit those who visit me. Again, an idea from Commit to Comment, but also holding up your end of the bargain.

3 - Share the Link Love. Send me a note if you want to link up!

4 - Donate to sites I read regularly. I just sent a PayPal to What's Up On Planet Earth, and plan to donate to one of my regulars at least once a month.

5 - Take advantage of coupons/affiliate offers on other blogs. I did use a 10% off coupon on another blog during the holidays, knowing full well that the blog owner would get an affiliate fee. But it didn't cost me anything and in fact saved me 10%! From now on, when I purchase online, I'm going to try to find a coupon on one of my blog buddy's sites.

6 - Number 5 includes books! As a writer who hopes to publish a book one day (Soon), I'm going to purchase at least one book per month.

If you'd like to share your monetization strategy for the new year, leave a comment, or let me know if you'd like to guest post.

And don't forget to sign up for email or RSS feed : )

Thanks
Lisa

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I Can't Believe How Old I Am : (

It isn't that I feel old. Well, I do sort of, in a weird way that I never expected, like how achy my body is when I get out of bed. Or especially if I sleep in a hotel or something, in a bed that my body isn't used to. It isn't even the gray hairs that I've covered since I was 27.

I can't believe that I have to say the number 41 when someone asks. Wow, that seems like a big enough number, but the other day my 5-year-old (Ok, I started late) asked me to count all the way to 41 with her. Ouch.

But just now, I had a few minutes to kill that I couldn't get really involved in anything because the baby (Yes, and starting late didn't stop me) is on a new sleep routine and wakes up screaming every minute or two, so I did something I've never done and just browsed the profiles of other Blogger bloggers who had something in common with me. I picked Battlestar Galactica because I'm in withdrawal waiting for the new season, and about half way through I realized that I'm older than almost everyone who chose to let his or her age be displayed. Really.

Now I have to finish my novel before I'm too old for the book tour.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ten Top Fiction Markets for Moms

Hi there, yes, it is supposed to be Fiction Friday, but I'm tapped out. I have nothing in my brain that would be worth the space it would take up to write. Besides, I'm going to spend the next hour after this working on my novel.

Which brings up an interesting point. I recently visited a blog where some days were open reads and others were only for subscribers. I'm considering making my novel posts only for subscribers, or something similar. If you've tried this, I'd love to hear about it.

So for today, to stay on the fiction theme, I'm going to review some markets. It is one of my major goals for 2008 to see my fiction in print. I do love the online markets and am so thankful to Long Story Short and Lip Service for all that they do, but I want my fiction in print. Paid for in dollars print would even be better. Lately, I've been submitting to publications. I'm starting a running list here, please add to it in the comments, of best fiction (or creative non-fiction)markets for mom (or anyone) writers.

The ten top markets in no particular order:

1. Parents magazine, http://www.parents.com/. Tips from Writer's Market say to keep in mind that they are a national publication so stories with a broad appeal work best. Also, they are interested in compelling human-interest stories and cannot consider stories that have appeared in competing national publications. Writers guidelines are online.

2. Writer's Digest, http://www.writersdigest.com/. They are 70% freelance written, so there's a good chance! Also, their best sections to break in are InkWell (short pieces) and Markets. They are also looking for non-fiction "How-to" articles. Writers guidelines are online.

3. Family Circle Magazine, http://www.familycircle.com/. Even better, 80% freelance written. Break in with "Women who make a difference." They also accept short humor (750 words) pieces.

4. Glimmer Train, http://www.glimmertrain.com/. Submit through contest options, listed on website. Has categories for Short Fiction (up to 2000 words) and New Writers.

5. Brain, Child, http://www.brainchildmag.com/, the magazine for thinking mothers. 90% freelance written. They publish fiction that has a strong motherhood theme.

6. The Chattahoochee Review, http://www.chattahoochee-review.org/. While they publish a number o Southern writers, they do not consider themselves a regional magazine. They publish personal essays, creative nonfiction, fiction, and photos.

7. Chicken Soup for the Soul, http://www.chickensoup.com/. They have a Chicken Soup book for almost every possible genre. Books are 95% freelance written, submission is online, just do it. Send in that heartwarming story now.

8. The First Line, http://www.thefirstline.com/. Don't know what to write about? Check their website for the current opening line and submit a story in just about any genre. But you have to start with the first line provided. Pay is only $10, but sounds like a fun idea.

9. Modern Haiku, http://www.modernhaiku.org/. Because so many bloggers seem to love Haiku, here's your chance. Also accepts articles and book reviews relating to Haiku and Senryu.

10. Country Woman magazine, http://www.countrywomanmagazine.com/. Main character in the story must be a country woman, setting must be country, must be positive and upbeat. They include fiction in every issue and would include more if more were sent their way (HINT, HINT). Also accept poetry.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thankful Thursday and Blog365

Whew! Can't believe it has been a whole week since I last posted. Christmas was a blur, with an almost-2-year-old and a very excited 5-year-old who saw Santa running through our yard! I guess this Thursday I'm mostly thankful that we pulled it all off, managed to see/talk with family and friends, and generally enjoyed the entire exhausting time.

I'd planned to look back at the year and remember all the many things that I have to be thankful for, but M. has strep throat, so it has been a little sleepless the past couple of nights.

So to inspire me to continue blogging into the future and get back on schedule, I've joined Blog365 - won't you join too? Ostensibly, we're going to blog every day (although the rules do allow you to count any post to any of your blogs, so RMB will get the bulk and Stellar Shaman, Simply Grant Writing, and LockBoxDeals will get intermittent posts). Luckily, 2008 is a leap year, so we do get a day off!

Here is my abbreviated list of thanks in 2007:
-general good health of my little family
-the tree that finally flowered beautiful white snowball flowers outside my office window
-learning
-enough to eat/place to sleep/clothes
-my shamanism community
-sharing
-no hurricanes (I do live in Miami)
-meeting new friends
-our vacation to the beach
-M.'s unabashed optimish
-S.'s hugs
-time to write

Feel free to add yours to the comments.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gratitude Thursday

I hadn't designated Thursday to be a regular themed post day on RMB, but I'm inspired to see if a day of gratitude works out here.

Yesterday, as I was going through my Technorati favorites, I was surprised by the number of posts about depression. I started with Sweetney's post Waving and Drowning , then to Suburban Oblivion's Crashing, and finally Dooce's Because I couldn't say it on the Phone. Three of my favorite moms feeling more than just a mild case of the holiday blues was one thing, but 1125 comments on Heather's post at Dooce by moms feeling the same thing was even more striking. I'm so impressed by these strong women who have the courage to face their demons and talk about it so that they can help others.


I'm so blessed, and aware of it, by good mental health. My partner says I am the most emotionally stable person on the planet, and this from someone who lives with me. But several people close to me are getting by only with the help of anti-depressants, so I'm fortunate enough to know how absolutely lucky I am. To be able to depend on my mind and spirit to react in a way I can predict or have some measure of control over is a rock to anchor to when circumstances get crazy.


For this, I have to thank Mama. Whether by genes or nature, her unflappable positivity sustained me all my life until I developed my own positive outlook. Hardships in her life would have broken a lesser woman. Widowed by her fourth husband, my father, she survived the death of her first child while an infant, being forced to give up her son in a custody dispute, and marriages to men who included a wife beater (as it was called in those days), a compulsive gambler, and an alcoholic. She divorced when it just wasn't done, she worked and supported herself despite never having a high school diploma, she bought her own house and raised her two daughters.


When my father died unexpectedly, without life insurance, without savings, when I was 15, I saw her sadness, I watched her grieve, but I never saw her give in to fear. She insisted that we would be fine, and we were.


When my cousin Joyce had a terrible car accident and broke her neck, we went to the hospital to see her on the first day, while she was in one of those big traction wheels that they used to use for spinal injury patients. Mama told me that we were going there to cheer her up and to talk about happy things, to not be afraid because she was going to be well again soon. We walked in, and she was face down on the wheel. Mama told me to lie down on the floor so I could look up at her and to smile while we were there. Joyce says that we were the only people she saw smile at her during those days in the hospital.


I cannot remember a time in my entire life, until Mama passed away when I was 34, that she indicated any overwhelming worry, any sense that the undertow would carry her away, any idea that she feared something that would overcome her. Even when health problems started to ebb the life from her, she never talked of being afraid of dying.


Now that I'm a mom, I'm acutely aware of the importance of instilling this gift in my children. Especially as I'm an adoptive mom and can't count on genetics, I want to be conscious of helping them to look for the silver linings, to be confident in their own abilities to perservere, to know triumph over adversity. I want to be their rock, their stable foundation, their springboard. And if they need more help than I can give, I want to encourage them to find the help they need to live mentally healthy lives.


Today, I am so grateful for the opportunity of being their mom and all of the wonders and challenges that come with it.


I'm grateful that we are all healthy.




