Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cyber Contest: Win Prizes from Amazon!

Prizes, anyone? Rebecca Laffar-Smith has kicked off a contest to launch the new design of her blog: Writer's Round- About.

Oh, but don't think you can just do a cyber drive by and drop a comment. No, Rebecca is going to make you work for what you get!

She expects each person to follow the rules to a T. If you think you stand a chance at winning, you'll have to create an outstanding entry before she'll even consider handing over one of the three Amazon Gift Certificates: $100 goes to 1st Place, $50 to 2nd, and $25 to 3rd.

Writer's Round-About Review
For quite a while now, I've frequented Rebecca's blog. I've followed her Stargate Writing Series, and have watched her heart, soul, and words flourish until it's brought me to tears. I'm telling you, if you haven't already, you absolutely must subscribe to Writer's Round-About's RSS Feed!

Not only is Rebecca a freelance writer, editor, fantasy novelist, and blogger, she also has quite the keen eye for web design and choosing complimentary colors.

Writer's Round About's new design is very easy on the eye and to me, organized. I, personally, enjoyed her beautiful and cheerful photo she originally had located in the header, but then I'm not a web designer.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the new look and enjoy absorbing this writer's knowledge each time I visit. I simply cannot complain about such a marvelous site!

Well, I guess I could share just one gripe: I'd LOVE to be able to preview my comment before hitting submit!

I was elated when I stopped by one day to read one of my top favorite blogs and noticed this post: WRA's New Design Launch Contest! I thought I was dreaming! Hurry, while you still have a chance, and enter this amazing contest. The deadline is January 31st, 2008 at 11:59PM EST. You don't want to miss out on this great opportunity!

To help you out, here are the specific rules:

Each entry

  • Must write a post on their blog that introduces the contest.
  • Must invite others to participate in the contest.
  • Must mention the contest prizes, rules, and deadline.
  • Must include a short review of The Writer’s Round-About.
  • Must be a separate and distinct post (not plugged at the end of a regular post).
  • Must be unique, original, and at least 200 words long.
  • Must include a link to the contest with the contest title.
  • Must include a link to The Writer’s Round-About home page.
  • Must include a link to with my name, Rebecca Laffar-Smith.
  • Must include link to The Writer’s Round-About RSS feed.
  • Must leave a comment on the original contest post sharing a link to your post.

So, do you plan on entering? Are you excited about the Writer's Round-About's contest? Have you already written your entry? Do you follow Rebecca's writing journey every day? How do you like her new design? Share in the comments!

What are you still doing here reading? Speed the cyber highway and enter this contest - now!

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Make Cyber Waves!

Tired of being stuck in the same old writing rut? Think you’ll never reach your dreams? Hop on board with me and lets make cyber waves!

First, ask yourself the following questions:

  • When describing myself, is writer the first word that comes to mind?
  • How badly do I want my writing dreams to come true?
  • Do I have what it takes to persevere in the writing world?
  • Can I keep my chin up when tons of rejections come flying at me?
  • Are seeing my name in print and earning cash with my words important to me?

If you answered yes to the above questions, the tide is rising!

Once you have the writer’s flow cascading, ask yourself a few more questions:
  • Which magazines or websites would I like to see my byline in?
  • Do I want to be published in anthologies?
  • What genre sparks my interests and keeps my attention for hours?
  • Am I willing to submit my work and give editors time to evaluate it without chewing my nails into the quick?
  • Can I produce when an editor replies to my query with a go ahead to write that article?

Once you’ve made up your mind to write regardless of criticism and doubt from family or friends (and maybe even yourself), and decided which publications you’re going to target, you’ll be several steps closer to getting published.

Give yourself a pat on the back for purposing in your heart to make your writing dreams come true and then make a trip to the store. That’s right. If you really want to make cyber waves with your writing, you’ll need to get organized.

You may have heard it said, “An organized writer is a successful writer.” I believe this to be true as I’m finding continued success with my writing while practicing the following organizational steps.

There are computer programs you can purchase but if you don’t have much money to invest into your writing business starting out, simply go the less expensive route.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Two three-ring binders (one for submissions and queries and one for writer’s guidelines).
Two packs of clear, plastic sleeve protectors
Yellow highlighters
Pink highlighters (or color of your choice)

Place one pack of the plastic sleeves in each binder. Put the highlighters in a decorative cup on your desk or in a drawer.

Now it’s time to make log sheets for keeping track of your work. I use my word processing program and design a table with the following headings.

