100 Themes Boot Camp – Day 1 – Stardust

The valley below was obscenely beautiful.  I have hiked these hills all my life, but this
time it was as if I had never seen it before. 
The trees were taller, greener. 
The river was clearer.  The sky
was bluer. 

“No!” I shook my head and chided myself, “Don’t fall under
that spell.”  The little pixie had stolen
my stardust and I was going get it back, no matter what.

I knew that she was headed for The Circle, the border
between the ‘real’ world and the world of Faerie.  Most people avoided this place, but I knew
the rules.  That stardust was given to me
by my mother and I, in turn, was going to give it to my wife to be.  “A gift received to be given” is sacred, untouchable,
both in this world and the other.  I
would be allowed to pursue the thief through any realm…or so I had heard.  It’s not as if this ‘rule’ had been tested;
it was just something that everybody ‘knew’. 
I was sure that I would find out, one way or another.  I laughed out loud at the thought of a book
of laws outlining human/faerie relations.

As I approached The Circle, the trees moved to keep me
out.  I felt a sinking feeling that both
justice and my stardust would be out of my reach forever.  However, when I touched a tree, I discovered
that is was soft, barely even there.  I
was able to walk right through it, as if it were a blanket or a curtain.  As I did so, I thought that I heard a
childlike voice whispering, “No sin.”

I passed through or around many more trees until I emerged
into a clearing.  At the center of the clearing
was a small pond of clearest, calmest water I have ever seen.  It was like crystal.  Around the pond were several toadstool
circles; Faeries had definitely been here recently, but there was no evidence
of them now.

“Well,” I told myself, “what’s the worst than can
happen?  Maybe I’ll get wet.”  And with that, I jumped into the pond. 

Strangely, it wasn’t until that very moment that I finally
asked myself why the pixie had stolen my stardust and broken the law in the
first place.  I figured that was
something else that I would be discovering soon enough.

How to Get Started and Build Your Blog

I've decided to stop dragging my feet and jump in to freelance writing.  I figure, what's a better time to start a new, high-risk career than an economic depression?  Here is a sample article from my portfolio…

Looking at popular blog sites like Dooce (www.dooce.com) or Lifehacker (www.lifehacker.com) makes many amateur (and some professional) writers say “Man, I wish I could do that!”  Well, guess what?  You can!  However, just wanting to do it is not enough (trust me, I know this feeling).  No, you have to get started and it’s easier than you may think.

First, start by signing up with one of the free blog hosting sites, such as Blogger (www.blogger.com) or WordPress (www.wordpress.com).  You may feel the temptation to jump right in and sign up with a paid service or purchase space on an ISP web server.  I would advise holding off on those decisions if you’re just starting out.  Writing is hard work and it can be intimidating to know that strangers are looking at your work.  Developing a style and vocabulary takes time, adding a monthly or annual bill to that pressure makes many a potential blog superstar a non-starter.

However, once you become comfortable writing for the web, you will want to move or upgrade to a paid blog hosting service.  The free sites have a great advantage in that they are, well…free.  However, ‘free’ often comes at a price.  A free blog host can put ads on your site and will, generally, prevent you from selling you own advertising.  It makes sense, why should you reap financial gain from their free service?  Also, with a free host, you do not ‘own’ your site.  You are basically a guest on their service and they can delete your blog any time they want, not to mention that the blog hosting service itself could go out of business and shut down.  What happens to all your hard work then?

Most paid blogging services, such as TypePad (www.typepad.com) offer more features and support, as well as letting you sell advertising space on your blog.  Another great feature of a paid blog host is that, depending on your plan, you can use your own domain name.  Picking a clever, catchy domain name can be one of the major keys to your future success.  It’s essentially a brand name, look at Google (www.google.com), for instance.  The nice thing about having your own domain name is that if you want to change blog hosts or even purchase or host your own website, you can go anywhere you want and point your domain name to your new location.  Nobody will even know (unless you tell them).  Also having your own a domain name (and a service that supports it) makes you look more professional, which is not only good for drawing in new readers, but also for drawing in advertisers.  And let’s face it, wouldn’t you like to get paid for doing what you love to do?  Of course you would.