I'm grateful that we have enough food to eat.





I'm grateful for the surf and the sand.



I'm grateful for the way S. laughs, hearty, from head to toe.



I'm grateful for the way M. dances, always, everywhere.



I love you both so much.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Many Worlds, One Planet


I read a book once that changed my perspective on life, as great books are bound to do. An old, very geeky text, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings started as a class project to retrofit ancient map fragments to actual geographical landmarks and features and determine the system of coordinates used to make the maps. It was an unlikely place to derive spiritual wisdom. But as they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will come.

While the premise of the book itself was rattling enough, that these ancient maps proved the existence of an advanced civilation who could navigate the seas with mathematical precision during the Ice Age, the part that has remained with me was the general givenness of the conclusion. Of Course They Existed, Why Wouldn't They Have?

We consider ourselves, the First World inhabitants of planet Earth in 2007, as the humans that evolved in intelligence through a building block process that eliminates the possibility of more highly advanced civilizations before us. We write off the existence of the Pyramids for example as some forgotten trick of balancing and moving heavy objects, or as something anyone could do with a large enough forced work team.

But Sea Kings pointed out that at any time in the history of the planet, there have co-existed civilizations of vastly different technological ability. Even right now, at this very moment, there exist Aborigines, Amish, tribes who know nothing of electricity, indigenous cultures who live as they have for hundreds of years, religious sects who follow beliefs that set them far apart from what is considered mainstream.

If you are reading this, you are probably comfortable with technology. But imagine, you could be alive right now, your same age, and be in an entirely different world. You could be driving a horse drawn carriage to your neighbor's house for the barn raising. You could be sleeping on a grass mat under the jungle canopy. You could never have seen television or a light bulb. You could be hunting your dinner with a spear, and not for sport.

Is it so far removed to consider the circular, rather than linear, nature of time? That history repeats itself not because we are unable to learn from our mistakes, but because another group of students is ready to enter the classroom. The lesser advanced civilizations need their opportunity to develop themselves.

Is it so hard to imagine a civilization that existed, with an apparently recorded history, that was wiped out by a geological catastrophe? Do you think they knew it was coming too?


Thanks to Andrew Edgington, this week's winner of Wildcard Wednesday photo carnival and the administrator of the excellent blog Edit Your Digital Photos, for submitting the photo at top. Andrew's blog teaches how to use Photoshop to give your photos an Old-time look, and many other tips.






Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Guest Post: A Child By Any Other Name

Thanks to Patti for answering my call for guest posts! Enjoy.

A Child by Any Other Name…
By P.I. Barrington

Finding the right name for someone whether it’s a fictional character or your own newborn can seem like a daunting task. Some people pick favorite names from before the time they can even think about having children. I used to do the same thing. That is, until I became a writer. That’s when any dreams I might have had about my beloved favorite names coming to life shattered like so many crystal champagne glasses unfortunate enough to be located within the vicinity of a toddler.
My characters many times leap right off the page screaming their names at me and waving what look like dangerous rolling pins. They will have the names they want no matter what I, their creator, decide. Sometimes I’ll be pounding away at a story and suddenly realize the name I’ve typed over and over is what that character wanted to be called instead of the name I wanted to use. Many times, my characters will surprise me by using ethnically oriented names that leave no doubt as to what race they are. And, yes, I describe these characters in present tense. They won’t allow anything else.
Names are important in human life, obviously, and for obvious reasons. That is the single most important identifying reference to you not only by yourself but by everyone else. It also is one of the oldest practices in human communications. Have you ever watched those old movies where two people of differing cultures or languages try to communicate? The first thing they do is point to themselves and say their name. Names are the beginning form of communications.
So, it’s no wonder parents go through a similar type of experience that writers do. Some parents will go to sometimes ridiculously extreme measures to find the appropriate name for their child. And this is no joke, my readers.
Here in Southern California, (and only in California) there is a new type of job that has been developed to “help” new parents or parents-to-be choose exactly the name that will portent success, fame, or character of their coming child. “Nameology” and “Nameologists” have now cropped up in this very lucrative trade.
For $300 an hour, the Nameologist will come to your home, office, or other meeting place of your choice and explain or suggest baby names to you.
Personally, I find this rather insulting. To me, this indicates that one is incapable of going out and buying an actual book of baby names for under $5 and choosing for oneself or with much more ease, search the Internet which has virtually an unlimited amount of free baby names sites with every conceivable name, its meaning, and country of origin. Not only that, but there are no apparent requirements to become a Nameologist other than being able to read any of the above name-helping suggestions. Oh, and the gall to charge $300.
The only thing more disturbing than that is the fact that there are parents who have actually paid the $300!
So, how does one pick out the perfect name? Well, rhythm and rhyme have a lot to do with it. The names have to sound good and have a natural cadence. “Annie Ralph Curmudgeon” may have a rhythm to it but you have to admit it’s not the prettiest or most portentous of names. And please, I beg you all future parents, resist the urge to give ridiculous names to your children! This not only makes life miserable for the child who has to deal with playground mockery and derision but it makes everyone else uncomfortable when having to use it in serious situations. I know you probably are rolling your eyes at this age-old warning, but I’ve still met enough people whose parents gave them the worst, corniest names in an effort to be witty.
“Hello? Yes, may I speak with Iva Payne?” Imagine yourself having to explain to the irritated operator that no, it’s not a joke. In fact, please imagine yourself saying your child’s future name over the phone just to make sure. My sister once had a friend who thought it was funny when giving a name for the waiting list in restaurants to use the last name of Krayzee. So when the host or hostess called out the name of the party, it would sound something like this:
“Krayzee party of four, Krayzee, party of four, your table is ready!” (Sound it out if you must!)
This is the type of thing that should be avoided. At all costs.
What I have done over the long, long years of working at being a writer, is to search thrift stores and used book stores for the rare “Unusual Names for Baby” type books, just to have on-hand should I ever be without the Web while scratching out character descriptions by hand. Some of us do still practice longhand. And sometimes, not only is it just nice to have a hard copy reference of names to look at while curled up in bed, but also to be a little more green about it. Why use up paper printing all those name lists, when you can find for pennies, already printed copies of the same basic lists? Save a tree if you can!
You can devise any system of naming you want. Go ahead and be creative! Come up with your own original plan of choosing names. However you do it, just make sure it’s a name you and your child will like if not downright love!

Check out P.I Barrington's funny urban fantasy story: Urban Elf coming in BewilderingStories.com Issue #268. If you like cities and Elves, this is for you!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Inspiration from the Greatest Thinkers of our Generation

Often when we think of monetizing our blogs, we are concerned with small details; which advertising system should I use? Should I accept this review assignment? Should I sign up for this traffic generating site?

But the post at Dosh Dosh today has me thinking of the bigger picture. I'm not sure where RMB is headed, but I'd like for it to someday sooner rather than later pay the bills, and then some. Pay for travel with the kids. Provide an audience for my novel. Create positive change in the world.

Pretty big goals for the little blog that could, but that's what TED seems to be about. If you too would like to set some big goals for your blog and need some inspiration, take a visit to the TED site.

"TED started out as an annual conference in Monterey devoted to Technology, Entertainment and Design. The content has broadened in recent years, but this annual event is still the main engine that drives TED's success, bringing together 1000 of the world's most remarkable people. The format is fast-paced, with 50+ speakers over four days (plus short talks, performances and evening events). In 2005, an additional conference, TEDGlobal, was inaugurated. It's held every other year, in a different location, focusing on a different theme.
All upcoming conferences through March 2008 are sold out. However, the best content from all TED events is made available through this website."


You can visit their site and view FOR FREE video of some of the best speeches given, by the likes of Seth Godin, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Clinton. Talk about thinking big.

With the new year coming up soon, it is a great time for goal setting. Where do you want your blog to take you? Shouldn't you take a few minutes to learn from the best minds in Business, Technology, Arts, and Global Issues?

Now get busy on your own plan!