Publication | Editor | Replies | Website | Pays| Title/ Word Count| Date Submitted |Results

You’ll have columns and rows to write in the information noted. I choose the landscape layout for the designing and printing because there are so many columns, it works out better. At the top of each page, you can choose a title targeting a certain market. For instance, I target anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and websites. So, on the anthology log sheet, I would title it “Anthologies” and so on.

To be even more organized, I keep my log sheets in alphabetical order in the front of my binder. More importantly, keep a master copy of each log sheet in a file or folder so you’ll only have to create them once. Whenever you get a page full (and it will happen faster than you’d think!), all you have to do is make a copy of the master and voilĂ ! you’ll have a new log sheet for documenting your submissions.

As for the highlighters, they come in handy when you start receiving rejection letters and making sales. When I receive a rejection, I write in the date when it was rejected. Then I write “Rejected” in the Results column and highlight it in pink. That is my red flag or color coding system that shows me quickly that article was rejected.

When I make a sale, I write in the date and “Sold!” in the Results column and highlight it in yellow. This shows right away that article was sold.

Now, let’s focus on the other binder. This one is for your writers’ guidelines. There will be times when you may receive a writer-themed newsletter that includes various writers’ guidelines and you want to print them out. Or you can use your favorite search engine and type in words like, “writer’s guidelines,” “markets,” or “contributor guidelines.”

Don’t know where to keep them? That’s what the binder is for. Print out the writer’s guidelines you’re interested in and organize them alphabetically. They’ll be in a safe place and you can study them more easily.

Ok, you’re a confident, organized writer. What are you waiting for, silly? Crank out the words, take this cyber world by storm, and make waves!

Are you making cyber waves already? Are you organized or lost in the midst of paper chaos? Do you think a writer has to be organized to be successful? Do you have a method for keeping track of your work? Do you plan on using these tips? Make a cyber splash in the comments.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Procrastination Roadblocks: How to Get Around Them

Let's face it, sometimes freelance writing can be mundane. You don't feel like writing anymore. You'd rather do anything besides write....

Rebecca Laffar-Smith, at
Writer's Round About has asked me to share seven procrastination busters. She created this meme... briliant idea! Actually, one of Rebecca's ways of breaking through procrastinating on an article she was supposed to write was by writing the post that turned into this meme! Great tips, Rebecca.

Now, it's my turn. I bring you...

Procrastination Roadblocks: How to Get Around Them

Tip 1: Make a List

Start writing down all the things you're grateful for: family, friends, health, a home, a vehicle, a job, food in your cabinets, the opportunity - privilege, really - to do what you love most - write. You'll feel thankful, your heart fill with warmth and you'll be reenergized and inspired to finish those articles you've been trying to ignore.

Tip 2: Curl Up In Your Favorite Cozy Space and Read a Short Story

The stories in Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul are so inspiring! It's like a breath of fresh air to read how other writers are living their dream, how they conquered their fears, and how they overcame obstacles. If you don't already have a copy, get one. After getting a glimpse into the writer's lives in this anthology, you'll find the strength and courage to press through your procrastinating mood and do what you need to do.

Tip 3: Make Yourself a Fresh Juice

Yes, I'm serious. Besides the overall health benefits of juicing raw veggies and fruits, most combinations taste delicious and hit your bloodstream right away feeding your brain. Who doesn't need a boost of brain power? You can pick up a juicing machine pretty much anywhere and there are reasonably priced books to show you the ropes. I'm a big fan of juicing. When I juice fast, I'm really inspired to write, write, write!

Tip 4: Take a Power Nap

Why not? Kick back in your favorite chair, curl up on the couch, or wherever, and rest. Set your alarm if you have to. Just rest. When you go back to the dreaded work, you'll feel refreshed and raring to go.

Tip 5: Read the Latest Posts on Your Favorite Blog (Or Two)

Perhaps by reading about other writer's successes, new publishing credits, or even interviews with authors, you'll realize you have what it takes to push your way through and finish your work.

Tip 6: Do a Good Deed

Call someone you know who is elderly, ill, or isolated from the world, a friend you haven't talked to in a while, a family member.... Chat with them for a few minutes, just to let them know you care. Make out that thank-you card you've been putting off. Ha! Bust procrastination by completing something else you've been procrastinating on. Run an errand for a neighbor who just had surgery, or take them dinner to make their life easier - just to be nice. You get the idea.