The most important thing is to get started and get writing.  The only way to build a successful blog is to write as often as you can.  Don’t worry if your words are not flowing like a river from your heart through your fingers.  You’ll get there, but you have to write, write, write.

Good luck …and get started already!

What I should probably say is nothing, but…

Seriously, if you are looking for skilled freelance writer, for goodness sake, proofread your job posting. 

You are not likely to have quality articles written if you ask for quality articles to be ‘writen’.  I may be shooting myself in the foot here, as potential employers may come to this site to check out my writing, nevertheless you, Mister Employer, need to know that I am judging you the same way you are judging me.  By having simple errors in your post, you communicate that you do not care about how you or your project is perceived.  So, why should I care? 

The money, you say?  Well, these things go hand in hand.  Employers that have higher standards tend to have better reputations.  They tend to be more successful in business and, therefore, are able to pay higher rates to their contractors.  There’s a plus side for you, too.  Attracting and hiring excellent writers will lead to higher quality content leading, ultimately, to more revenue for your company.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Also, I am not likely to trust an employer to pay me fairly and on time if they are so careless with their communications; call it a personal bias.

So, let me leave you with a couple of tips:

1. Your job posting (and all other correspondence) should be written according to quality and standards you want to receive from your contracting employee.

2. Write up your ad in a word processor and use spell-check and grammar-check before posting it to the job board/freelance site.  Beware, some word processors apply some formatting codes that are not very friendly when copied and pasted to web forms (I’m looking at you Microsoft Word).  At least type it up in a word processor even if you have to re-write it in plain text.

This may seem somewhat arrogant coming from someone who has not, as of yet, sold much writing.  Be that as it may, at least I noticed that the word was misspelled (four times in the same post), that should count for something. 🙂

Oh yeah, ‘I’, when you are refering to yourself, is always capatalized.  Of course you knew that, and that’s my point.  It’s just careless.

The blog post that isn’t

I was going to write about the "Bridges Out of Poverty" training I received today, but I am just way too exhausted (three modifiers, count them, three modifiers for exhausted, ah ah ah…I must be tired.  I promise, I will post an entry about "Bridges Out of Poverty." Really, I will, I swear.

Good night, moon.  Good night, blog.


Most people that have spent any time in a Corporate or Government environment are familiar with ‘SMART Goals’. SMART stands for:






At my job, all employees are required to come up with three SMART Goals at their annual evaluation. It is recommended that we provide one long-term goal (over one year) and two short-term goals (less than one year).

I recently attended a training on Goal Setting and it has gotten me thinking. Perhaps the reason I have not met some of my personal goals outside of work is because 1) I have not been specific enough about my goals and 2) I have not written them down. Having my goals written out helps to motivate me to accomplish them and provides a tool with which to measure my progress and evaluate my successes. It’s a strange thing, however, even though I absolutely agree and support this philosophy, I have a very difficult time doing it. At work, it’s a bit easier, since setting SMART Goals is simply another part of my job, which is to say, it’s not personal. Formally writing and formating ideas for others to review is my job. Plus, I have a clear understanding about where I want to go in my career and how to get there. I have trouble being formal or specific in my personal life, partly because I have a wide variety of interests, but mostly because I am lazy. I have never really had a much of an idea about what I want from life, I just sort of go with the flow.

Which brings me to my writing ‘career’. Right now, writing is simply a hobby. Nobody is paying me for it, so I don’t take it seriously. This is a problem, of course, because if I don’t treat writing like a job, it will never become one. So, I am going to stretch myself and set some SMART Goals. Let’s see how well I do.

Goal #1

Specific – I will write a complete novel by the end of the year.

Measurable – I estimate that the novel will be about 100,000 words.