Friday, December 14, 2007

BURYING BUDDHA


Sorry, but this story has been moved to my new ebook, The 10 Best Short Stories in the Universe Written by Me. Please see the right sidebar to order.
Thanks!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Peaceful Protest


Today I have to thank sincerely Dave from Living in the Now. Had he not been my first entrant for Wildcard Wednesday, and had I not been so endebted to him for his support of RMB since our early days, I was prepared to abandon my Carnival entrants and go off on another topic entirely.
Our local paper, The Miami Herald, ran a photo today that was so haunting, so enraging to me as a parent, of a terrified little Iraqi girl who had been wounded in a mortar strike. I cannot get her eyes out of my mind, and I was on the verge of swiping Maya Allerruzo's photo and going off on a political rant.
But thanks to Dave, I was brought back to my center by his unknowingly appropriate photo to consider one of my central beliefs. I try to follow the tenet that if you truly want peace in the world, it is not enough to think about peace, not enough to wish for peace, not even enough to pray for peace. If you truly want peace, you have to be peace. You have to stand in the center of your own being, in your own place of silence, and be the peace that you would have in the world.
Parents know this in its simplest form as the count to ten rule. When your child has just trampled your last nerve, count to ten and find your own peace before responding, and answer your child with all the love and caring available at the center of your soul. Even if the answer involves a punishment, administer it from a place of peace. We've all seen it on our family level; one person, be it mom or dad or any caregiver, standing in absolute peace will dissolve the anger of the most hysterical child. One person ranting only adds to the escalation of violence.
When you consider it, isn't this season all about peace? Doesn't everyone want peace on Earth, goodwill towards men? It isn't tied to which church you attend, or don't attend, although many are able to leave behind worldly concerns and access peace in church. It isn't tied to one religion or another, and in fact religions have been invoked as reasons for most wars.
We seek the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that speaks no language and every language. For each of us it is important to take a few moments every day to connect with peace and send that peace out into the world.
I remember a story I heard about a person who had a near death experience. She had been in a horrible car accident, in the middle of rush hour, and died while waiting for help as the ensuing traffic jam prevented a quick rescue. As she floated out of her body, she could hear all of the people in the other cars, angry and upset at how delayed they were due to the accident. But then she heard one person praying for the stranger who was in the accident, praying for that stranger's family, sending love and kindness out to a total stranger.
Be that person who in the midst of the angry crowd, in the situation that ruins your schedule, in the moment that could bring out your worst, be the person who is peace.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Go It Alone or Join The Crowd?

Since I've learned that traffic is the holy grail of monetizing your blog, I've become addicted to my site meter. Sad, really, as RMB doesn't have thousands of hits per day (not yet anyway), but I check often. Remember when email first came out and there weren't those little popup notifiers or dinging announcements of mail received, and connection time was expensive, so you had to go and check whether you had anything new? So you checked all the time? That's how I am with my sitemeter. And if it has gone up, I practically dance around the home office here.

Because I'm so addicted, I know that the single day that I have received the most traffic is last Thursday, the day of the Confess Your Crush Crosspost. Now as revealing and exciting as that post was, I really doubt that RMB readers just had to find out who my childhood crushes were, or that an underground Doug Henning fan club sent all of their members over to thank me. I think it was because I was participating in a group project.

I've noticed the group aspect among some of my daily reads, but maybe not in such a blatant manner. For instance, last week Yaro Starak released a free sample from his Blog Mentoring Course on building traffic through conversation. Darren's post that day was more on the topic. Chris G's post was also along the same lines, and he referred to Liz in his post. I followed all the links in their chain, so one topic developed traffic for all of them.

I think there are several ways to use this idea of being part of a group to develop traffic flow:

-Join a casual group for a crosspost event, as I did. I found out about the event from Dave who I met through NaBloPoMo, and you can usually find out about memes and other types of crossposts by joining Yahoo Groups, or groups on social networking sites in your blog's topic.

-Develop a group of likeminded bloggers who support each other and refer to one another in their posts when appropriate. This may be just sharing the love between bloggers who really do like and agree with each other, and it is a little more than just including them in your blogroll.

-Convene a group to all post on a certain theme on a certain day or week, each adding a personal point of view and more indepth discussion. This could be an everyone post at once, or one member of the group could post with Authority and let the others discuss the post.

-Piggyback on the big guys with a post on a topic that they are all discussing and leave a comment on their blogs referring to your own site. Maybe not the best way to get invited to join the in crowd, so at least be respectful.

-Sponsor a contest or carnival and ask respondents to create a post on a certain theme to enter, with instructions to refer to your site.

The all-together-now method helps with traffic flow in several ways. Regular readers of other blogs are able to find yours and identify you as someone who is similar and perhaps worthy of a subscription. Search engine searchers could possibly find your post right up there with one of their regular reads or a respected voice on a particular subject (long shot for some of us, but hey, it could happen). You might find likeminded folks in the comment section of other bloggers and be able to form a new group of your own.

If you do decide to go with the crowd, remember to keep your own special and unique voice in your posts to develop your own loyal readers.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Peacock Paradise

But, as this piece once won an Honorable Mention from Long Story Short and I have a new piece published with them this month (look for Lisa Merritt under their Flash Fiction tab), there is a method to my madness.

Peacock Paradise






Sorry, this piece moved to my ebook The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. See the right sidebar to order.
Thanks!

Childhood Crush CrossPost Day

Not a normal post day here at RMB, but I couldn't resist getting in on the Childhood Crush Crosspost. According to Dave at Living in the Now, the confessions of your childhood crushes was spawned as an idea by Gedeon Maheux during an exchange on Twitter last Friday. Here’s a list of all known participants. If you want to join with us and confess, just jump in! Leave your link in the comments.



So here are the ones I can remember from the hazy days of my youth in the, ahem, late 70's early 80's. It is scary typing in those dates as times when I was old enough to actually have a crush, because they seem so long ago now. But here goes, in order of least to most embarrasing:


Risky Business Tom Cruise, pre-Scientology
and Oprah outbursts. I know I'm not alone on
this one.








Andy Gibb. I think I had a poster of him,
one of those black velvet things that gathered
dust and cat hair as it hung on the wall. Can
you believe this one is for sale on eBay?





Of course, of course, Luke Skywalker.
I even went to see the horrible movie,
Corvette Summer, because he was the
lead (or at least Mark Hammil was).






Now it is starting to get a little weird.
Michael York. I saw Logan's Run at
a too-tender age, but I loved his
accent. I saw the movie years later,
and it was really a stinker, but
MY was still hot.










And now for the absolute most embarrassing one:


The magician Doug Henning. I'm not making this up.

I kept a photo of him under my mattress.















Whew. Glad that is off my chest now. Hope you haven't lost all respect for RMB. See you tomorrow for Fiction Friday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Don't Despair Panda Bear


Sorry, this post moved to my ebook The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. See the right sidebar to order.
Thanks!
Photo Credit: Gary M. Stolz, Washington DC Library, United States Fish and Wildlife Service Digital Library System (http://images.fws.gov, WO8465-002), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS, http://www.fws.gov), United States Department of the Interior (http://www.doi.gov), Government of the United States of America (USA)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wildcard Wednesday Blog Carnival

During NaBloPoMo, I found so many great blogs out there. If you aren't familiar with Monkeys and Marbles or Busy Mom or Living in the Now, take a look.

But one thing I noticed is that they all have pictures, and Russian Mafia Babe does not. This is due in part to the fact that I am a lousy photographer. Also, any pictures I do manage to take remain trapped forever on my photo card, never to be uploaded.

So clearly I need help. That's why I came up with the Wildcard Wednesday idea. Any photographer, or at least anyone better than RMB, who would like to provide me with an inspiring photo for Wednesday's posts may do so through Blog Carnival.

Then I will write something inspired by the photo. Maybe fiction, maybe an essay, maybe haiku - what is it with blogs and haiku? I've read more haiku since I've been blogging than during my entire years of school. Maybe I'll try one. Then the photographer is welcome to use whatever I write on his or her blog, if so desired. One less post to write, yes? Or at least a free link and bio.

By inspiring photo, I have no idea what I mean. This is a mom blog, and I am an animal rescue advocate, so please nothing cruel or lewd. Other than that, whatever you want to send. I'll also consider graphics and anime. Be sure to include your link, short bio, and email address for credit.

Schedule Your Posts to Build Loyal Readership

A couple of my regular reads have posted about setting up your blog with a regular post schedule in order to build loyal readers. This allows readers who are not subscribers to know when to visit to get the information they want. Then you have to fulfill your part of the bargain to provide content on schedule.

As I am still developing Russian Mafia Babe, I think that this will be good for me as well. So the schedule that I am putting forth for us here is:

Mondays: Monetize Your Mom Blog (Alternate: Tech Tips)
Wednesdays: Wildcard Wednesdays (see Blog Carnival Announcement post)
Fridays: Fiction or Creative Non-Fiction

(Did you see how I used alliteration there to help me remember? That's because I'm a writer, and also because I'm a mom and my kids take up most of my brain cells.)

On Tuesdays, I will post to Stellar Shaman, and on Thursdays I'll post at Simply Grant Writing or LockBoxDeals.

Let me know what schedule you keep for your blog and how it works out for you.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

At Least It Wasn't On A Holiday

My 21-month-old daughter scratched my cornea. That's a part of the eye in case you are wondering. I've had a scratched cornea before, and I never ever wanted to repeat the experience. But Mia has the habit of reaching up and snatching my eyeglasses off of my face as often as possible, and her hand motion is unbelievably fast - she's destined to be a magician, or else a pickpocket.

She was sitting on my lap watching TV, not my best parenting moment as most pediatricians will tell you TV should be off-limits for those under two. She did her slight of hand maneuver, and I thought I was going to catch her that time. But all I did was trap her little hand as she slid her thumb up under the bottom of my glasses and - if you are squeamish, stop here - shoved her thumbnail under my eyelid, taking off a layer of my eyeball.