Tip 7: Plan Your Vacation

Get a notebook and dream about where you'd love to go. What amazing place do you want to visit: Paris.. Mexico... Ireland... Australia ? (You'd have to think of another destination, Rebecca - smile).

What will you do while you're there? Search online for restaurants, hotels, entertainment. Are you daydreaming already? Now, what will you need to pack? Make a list (I love lists!). Excited about your trip?
You have something to look forward to. Now, work toward it! How's that for motivation to bust procrastination?!

I Gave You the Tips, Now Here Are the Tags

1. Mary, at Mary's Writing Nook, because she's wise and will share marvelous tips!

2. Opal Tribble, at Addicted to Writing, because she's a confidant, successful business woman!

3. Sylvia C., at Sylvia's Insight, because her creativity brings sunshine to the cyber highway!

4. Mary Grandy, at Functional Shmunctional, because she has a way with words that is amazing!

5. Janna, at Something She Wrote, because her positivity and persistence will make you smile!

6. Susan Johnston, at The Urban Muse, because her professionalism is taking her far!

7. Misti Sandefur, at Life of a Writer, because she's been published for over a decade!

If I didn't tag you and you have fantabulous tips to share, write a post and leave us a link in the comments. Oh, and don't forget: tell us seven ways to get around procrastination roadblocks and then tag seven other bloggers.

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Happy Writing (and Blogging) the Cyber Highway!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Road Construction on the Cyber Highway

Where, oh where, have I been?

As you can see, we're on a different cyber highway. I've been busy as I'm the only one on the job. Originally, I changed everything to a three-column layout and thought I'd be happy with it. The template was driving me crazy since I'm not a tech genius, so I decided to change to what we have now. I plan on keeping it the way it is until the big move to WordPress on our own domain. Hurray! It will still be a while before the move. We're still packing our cyber bags. :-)

Moving on....

Feel like shopping?

Writing the Cyber Highway now has a Store. A few things you may find are:

Happy Shopping!

A neat thing called Entrecard

This is a very interesting advertisement option. You simply sign up, design your card, and start clicking on the Entrecard widgets when you find one on a site. You get more credits with each click. Other people can drop their card in your widget as well. Sounds simple, right? I first learned about it on Melissa Donovan's blog, Writing FORWARD. Then I noticed Rebecca Laffar-Smith, at Writer's Round-About had one, too. So, I thought I'd jump in and try it out.

What I've noticed since I signed up last night:

  • a lot of new visitors
  • my feed reader is gaining subscribers
  • I've discovered a lot of neat blogs I didn't know about before
  • I'm gaining credits and will be able to either use them to advertise on other blogs right away, or save them and let them accumulate and be able to advertise on a higher traffic site.
Learn more about Entrecard here.

Can't find the blogroll?

You'll find the blogroll as well as links to freelance writing resources beneath Pages in the sidebar. I decided to create an About page, as well as include a Contact page, and link to my website and portfolio.

One more thing

If you're in search of new writing gigs, you'll find the section called Looking for Work in the sidebar. You can search for a new job, or even sign up with Constant Content, a neat site where you can park some of your articles that have been sitting around collecting dust. I signed up right before the holidays and was about ready to give up on them, honestly. But a couple of days ago I received an email that four of my articles had sold in one day - FOUR! So, they're definitely worth a try. You can also write new articles for the requests. You'll learn all about it by clicking the link above. I also wrote about them in a previous post: Writing and Selling: Constantly.

Don't leave the Looking for Work section until you check out Smorty and PayPerPost.

Blog Advertising - Get Paid to Blog

Both of them are good options for earning extra money, especially if you enjoy writing about different things.

How do you like the new Cyber Highway? Is the layout better? Do you think I've improved it from the way it was? Show of hands from those who like it, please. Any major gripes? Leave a comment.

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Best wishes writing the cyber highway!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Freelance Writing Resources Galore!

P.S. I had an overflow of ideas as well as suggestions when I posted Mini Series Part Three so I've decided to share even more freelance writing resources!

Freelance Writing (and Blogging) Books and Magazines

As you've already noticed, Writing the Cyber Highway is remodeling its stretch of the virtual road and we now have three columns. Look to the right sidebar and you'll see a link to our store that's filled with books about freelance writing, blogging and even writing magazines. That's right. You can shop 'till you drop on the cyber pavement!

One particular book I'd like to tell you about, a treasure I'm currently reading - and loving every word of!- is Get a Freelance Life, by Margit Feury Ragland.