Achievable – If I average only 500 words a day, I can complete the novel by Thanksgiving. I’ve already hit nearly 400 words in this post at this point and I’ve been typing and editing as I go for about forty five minutes, without an outline, so at least 500 words a day seems doable.

Realistic/Relevant – Well, if I want to be an author, I need to write at least one story. The ultimate goal of becoming a successful writer would not be realistic if I didn’t complete the novel. This goal’s relevance is obvious.

Timely/Time-Based – To be perfectly honest, this is way past due. If I had completed this goal timely, I would have written this book several years ago. Alas, this is all part of my journey. It is timely now because I am choosing to start again now. Time-based is, again, obvious (deadline 12/31/2008).

Now, my manager suggested using ‘i + 1‘ when setting goals, where i represents a quantifiable goal and 1 represents stretching. For instance, if the goal is to lose 10 pounds, try to lose 11. In this case, it would not be realistic for me to write two novels this year, so I will modify my goal to complete one novel by the end of the year and begin work on a second one.

I plan to set a least 7 to 10 goals (not all of them related to writing) over the next couple of weeks, which is in itself a SMART Goal, so be on the look-out.

(By the way, this entire post is 643 words long and took about one hour and fifteen minutes to write.)

Still alive

Once upon a time, I promised myself that I would post an entry in my blog every day, or at least 4-5 times a week.  How about every other week?  Monthly? 

Okay, okay, okay, I will post an entry at least once every six months, whether I need it or not.

I have excuses, school…work…sleep, but I won’t bore you with them.

I am, however, still alive and kicking.  Please look forward to my ‘catching up’ posts, in which I detail some of the joy and misery that late 2007 and early 2008 have brought me.  And, no, I have not moved any closer to finishing (or starting) any of the various writing projects I have declared in the past.  Whatever, I have a job that satisfies me (for the most part) and pays well (for the most part).

Happy 2008, Blogizens!

BoingBoing/Making Light dust up

I don’t really have much to say about this here that I haven’t already said in my comments on Making Light.  But I figured I ought to have something up on my own site, so that 1) I can confirm that I am indeed the very same CosmicDog that posts on Making Light and 2) people that don’t like what I said can have a place to let their opinions be known.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about…  Good, you’re better off.

Don’t even call me sexy

I have to admit it, I kinda like Hillary Clinton.  I always have.  As I’ve said in other places, if she takes her husband’s approach to political leadership, she would make a pretty good President, and the country would be better for it.  She would take public opinion into account when making decisions, and as dumb, misguided, or whatever, the public can be at times, it is our country and we should have a say in its policies.  But that’s neither here nor there, I want to talk about her campaign’s response to this Washington Post article, written by fashion writer, Robin Givhan.

"It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity peeking out of the conservative — aesthetically speaking — environment of Congress. After all, it wasn’t until the early ’90s that women were even allowed to wear pants on the Senate floor. It was even more surprising to note that it was coming from Clinton, someone who has been so publicly ambivalent about style, image and the burdens of both."

The Clinton campaign’s response (via Reuters):

"it was inappropriate for the news media to be "talking about body parts" and that the 2008 presidential campaign should be focused on the issues."


"Frankly, focusing on women’s bodies instead of their ideas is insulting. It’s insulting to every woman who has ever tried to be taken seriously in a business meeting."

Did you miss the part where it was written by the FASHION writer?  Did you miss the part that Senator Clinton wore something that showed off her body?  Or did she think that nobody would notice?

Sexuality is part of who we are as human beings, whether we talk about it or not.  It influences our opinions of people and things.  Marketing gurus didn’t invent our appetite for sex, they are just capitalizing on it.  And Sen Clinton, by wearing revealing clothing, is capitalizing on it, whether she knows it or not. (I think she does, she’s pretty smart.)

I personally think it’s good.  It’s nice to see a woman as a woman and not trying to fit in with the boys.