I screamed.

"Everything ok?" Jo called from the kitchen.

"No, not really." The pain was intense, kind of like when you get brainfreeze from drinking an ICEE too quick, but more like if you soaked your brain in ICEEs.

"Well I'm kind of in the middle of cooking dinner."

"It can burn this time. Mia took off part of my eye." My eye was watering, and I was blinded by the searing pain, but I still had Mia on my lap, afraid to let her go and have her wander off where I couldn't find her. This was a feat, because very sharp pieces of glass were stabbing my eyeball every time my other eye blinked, or my eye moved, or my pupil constricted. All those things that happen automatically and you take for granted until a time like that.

Did I mention it was dinnertime, so of course the doctor's office was closed. I couldn't drive myself to the urgent care center, and sitting in the waiting area with Joey and the two kids seemed much worse than just taking ibuprofen and putting a compress on my eye. I regretted this decision at about 2 am, then even more around 3 am, and then every second until daybreak. But finally the sitter arrived, we found an opthalmologist who would see me right away, and we made an eye patch out of a kid's washcloth held on by a bandana tied around my head.

Luckily, this fasion statement fit in at the eye doctor's waiting room.

By seeing me right away, the eye doctor meant that I could come over immediately and wait in the long line of people who needed urgent attention. They also needed me to fill out forms; you'd think they would realize that people with eye injuries can't see to fill out forms, but I've filled out so many lately because the kids always seem to get sick on holidays or weekends when the pediatrician is closed. I was pretty close to being able to fill medical forms out in my sleep.

After about an hour in the waiting room, I finally got called in to have a vision exam. I couldn't open the injured eye without welling up in tears, so my vision in that one was zero, but they still wanted me to try. Then they dilated the pupil and put me in another waiting room.

Finally the doctor, who shall only be referred to as doctor because I couldn't read his name on the door and he didn't introduce himself, called me in and put drops in my eye that numbed it and took all of the pain away. I wondered why they didn't have a policy in the office that if they saw someone come in with a bandana holding her eye closed, they would administer these pain relieving drops at the entrance, rather than two hours later.

The doctor examined my eye. "Hmph," he said, and not anything else. He was a dry guy; besides not introducing himself, he didn't elaborate on the grunt for several minutes, keeping me in suspense. He finally finished the exam.

"Your baby did this?"

"Yes."

"She got you right across the part of the pupil that affects vision. Took off a good layer."

I glared one-eyed at Joey, who hadn't believed me when I'd said that.

The treatment involved either putting a contact lens in or patching the eye to prevent the blinking from causing damage. I opted for the contact, and the doctor's hands shook when he tried to open the contact case. They shook a lot. I preferred to think Parkinsons rather than the DTs, but both did occur to me. His hands kept shaking the whole time he was putting the contact on my eye. It took three tries. I can tell you that those numbing drops are worth every penny my insurance company will be paying.

I also had to dilate my eye for almost three days until I came back for a follow-up appointment, so I needed a cover for it. When I came home with a pirate patch, 5-year-old Sara was thrilled. She wanted to touch it. I cringed.

A friend of mine called and I told her about my ordeal. "Oh what we mothers give of ourselves," she said. Followed by, "what, you don't trim your daughter's nails?" I hung up the phone on her.

The followup visit with the shaky hands doctor showed that the eye should heal without permanent damage. I'm very thankful. Thankful for finally getting to watch the new Battlestar Galactica episode that has been on the DVR. Thankful for being able to read and blog and see the stars. And for vision that can be corrected by my regular glasses. But I think I'll keep the patch on until Mia grows out of this phase.

Review: Widget Bucks

You may have noticed a couple of new features on the Russian Mafia Babe sidebar: Widget Bucks ads and a Widget Bucks affiliate link.

WidgetBucks offers yet another option for bloggers to monetize their blogs. It is free, quick, and easy to sign up, plus you get $25 to start off your account. Of course the initial payout is $50, so you have to do your own promotions to collect.

The ads are customizable in regards to size and color scheme, and you can have different ads on different blogs under the same account. Also, you can choose the type of product to offer so that it is most relevant to your visitors. You can visit my other blogs at LockBoxDeals-Blog and Stellar Shaman to check out the different types of ads.

There is an affiliate program link that will pay you for referrals as well - mine is on the right sidebar if anyone reading is considering signing up, please. The referrer continues to earn a commission for 12 months on the purchases made through the new affiliate.

For those of us here on Blogger, there is an automatic integration feature, so it couldn't be easier. There are automatic integration features for other platforms as well.

The payout is reported to be higher than pay per click ads, so there is nothing to lose and more to gain by trying it out.

WidgetBucks does work best for sites that are retail in nature or have a very focused audience who are likely to shop for a certain type of product.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ten Reasons Why I Love High School Musical

I admit it, I was going to be one of those moms - the ones who don't use the television. My kids would never even know what that big box was for, at least until they were old enough to go to other kids' houses.

Obviously, that was before I had kids. Now there are just some times, like when I'm cooking dinner - and I know you know what I mean - when it is either put on the television or hire someone to come help. I still try to show a movie or something from the DVR so that I can control the commercials, because we all know that commercials are the root of all evil, especially during the holiday season.

But now I am absolutely, positively a huge fan of the High School Musical movies. I know, corny, bad singing, couldn't get any more commercial than Disney. But I can't help it. Even when my daughter doesn't bring it up, I'm likely to suggest it because...

1 - The girls are all wearing clothes. Clothes that provide coverage and looks like girls clothes, not twenty-something going to a club wear.
2 - The girls are not horrifyingly thin. Some are even chubby. Can I please start a fan club for the hip hop loving heavy set girl?
3 - Clean, clean, squeaky clean. They even make a joke of it how the main couple can't ever seem to kiss, and that is just a kiss. No dirty dancing, no nudity, no suggestive language.
4 - Diversity!!!!! Even a (hinted at) interracial couple.
5 - My daughter is finally wearing something other than jeans now that the girls all wear dresses and a variety of clothes on the show.
6 - We get family exercise dancing to all of those catchy : ) tunes.
7 - The baseball scene from HSM2. I really do like it. If I'm not in the room, my daughter will come get me, and I'll drop everything to go watch.
8 - My daughter will do anything - clean her room, be nice to her sister, eat dinner with the family - if the reward of the week involves HSM. This may be even worse than becoming a TV watching mom, but we're on the reward system with this kid as timeout is a joke for her. Subject of another post.
9 - Moral to the story. HSM 1- Don't be afraid to try something new HSM 2 - Don't lose yourself while getting what you want. Pretty good stuff.
10 - Can you say an hour without whining to cook dinner!!!

Bonus reason - The movies were free! (or at least included with my cable package)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mom Product Reviews

In my quest for making a living from writing (including blogging), I uncovered the site Review Me. Many reputable bloggers earn part of their income from Review Me, so it has a good reputation. The site itself is a great idea; smaller blogs wishing to build traffic can purchase a review from a popular, well-known blog. The purchasing blog owner can choose the reviewer, and the reviewer has the right of refusal. The reviewing site earns income, while the reviewed site earns traffic (hopefully).

The cost to be reviewed is fairly reasonable, considering traditional media marketing and advertising rates. And a favorable review will bring new opportunities and possibilities for added income.

Before submitting your site for review, you should consider the following:

-Take a subjective look at your own site. Pretend that you have never visited the site before and see if it is easy to navigate, make sure all of your links work, read some of your most recent posts as well as your category list.

-Have a friend who will be honest with you look at your site and go through links and posts, and be willing to consider suggestions for improving your site design and topics

-Compare your site to top sites in your niche. Do you need to add photos or graphics to be more competitive? Do you need to let more of yourself come through in the writing in order to differentiate your site from others? Are there other features that are lacking, or is your site over crowded?

Once your site is as polished as possible, visit Review Me and choose a reviewer in your niche and price range. Generally, the most popular bloggers charge the most, so it may be worthwhile to pay as much as you can afford. You should also visit the sites of your target reviewers to make sure the style, flavor, and wording complement your own so you can make the most of any referred traffic.

I originally applied to be a reviewer, but alas my traffic numbers are not up to their requirements. So in the meantime, I am considering submitting Russian Mafia Babe for a review. If you've had a review, I'd love to hear how it worked out for you.

In the mom blog niche (which has many, many sub-niches now), other sites are offering reviews as well. You can find some of these by searching Mom Blogs. I found Amalah and table4five in my search. I submitted Russian Mafia Babe to Amy at amalah, will let you know in a future post how it works out.

Also, I'm offering to review products or sites of interest to moms in order to build my own portfolio of reviews. I plan to go by the guidelines specified by Review Me, and it will bring your product or site an inbound link and possibly some traffic.