The author really puts those freelance writing fears at bay and gets you encouraged, motivated, and ready to take the writing world by storm!

I'm only halfway through and already I've highlighted and flagged numerous pages.

This is a wonderful book because new freelance writers can learn a great deal and those who have been writing for a while can brush up and perhaps learn a few things in the process - including how to: polish your work, network, understand contracts, handle those deadlines, and much more!

With all these tips and even markets, you'll keep this book in your writer's library for years to come. Knowledge really is power, and with Ragland's help and dedication, you can get a freelance life!

Websites of Interest to Freelance Writers

We can't forget about the awesome stops along the cyber highway!

I asked my readers to share their own tips or markets in part three of my mini series, so I thought I'd include their contributions in this section.

In her comment, Devon Ellington said Media Bistro is the best source she's came across for finding quality writing jobs. You can join the paid membership, or just take advantage of the free version.

Lillie Ammann, who was the first to get the conversation rolling on that post, as well as Opal Tribble, reminded me about the online version of Writer's Market. I failed to mention that option when I talked about the book.

Rebecca Laffar-Smith wanted to make sure Freelance Writing Jobs was added to the list, as it's a "wonderful source of markets and freelance writing jobs."

Thank you to each of you! I know your suggestions will be appreciated by anyone wanting to increase their chances of being successful freelance writers.

I hope you'll find these freelance writing resources helpful and enjoy much success, writing the cyber highway!

Is Writing the Cyber Highway helpful to you? If you feel that it is and have enjoyed this blog, as well as this post, by all means
Stumble Freelance Writing Resources Galore!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Different Cyber Highway

As you can see everything is a lot different here. I've switched to a new template and I'm adjusting everything. I thought since I'll be moving to WordPress sometime soon we could all get acquainted with a three-column layout.

Please have patience as I try to repave my virtual stretch of the cyber highway. If you've been dying to tell me about things that drive you bonkers or that you'd like to see here, now is the time to leave your suggestions, tips, or gripes in the comments (don't be too hard on me though, I'm not a tech genius - smile).

I have a new post coming soon!


Be encouraged and keep writing the cyber highway!

As you can see, I ditched the three columns. The template was driving me mad. :-) I am learning and improving as I go. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

At Last, Mini Series Part Three

Somehow time got away from me and I failed to finish up the three part mini series I started. (Sorry!) The first post highlighted where freelance writing began for me and I shared with you how I finally overcame the obstacles that kept me from writing for so long.

In part two, I continued by listing ten tips that have helped me develop relationships with editors and get published (a writer's dream!) numerous times.

As promised, today I'm sharing a few methods I use for finding places to submit my work to, as well as some actual sources for markets you can pursue.

One way I locate markets is by subscribing to several newsletters and e-zines, including:

Above are just a few of the many helpful newsletters and e-zines out there. I was also subscribed to the Write-from-Home e-zine, but December, 2007 was it's last new issue. It's still worth checking out, though, because there's a wealth of articles about freelance writing, contests, and (paying) markets in the archives!

Another way to dig up places to get published is to google the words: writer's guidelines, contributor guidelines, call for submissions, etc.

I was elated when I stopped by Get Paid to Write Online one day and read what Sharon Hurley Hall said in her post: I, Ghost Blogger. Sharon is so clever! She set up a google alert for ‘blogger wanted’ and you could also choose other words like: hiring bloggers, blogging jobs, or looking for blogger, writer's guidelines, etc. How awesome is that?!

At 1,170 pages, the Writer's Market, by Robert Lee Brewer and Chuck Sambuchino, is a great asset to any writer. I love this market guide! With over 3,500 (updated) potential markets listed, you're sure to find publications to submit your writing to.

This copy also includes five new sections:
  • Newspapers
  • Syndicates
  • Screenwriting
  • Playwriting
  • Greeting Cards
There are also different versions for those who write for children, poetry, novels, etc. I cherish my copy. It's flagged and highlighted throughout and I've actually sold work through markets I found in these pages!

That covers the markets.

For guidelines, you might want to invest in a copy of
The American Directory of Writer's Guidelines.

Compiled and edited by Stephen Blake Mettee,
Michelle Doland, and Doris Hall, this 6th Ed.,
904 page, resource will help you find out what
various markets require for submissions to editors
and publishers, as well as what is required of you if
you make a sale to them. How awesome is it that the
Magazine Editors and Publishers actually share what
they're looking for from us freelance writers?! Divine!