If you are interested in submitting a site or product for review, please email me at pegasuslm@comcast.net. Also, please see my post on Affiliate Programs if you have an affiliate program of interest to moms.

Thanks!
Lisa

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Best Affiliate Programs for Mom Bloggers

During my research into making money from blogging, I found support for using affiliate programs to get started.

Unlike advertising programs like Google AdSense and Text Link Ads, which pay blog and website owners when a visitor clicks on the ad, affiliate programs only pay when someone purchases something from your link. But the sign up requirements are often less than advertising networks. For instance, Russian Mafia Babe doesn't (yet) meet the traffic requirements for Text Link Ads, and she's still too young for Blogher.

So while I'm building traffic and aging well, I'll be trying out some affiliate links in the Sponsors section to see how they work. Currently, I'm running programs that are offering holiday season discounts or free shipping, and I tried to pick merchants of interest to moms. If you choose to purchase from the merchant after clicking on my link, I will get a percentage of any sale, but it won't cost you anything extra. In fact, you'll save money by redeeming the coupon. Check back often as I'll be rotating the coupons and offers during this trial period.

Most individual merchants who participate in affiliate offers belong to a bigger network, so that you only have to submit your signup information once and then you can advertise for several different merchants. The affiliate programs I currently belong to are LinkShare and Commission Junction. I just joined Kolimbo as well, and I have my own grant writing ebook available through ClickBank.

Of these, I have found LinkShare to be the easiest to use, and they have several merchants that are willing to accept lower traffic sites. It is free to join and easy to sign up.

Commission Junction seems to be popular among electronics merchants (Sony, Best Buy, Apple), but I find their interface a little difficult to use, and they assigned me a password that I can never remember.

When you have a product of your own to sell, ClickBank is a good option and integrates easily into your sales page. They allow you to offer your own affiliate programs as well.

You can also increase your affiliate sales through advertising, but that is another strategy all together and I haven't tried it. I'd love to hear though if anyone has had success using this method.

SPECIAL OFFER: For any moms out there who have a product to sell, let me know if you are interested in participating in a mom affilitate drive or where your products are listed so I can ad them into my sponsor rotation.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss product reviews.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Find Your Niche

It looks like I fell out of the NaBloPoMo rhythm while I was away on retreat, because Friday was a marathon day and Saturday was hard getting back to the real world after three days of inner work.

But maybe that time away from my blog was a good thing, as I had some time to think about my goals and what I want to do with my blogs. I definitely appreciate the comments encouraging me to include other topics in this primarily mom/parenting/kid themed blog, but this seems to run contrary to the goal of having an income producing blog.

Niche blogs seem to be the best income producers for several reasons:

-the audience knows what to expect, and knows that they will find something of interest every day or so, and thus they will become a loyal audience

-advertisers like solid demographics; if they are selling diapers, they need an audience with young kids, not an audience that may or may not have kids depending on which day the post falls on

-your traffic will grow as your blog becomes more keyword rich and therefore more available to search engines

If you are also considering a money-producing blog, here are the steps in order for creating your blog:

-investigate keywords associated with your proposed niche

-check traffic for the keywords to make sure people are actually searching for your terms

-consider a blog name that includes your keywords

-write keyword rich posts

-name your categories with keywords

-include monetization strategies (AdSense, Text Link Ads, etc)

-offer affiliate products associated with your niche

-network with others to get the word out about your blog

-use a pinging service (I use Pingoat) to submit your blog posts

Maki at DoshDosh has written an excellent series of Niche Blogging Tutorials that are required reading for anyone truly interested in niche blogging.

When coming up with what to call the niche for this blog, obviously Russian Mafia Babe is not a particularly popular niche name. But I named the blog prior to the niche search, and I like the name so I'm keeping it. Mom Blog didn't even return one search. But Parenting hits a jackpot, and so does Creative Writing. Work At Home Mom also returns some results.

So, I will keep the theme of this blog as parenting/mom focused, to include creative writing, non-fiction stories, and tech tips for mom (and dad) bloggers. The astronomy and shamanism topics will be posted to Stellar Shaman (good thing blogs are free!) from now on. And of course I also operate Simply Grant Writing and LockBoxDeals-Blog.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mis Abuelas (My Grandmothers)

Sorry, this post moved to my ebook, The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. Please see the right sidebar to order.
Thanks!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shamanism 101

I've been studying shamanism for a couple of years now. Not sure where it is going really, or if it is just for the journey and not leading anywhere, but I've felt compelled to keep with it. I feel very luck to have a great group of fellow students and a wonderful teacher right here in my town, and we meet just a couple of miles from my house.

I'm bringing this up today for a couple of reasons. I study through the Four Winds Society, and tomorrow I go on retreat for the West portion of my Medicine Wheel work. I'll be gone for Thurs/Fri/Sat. Do you think I can pre-blog or post prior writings for those days so that I'm still participating in NaBloPoMo? It will have to be one or the other, so I'm offering full disclosure in advance.

As part of preparation for West work, we had to perform ten illuminations for others. This was way outside of my comfort zone, as I never imagined doing shamanic work on others. I'm a Saggittarius, and studying about spiritual practices is ingrained in my nature, but actually doing healing practice just seemed nerve wracking.

But being task-completion oriented, I had to do it, so on Monday (which was a holiday), I scheduled in all of my friends who agreed to be participants and rolled with it. And enjoyed it immensely! Who knew? And my friends are all still talking to me, so I guess it wasn't as out there as I thought it might seem.

I also got sort of a writing gig in association with shamanism. I read Stephanie's site The Cosmic Path nearly every day, so when she issued a call for writers, I offered a shamanism column. She liked my sample, so it will hopefully be a monthly event beginning next week! I kept the right to repost here after it goes up on her site, so these will be filed under the new category Shamanism.

Avatar for Russian Mafia Babe


Hey, here's my new avatar. I got tired of seeing the old picture from my cousin's wedding on every web page, so here is the new Russian Mafia Babe. Let me know how you like it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Building Traffic and Subscribers

Whether you are a writer who just wants an audience (don't we all?) or a dedicated blogger seeking to go pro (who knew that would be a job description?), or somewhere in between, traffic and subscribers are key to success as a blogger.

Let's face it, if you write a fabulous post and no one reads it or leaves comments, it feels a little - lonely? sad? pathetic? Even if you are a mom blogger and are supplementing the family income by venting a little about teething or grocery bills or the bottomless laundry bin, getting subscribers and traffic will open up doors to more types of income.

Here are some of my ideas for driving traffic and converting readers to subscribers, please let me know if you have others:

-Great content - of course this goes without saying.
-Consistent content - the more you blog, the more chance readers will come, and keep coming.
-Know your audience - your blog should be narrow enough in focus to reach a core audience but have enough give in the framework to allow for posts that make your blog unique.
-Develop a product - an ebook is a great idea for a giveaway that will keep on giving, spreading your blog's name as the book is passed along via email or by other bloggers.
-Give away someone else's product - Check my sidebar, I'm offering Yaro Starak's excellent ebook Blog Profit Blueprints as a free download for subscribers by email or RSS.
-Enter a Blog Carnival - You can find a bunch of them here, and earn free links and new readers.
-Host a Carnival or Contest - This not only brings readers but gives you content for your site.
-Post to Groups or Forums - Check Yahoo Groups or MSN for likeminded groups and participate in discussions. But really participate - don't just plug your blog.
-Leave Comments on other blogs - Again, make your comment relevant, not just a self reference.
-Use all of the free sources you can - MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, Squidoo, etc.
-Ping your posts - use a service like Pingoat to submit your new posts to blog logs.
-Submit to Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon - works best if your friends vote for you too.
-Write articles - submit articles relevant to your blog topic to sites like eZine Articles.
-Ask and You Shall Receive -ask people to sign up, submit you to Digg, send to a friend.
-Make it easy - make sure to include social networking and Technorati widgets so it is easy for folks to submit your blog or post.
-Be a Friendly Blogger - offer link exchanges, guest posts, make sure people know how to contact you, and just like mom says, mind your p's and q's (you are writing for the world to see)
-Pay for a Review - you can get an established blogger to write a review about your site or product at Get Reviewed At ReviewMe! That's my affiliate link, so please, please use this if you buy a review : )

It may seem overwhelming at first, but you don't have to tackle it all at once. Set a goal to do one thing every day to drive traffic. Just one thing a day, like we are doing one post a day for NaBloPoMo. Today find a new blog to leave a comment. Tomorrow find out how to ping. Then it will build up and eventually, hopefully, reach a critical mass that explodes traffic for your site.

Hey, did I mention that I'm giving away an ebook for subscribing?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Meme newbie

Thanks to David at Living in the Now, I'm doing my first meme! This is the crazy 8's, and I hope I'm doing it right.

8 things I’m passionate about:

My daughters (Sara and Mia)
Writing
Learning
Shamanism
Working for the Greater Good
Battlestar Galactica - when is Season 3 coming on DVD??????
Traveling
Skiing - is it like riding a bike? Will I remember how when the kids are finally old enough?

8 things I want to do before I die:

Go into space (agree with David).
Visit Stonehenge (before spellcheck it was Stonehedge). (Agree with David but I knew how to spell it)
See grandchildren (I started really late with kids, so I'll have to live awhile)
Write a novel that hits number one on the New York Times best seller list
Be interviewed on Oprah for some incredible achievement
Go on an African safari
Start a foundation for kids and animals
Visit Machu Pichu

8 things I say often:

Good Grief
Sara stop it
Maybe it is for the best
I you (Sara said I Love You this way, and it stuck)
You have to think positively
Hola
Go dogs (there are 4, no I don't want more)
In the great green room there was a telephone

8 books I’ve read recently:

Love in the Time of Cholera (see Sorry Oprah)
Bel Canto
Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
Shaman, Healer, Sage by Alberto Villoldo
Goodnight Moon
Puff The Magic Dragon illustrated version, stood in line for the autograph
The Power of Positive Thinking
Yaro Starak's Blog Profits Blueprint

8 songs I could listen to over and over:

The whole Piano soundtrack
Shamanic Dream 2 by Anugama
Anything by Chris Cornell (Soundgarten or Audioslave or solo) what a voice
Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli
La Candela by Yerba Buena
luckily anything on the Putamayo kids cd
Buddha Bar soundtracks
Chasing Cars - the Izzy song from Grey's Anatomy

8 things that attract me to my best friends:

Humor
Positive outlook
good with the kids
good with the pets
Poker
Nothing fake
Intelligent
not afraid to dance in public

8 people I think should do Crazy Eights:
Sorry, I don't know too may people out there, so forgive me if you were picked at random:

ChrisG at ChrisG
CMarks at Sex and the South
Lise at Shadows of Science
Sheila at Pillows and Chocolate
Handsome Devil at the handsome devil
Trish at Light Sweet Crude
Elizabeth at A Wild Ride

Happy blogging!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jealousy Rears its Head

At the birthday party yesterday, a friend mentioned to me that her sister was going to take her daughter next weekend so they could go to New York for a concert. For the weekend. Without kids.

I was jealous. Horrible, uncharitable jealousy almost prevented me from spitting out "Have a wonderful time." Don't tell me which concert please, or where you're staying in some trendy hotel that doesn't even have Jr. Suites or a family pool.

My nanny is wonderful and has been with us for an unheard of 4 and a half years, through adding a little sister, changing hours to accommodate preschool, and all the other unexpected challenges that crop up, and I am eternally grateful.

But I want a sister, or mother in law, or grandma, or aunt, or cousin, or someone who will take the kids for the weekend, or the night, free. I need a break. Is that horrible?

I live in Miami, and everyone has someone close by, or even in the same multigenerational house, who takes the kids once or twice a month. I'm quite willing to trade weekends and put in time with four kids to get a weekend off with none, but alas all my friends either are childless because, well, they don't want kids around, or have the family connection and don't need to earn points with my two.

So I'm practicing the Secret, and focusing on the positive and the wonderful family who is going to come along and be the perfect weekend trade family, with kids the ages of my kids and lots of patience. Either that or enough money to be able to both afford a sitter and a hotel for a weekend out.

If you like the posts you read here, sign up for email or RSS and get Yaro Starak's excellent eBook, Blog Profit Blueprints, for free just for joining! Check the sidebar on the right.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Crazy Birthday Party Day

Sorry for the short post today, but gotta be quick. Today is Sara's 5th birthday, and despite our best efforts it is turning out to be one of those over the top kid's birthdays. Bounce house is here, but that was our only splurge.

She wanted a combo Princesses/High School Musical party. She thought that if it were only Princesses, none of the boys would come. As if a mixed theme isn't bad enough, Joey went to get the plates and, not having any clue that there was a difference, bought the Island Princess version. Oh well, you're only five once - but there's a little sister who needs a party too.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sorry Oprah

I have tried, really, to read Love in the Time of Cholera. I would never have made it past the first page, though, except that I bought the book because Oprah so praised it and chose it as her book club selection. That and because I read a blog post about writers needing to pay it forward by actually buying books.

So I purchased the paperback copy with the Oprah seal at a bookseller and sat down in those wonderful few moments between getting the kids to sleep and conking out myself, and I struggled. But I made it past the initial suicide where the man who offed himself decided to take his dog with him. Not at all something I can appreciate, but still I read on.

Then several more animals die, in a rampage by another animal, which entirely turned me off, but at least the description wasn't overly graphic. I forged ahead and made it through the mind numbing pages of the couple driven nearly to the brink of divorce over whether there was soap in the bathroom or not.

I even tried to ignore the annoying reference to every character by his or her entire full name every time. Yes, it was a formal time, but I couldn't get close to these characters because of this stiff reference, and in fact they started to aggravate me with their long titles.

But what finally stopped me was the lengthy - and I mean several pages - description of the strength and duration of the main character's stream of pee. It goes from his young virile stream that won contests for peeing in bottles to where he is old and feeble and has to pee sitting down to appease his wife and not spray all over the seat and floor, but it takes several pages to go this route.

As a writer, I can appreciate that it shows the character failing with old age. And the description is quite detailed and painstaking, showing off great skill on the part of the author. And I am sure it is not an overused plot device.

But really, do I want to read pages of pee? No. I've changed I don't know how many diapers in the past couple of years, waited by the potty for countless hours, cleaned up after the stubborn dog who appears housetrained for awhile and then gets over on me, so I'm done with pee.

Not that I usually quit reading books. I stubbornly see them through no matter what, even James Michener length tomes when I'm really busy and have to read a page here and a page there.

But recently I've been a lot pickier. I quit The Memory Keeper's Daughter about 2/3 through and never regretted it. I realized that the main characters in that book were sinking slowly deeper and deeper into depression, and it showed no signs of letting up, so I closed the book and was happier for it.

But those writers are published and even praised by the likes of Oprah, and I'm not. So here's a shout out to Oprah, and an invitation to visit my blog and maybe send an email or comment : )

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Not My Child chapter 1

My cell phone rang, startling me, and I nearly tipped the French press full of coffee over reaching for it. I could tell the number was Social Services.

“Hi, this is Jess Fulton,” I answered, squeezing the tiny phone between my shoulder and ear so that I could heat the cream in the microwave. The time I save by multi-tasking gets used at the chiropractor, I though, trying to balance the phone and not hang it up with my cheekbone.

“Hey Jess. It’s Tammy. We’ve got a case this morning, a migrant farm worker needs a translator, and the court’s translator is out sick. Should be real simple, just a clerical error on a death certificate. Can you come down?”

“Sure, tell me what time.” I’d taken Spanish in college, dreaming of the far away places I’d go, the rugged Spanish mountains and Spanish men I’d encounter. So far all it ever got me was out of the house about once a month to the courthouse.

As it was, I was glad for the distraction. While I stood there in my perfect kitchen, the feeling that I wanted out overwhelmed me again. I didn’t know how or when, but I wished for it every day. And Momma always said if you wish for something hard enough, miracles could happen, even if one man’s miracle came on the backside of another’s misfortune.

Another couple of years, I told myself. Chelsea and Danny are already in middle school; they’ll be gone soon, maybe then.

I heard Ben coming down the stairs, and I poured his coffee as I was saying goodbye to Tammy. He grabbed his mug and started out the door, stopping as I hung up the phone. He had his favorite tie, with the wide navy bands, his lucky tie he called it, looped around his neck.

“Honey, I’ll be late tonight,” he said. “I’ve got a new client meeting after work, but I’ll call you.” He blew me a kiss and left before I could tell him where I’d be going.

I got the kids off to school, then dressed and met Tammy and Jose Perez at the courthouse. We were early. I immediately liked Jose; he had that meek expression that honest lower class people have, as if he felt ashamed of the bad reputation that some people gave to being poor. His body looked compact in a useful sort of way, made for the type of fieldwork that he was good at. But his eyes looked sweet, soft, and kind, glowing from an inner fire that had turned to embers.

He handed me his file to start reviewing while we waited. He looked down most of the time, except when he told me how his wife Maria had died working next to him in the fields. He looked at me and motioned to indicate vomiting. He had tears in his eyes. The coroner had written that she died of an allergic reaction to a bee sting.

Now there was a clerical error in the death certificate, and it couldn’t be recorded without being corrected. I thought what was the point? Migrant workers never had records.

“Mrs. Perez was a citizen,” Tammy said, reading my mind. “She had a few benefits.”

“What kind of…” I began, but the gunshots cut me off. People started screaming, and the courtroom doors flew open. A tall brown haired man came running out as fast as I’ve ever seen anyone run, carrying a gun in his right hand, and I imagined it still smoking. I had to stifle a giggle at the thought. Policemen were running up after him, and they disappeared down the hall and around the corner.

Someone came out of the courtroom, a blond haired woman with tears running and her mascara ruined, crying that the Judge was dead.

I’m not too sure what all happened next. Someone eventually ushered us out of the building, since none of us were actual witnesses to the murder. They must have caught the shooter – or suspected shooter - because no one seemed worried about more killing. Ambulances arrived, along with police cars and news trucks. Tammy had me try to explain everything to Jose, how he’d have to be rescheduled. We put him in a taxi, and I paid the driver to take him home. He’d already lost a day of pay over this whole thing.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I still had Jose’s file – I had forgotten to hand it back to him in all the commotion. I looked at my watch and saw I was running late to pick up the kids and get Chelsea to the neighbor’s mother-daughter tea, or I would have called Tammy right then, but it would wait.

My neighbor Nelly was one of those moms who believed that the way to heaven and raising kids who stayed out of trouble depended on every minute being scheduled and everyone being punctual. I dropped Danny off at home and got to the tea right on time, despite what I’d been through, to keep from having to hear her lecture about what happens to kids whose moms don’t take punctuality seriously.

“Hi dears. Chelsea, you are becoming quite the young lady. Just amazing how much you’ve grown,” Nelly said, even though she saw her nearly every day.

“Thanks Mrs. Jackson. What a lovely tea party, thank you for inviting us,” said Chelsea. I’d like to think she got those manners from me, but I knew Ben’s mother was the one who had taken the kids under her wing in that area.

I’d never really fit in with these moms from the neighborhood. They were all nice enough, and friendly, but somehow we never clicked. They were all too much super moms, moms by the book, with play dates and activities and quoting experts’ opinions. Not that it was like living in Stepford; I knew who’d had affairs, who drank too much, and who had money problems. I’d have liked them better if they’d have been more honest about it all.

But I have to admit, that Nelly was a great cook. If I’d have been the kind of mom who shared recipes, I’d have asked how she made those scones. Or maybe being in the presence of a shooting makes you extra hungry.

“Why Jess, I think you’re enjoying this party,” she said, looking at my plate. “Or at least the food.”

“Did you make all this yourself? I mean of course you did, everything is great. I really don’t know how you do it all.” I knew better than to talk with my mouth full, but she seemed to enjoy surprising me like that.

She smiled, or at least her lips did. “I like to keep busy.”

That’s another thing Momma always said, that people who keep busy are busy hiding something, usually from themselves. Maybe it was that she looked mysterious, with that silver birthmark running from her eyelashes through her eyebrow and up into her otherwise flaming red hair, right of center, but I always thought she seemed like a marked woman.

We got home and the kids settled in front of the TV, and I started to think about dinner when I remembered that Ben said he’d be late. That’s the first time it hit me wrong, that Ben was having a new client meeting on a Friday night, and I remembered the lucky tie. Women’s intuition was usually right, and mine had my skin prickling.

I’d lost my appetite, so I decided to order pizza for the kids. I picked up Jose’s file where it still sat by the phone, and leafed through as I was dialing. I noticed how complete it was – social security card, birth certificate, driver’s license. Maybe Maria got challenged a lot about her citizenship, living like she did, and kept things organized.

I looked at her driver’s license - my height, my weight, a little younger than me. If I had black hair and brown eyes, I could have been this woman, I thought.

NaBloPoMo Killing My Novel

As much fun as I'm having writing a post a day and keeping up with everyone else who is posting and reading all the new RSS feeds I've discovered during November and my new email subscriptions and checking comments....well you get the picture....I'm not working at all on my novel!

I don't mean a novel I'm doing for NaNoWriMo, I'm not crazy enough to participate in that at the same time, but I mean the actual novel I'm writing in the chase of my long-held dream of being a published novelist. Does anyone out there know of a good critique group where I could post chapters so that at least I'm inspired by e-nagging and e-critiquing to keep going?

Also, I've decided to set an additional goal of querying at least two publications a week for articles. I did Working Mother magazine today. Does anyone know of likely leads for mom/adoption/WAHM/blogging type articles?

And as a bonus today, I'm going to post my first chapter here at Russian Mafia Babe. You can follow the Category Not My Child as I add chapters.

Thanks!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New planet discovered!

I love astronomy. I have a telescope that I was only able to afford because I bought it before kids came along, and if I didn't spend every sleepless night tending to crying babies, I'd be out with the stars.

So now I have to depend on the Internet to give me my fix, and there is an announcement of a new planet discovered in the habitable zone orbiting the star 55 Cancri. I love it. People wonder if there is life out there; I wonder how much life is out there and will I live to encounter it. Really, of all of the stars in the entire universe, how can we think that we happen to have the only planet that boasts life?

I even go so far as to wonder why the search for life depends on water. Of course all life on earth is based on water, because water is plentiful here. But what about a planet where nitrogen was plentiful, or carbon, or something else we've never even heard of? Couldn't there be life that developed based on that structure?

Ok, so back to 55 Cancri and its new planet. Seems that the new planet is a gas giant similar to our Saturn, but it could have a rocky moon that has water and has life that we would recognize. That is an exciting thought.

Other great astronomy news this week includes the exploding comet that has brightened to become visible to the naked eye in the Norther hemisphere. Look towards the constellation Perseus for an object larger than Jupiter.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How a Beginner can Make Money Blogging.

Since I started blogging, I've really grown to love it, so much so that I'm beginning to wonder about making an income from it. I've gotten selected by a couple of blog carnivals (see that Adoption Journey Blog Carnival at Making Of A Mom and Carnival of Real Estate ), earned a few new subscribers, but I want to go bigger!

I have read several posts lately by professional bloggers about how they earn their income. While I appreciate that they reveal their sources, most require developing a steady stream of traffic. Obviously earning GoogleAd income requires having visitors click on ads, but even joining an ad network like BlogHer or signing up for sponsored reviews at Review Me require a minimum traffic level.

So what does a beginning blogger do to earn an income while building traffic?

One option I found is Suite 101, which offers revenue share for writing articles. I just signed up and my first article on staging a home for sale during the holidays is under review, so I'll let you know how it goes. Performancing also posts paying jobs for bloggers. Sometimes the pay is only a link back to your site and fodder for your resume, so read carefully. I also signed up at eHow , another site similar to Suite 101, but I haven't decided yet whether it is better to attack one such site full out or spread my talent across several sites : )

If you have any other suggestions you'd like to share, please do so in the comments.

Monday, November 5, 2007

NaBloPoMo Anyone?

I am a few days late, but I just found out about NaBloPoMo (http://nablopomo.ning.com/). The acronym stands for National Blog Posting Month, and they are a sister site to NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

Both are great for writers. The first encourages us to post to our blogs every day, and the second is a challenge to write an entire novel in one month.

Maybe if I go over into December it will even out.

So if you are stuck for something to write about this month, check out these ideas:

- Chris Garrett's post on Performancing.com Ten Killer Post Ideas http://performancing.com/node/169

-Places to get great ideas for blog posts http://www.rss-specifications.com/blog-post-ideas.htm

-101 Great Posting Ideas that will Make Your Blog Sizzel at http://www.ihelpyoublog.com/20070316-101-great-posting-ideas-that-will-make-your-blog-sizzle

-111 instant Blog Post Ideas: http://www.blogchalktalk.com/2006/12/111_instant_blog_post_ideas.html

-And for help in making your blog posts better, check out this article on ProBlogger:
http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/08/24/marinating-ideas-into-blog-posts-my-posting-workflow/

Hope you have time to write after all of the research!

Lisa

Monday, October 29, 2007

Pimp My Blog?

Since I've started this blog, I've become a little obsessed with finding new tricks for accessorizing it. I found an excellent resource for free "must haves" for Blogger blogs at http://www.quickonlinetips.com/archives/2005/04/free-essential-tools-for-blogger/. Russian Mafia Babe already had FeedBlitz and AdSense, and as I was adding Technorati and signing up for PingOat, I started to wonder.

At which point does it cross the line? Where does it go from classy to overly made up?

I love all the tools. I have an engineering background and could play with free widgets until I go broke from not doing any actual paying work. But what are the most important, and where do I need to stop?

To help guide me, I've taken a critical look at some of my favorite, daily reads. For example, http://www.chrisg.com/ features only his blog, his blog, his blog: posts, signups, consulting services. No AdSense, you have to search for the social bookmarking buried on the refer a friend page. On the other hand, http://www.performancing.com/ has more of a we're all in this together feel to it, with lots of social options but still a pretty clean format.

Yaro Starak's http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/ is about as opposite as can be, with ads, social bookmarks, lots of extras including audio and screenshots. By the way, if you haven't done it already, go to his site and sign up for email updates! Pro Blogger at http://www.problogger.net/ is also pretty tricked out.

My favorite mom blog, http://www.dooce.com/, is all about content. And ads. If you like the content click the ads. No bookmarking, have to search for the RSS feed, no option for email signup. Similar setup for http://www.hipstermom.com/.

So where does this leave yours truly, Russian Mafia Babe? She's still somewhat of a newborn, and at the moment wants it all. Kind of a techno - internet - mom - maserati blog. Life isn't all about being a mom, but then again the mom part sure enriches the techie geek part.

Keep reading, I'll keep posting and tweaking. Let me know what offends and what works. And please, by all means, if you like it, Digg it. Just click the link below.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Careless Angel

Sorry, this post moved to my ebook, The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. Please see right sidebar to order.
Thanks!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Funky Mom Blouse

Today I was trying to decide what to wear, and I passed over the scorned shirt without really considering it.

I had always liked that blouse, particularly because it went great with jeans and covered up slight, and not so slight, fluctuations in weight.

But one day I was putting it on to take 4-year-old Sara to school, and she asked me, “Why are you wearing that shirt Mama?”

“Don’t you like it?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“It’s funky,” she said, confident in her fashion sense.

I had no idea she knew the word funky or what exactly it meant in this context, but I was relieved that her pronunciation was good; that's a tricky word. We’ve been striving for a bilingual upbringing – we do live in Miami after all, and it is a global economy. Better to take advantage of the opportunity to learn another language. But it does lead to bizarre words that I’m not sure are in either language.

I agreed to change, of course; no mom wants to embarrass her preschooler by wearing a funky shirt in front of the whole class and the teacher, and now the poor, previously favored blouse remains in the closet, never getting out to see the world.

Was that overindulgent parenting, I wondered, letting my child’s tastes influence my own clothing style?

Or was I wrong? Was the blouse that I chose on my own indeed out of step with what was usually considered well dressed?

I tried to remember if any adult had ever pointed and laughed while I was wearing the blouse and didn’t come up with any instances, but I couldn’t remember receiving compliments either.

The only sure way to decide will be to pull it back out in say six months to see if it is still funky in Sara’s eyes, or if her phase has passed and I can wear it again in public.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Night of the Living Tooth

Sorry, this post moved to my ebook, The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. Please see the right sidebar to order.
Thanks!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How long is too long in the bathroom?

My partner had the nerve to tell me not to take long using the bathroom one morning. “I mean, don’t make a vacation of it,” she said.

Normally, using the bathroom takes as long as it takes. But life changes after having kids, and with a toddler and a 4-year-old in the house, I’m willing to stretch any chance for some alone time as long as possible. I’m a woman, but I finally understand the stereotype of a man taking the newspaper into the bathroom. It is the one room with a locking door, and it gives you an undisputable excuse to scream for the other parent when there is a commonplace emergency.

In fact, now that I think of it, having kids has explained a lot of mundane mysteries for me.

For instance, all my life, I rigorously walked the grocery cart back up to the store after emptying my purchases in my car. Carts littering the parking lot were a puzzlement to me, and I must confess to unkind thoughts about lazy grocery shoppers. But the first time I shopped with a baby, I unloaded the bags into the car, strapped the baby in her car seat, and stood staring at the grocery cart as if I had never seen one before. Really, was I supposed to disembark the baby, walk us both back to the store, and then both back to the car again? That wasn’t going to happen after an hour trying to make meal decisions with a screaming, wriggling, unhappy infant annoying shoppers throughout the store. I didn’t think the store personnel would enjoy seeing us back at the entrance again so soon anyway. That’s why bag boys walk people out to the car, so they can bring the cart back, I thought. But I really didn’t want to make small talk with a bag person (no offense, small talk with anyone is taxing under the circumstances) either. So right there, I got lazy and hurried away from the evidence.

The grocery store seemed to hold a concentration of mysteries. The pile of unwanted items at the register baffled me before kids. Did people really put stuff in their carts and then decide against them at the last minute? Marshmallows, fruit bars, and the occasional beauty item sat unclaimed and unbought, crowding the tiny space before the conveyor belt. It took awhile, until my first child had a sufficiently long reach and quick grab to pull random brightly colored packages off the shelf and into the cart before I had to stand at the check out wondering why on earth I, a vegetarian, had canned ham among the contents. Then I saw Sara swipe a Milky Way off of the display and had to sneak the unwanted ham onto the People magazine display, whistling innocently.

Kids are wonderful; I love my two little precious ones, wouldn’t trade them for the world. But I have to admit that I never could have imagined the many revelations, both grand and minute, that they would bring to my life.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dreaming of Sara

Sorry, this story moved to my ebook, The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. Please see the right sidebar to order.
Thanks!

I thought I could be an internet millionaire/ or/ how I found out about the Russian mafia

Chapter 1 Gullible

If you have an email address and spend any time surfing the Internet, then I am sure you have received the same email that lured me in, the one that started my descent into the abyss of internet marketing. I’m proud to think that I’ve grown adept at avoiding the most common internet spam and fraudulent schemes. I’ve never set up a bank account for my Nigerian friend who holds me in such high esteem. I’ve never invested in any cream or potion of dubious origin that is guaranteed to increase my penis size – ok, I am a woman, so maybe that one was easy. I’ve also never used my home as a drop shipment address for the offshore business whose owner will repay me ten fold.

No, the one that got me concerned a topic much closer to my heart. This one would make me a fortune by teaching me to write an eBook in just seven days.

What writer doesn’t want to hear that blissful combination of words. You will be rich, and you will write your book in just seven days.

I knew this was something I could do, and I could imagine my words read by hundreds of thousands of folks paying rapt attention throughout the United States. Oh, why stop there? With translation software, people all over the world would read my book. I already had my topic: I would teach people how to write grants. Fiction would have been my preference, but I needed something a little more solid to start with. I had run a successful grant writing business for several years, so I would consolidate my knowledge into a book that would teach people how to write grants.

You may think, “How many people are going to buy that,” but that thought came and was quickly dashed by the upbeat sales letter, which included testimonials from previous satisfied customers. How could I be so late in receiving this email? These people had already made their fortunes, and I was just now receiving the sales letter. Clearly, I had to start immediately.

The sales letter also explained how an eBook eliminated the troublesome search for an agent and negotiations with a publisher. This was the wave of the future, the techie revolution that allowed authors to directly reach the masses, all without killing trees.

Part of the attraction of selling and buying over the internet is that there is no one around to stop you from making your purchase. No sales clerk will look at you in reproach as you sheepishly pay for your jujitsu knife. No dressing room attendant will roll her eyes at the miniskirt you try to pass off as being for your daughter who happens to be your same dress size. No, on the internet, nothing stands between you and your purchase except for your credit card number, which I gladly provided with the assurance that my information was protected on their secure server.

I bought the course for the bargain, special price of $24.99, a price that would NEVER BE OFFERED again. How lucky could I be? I had found my perfect vehicle for becoming a millionaire, and it happened to be on special for that day only.

Even better, the course was itself an eBook that I could immediately download. The clock had already started running on my seven days ‘til millionaire status.

In all honesty, if I had read more carefully or at least considered more carefully what I was reading, I would have realized that I was not being taught how to actually become a millionaire in seven days, just how to write an eBook. But I felt confident that the millionaire part would surely follow shortly thereafter.

I followed the course to at “T”. Well, not exactly. The course encouraged me to just write without worrying about spelling or grammar or even logical flow of information, we would go back and fix that later. Even though I kept trying to take this advice, I couldn’t ignore grammar. I couldn’t just type a paragraph that didn’t fit in the flow; I had to fix these problems as I went along. I had to fret and worry and pull my hair over every word. And references, I had to track down references, and everyone knows how twisted the internet searches can be. A search to find out who wrote a particular quote can lead to hours long reading about the French Revolution, which has nothing to do with grant writing, by the way.

So it took a little longer than seven days to complete. Actually, quite a lot longer than seven days by the time I read the information, wrote, researched, revised, wrote some more, tried to find some more information to add, stretched the writing, and finally added an author page, title page, table of contents, and index to reach the suggested 50 page minimum for an eBook of premium value.

But the point is, I followed through. I did create an eBook of which I could be proud, and that I thought would be very useful to the organizations that had already been kept waiting for longer than my allotted time.

Now, indeed, I had this eBook, locked in my computer with no way out. And that is where the course I had bought ended.

No instructions on how to reach the masses who were waiting for my tome. Nothing about building an email list, collecting money, how to deliver the product. No affiliate team waiting to market and promote my prize. I needed some way of getting my millionaire in the works book out on the web. But the seven-day bible didn’t mention any of this. My timeframe was already skewed way past seven days due to the writing, a website would surely set me back quite a bit more.

I went back to the original sales letter, which I had bookmarked in my Favorites folder. Nothing about how to send out your eBook. I went back to the guru’s site, expecting that there would be “Volume Two, Selling Your Seven-Day eBook” available for sale. Still, there was nothing.

to be continued