If you're interested in Christian markets, Sally Stuart has gathered some really good ones in her treasure of religious markets , Christian Writers' Market Guide. You'll find quality Christian publications for those ideas you have that won't fit in secular publications. It's 640 pages. I have a copy and I've sold to markets I discovered in this book.

How's this information for starters? Do you feel I've left anything out? Do you have some great tips, markets, or methods for finding guidelines, etc. that you'd like to share? Feel free to join in the conversation and share your own writing wisdom!

As always, I wish you much success writing the cyber highway!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Freelancers Face Another Headache

You might want to search your heart (and your bank account) . Do you trust PayPal? Amy Derby asks this question in her recent post at You really must skip the cyber highway and read it, but just to pique your interest: you don't want to go through what she's going through right now!

Already freelancers face long hours sitting (backaches, headaches, being unhealthy or even overweight), staring at a bright computer screen (working our poor eyes to death), not to mention all the ups and downs, scams, negative tension from people who don't understand... and now the source used for receiving payment for those valuable thoughts and words can't be trusted?! Argh.

I urge you to read about Amy's situation. Be glad you've been informed.

Do you use PayPal? Do you feel that it's safe? Will you keep your account? Do you know of anyone else who has had a terrible experience? Share with us in the comments, please.

I was going to expand on this in another post, but Katharine from Swan's Blog has done such a beautiful job explaining how to protect your PayPal account I thought I'd just direct you to her post. She shares some smart tips for staying safe!

How To Blog The Cyber Highway

Opal Tribble, at Addicted to Writing, has tagged me for a meme. She's asked me to share tips with my readers on how to be a better blogger. I've only been blogging since July, 2007, as you'll notice from my archives listed at the right. Some of you may snicker and scoff out loud, yeah, that's evident as you see a new blogger shining through; yet my loyal readers brag on me so much it sometimes feels weird trying to live up to the standard that's evolved.

All in all, I'm just a gal who loves to write and not too long ago realized I must have been born to blog - if only for my own personal gratification!

Like I mentioned earlier in a post titled: Wisdom Gained from 2007 Failures, I made mistakes with this blog in 2007. That was to be expected. When we're new at something, we have to learn through trial and error and we become better and better in time, right? I'm just thankful for my loyal readers who have stayed with me through the ups and downs and are giving me time to learn and who are helping me build a comfortable community here. (Thanks everyone!)

Now, for the tips.

1. Treat your blog like you live there. That's right. Would you invite a guest to your home and not offer them a cool drink on a hot day? Would you plan a Christmas party and not prepare or buy snacks or a meal for your friends to feast on? Imagine a familiar ole pal stopping by to visit you and you don't even ask them to come in, or even if you do invite them in you make them stand around feeling awkward. Remember how nice it is to wear your favorite pair of comfy shoes, or lean back in your favorite chair, or curl up with your favorite pillow? That's how you want your readers to feel - at home!

To be a good host(ess) you simply must find your manners! Invite your readers in with your friendly words. Offer them refreshments by delivering fresh, creative content. Make them want to kick off their shoes and stay awhile by asking questions at the end of your post to stir up conversation and bring your blog to life! Dazzle them with your cyber smile! In other words, have a genuine personality and don't hide it!

2. Reply to comments. In keeping with tip number one, reply to comments. Once you invite your reader to comment by providing a friendly post, follow up and respond. Perhaps they asked a question, or maybe they just complimented your writing style. Respect the fact that they took time out of their own busy day to reach out and let you know they "got" your message, or that they appreciated your wit. Even better, after you reply to them visit their blog and actually read a post (or more) and leave a thought-provoking comment for them. You'll be glad you did!

3. Polish your post. Okay, I know I'm far from grammar perfect - although I try to improve daily. Sometimes I republish a post once or twice because I notice I repeated myself or forgot to punctuate a sentence. It hurts me when I see the letter i as I just typed it. Even if we don't all have English degrees, we can capitalize the letter I. It's just that easy. There's nothing complicated about it. And it looks so much better. :-) Maybe you notice if you made certain points stand out by making those sentences bold, your message would be easier to read. Go back in and make those sentences bold. Write, rewrite, edit, polish your post!

4. Forgive your failures. No one is perfect. We all misspell words at one time or another. Most of us (pointing finger at myself) could improve on the grammar skills. There are books we can studyto help us. There are times that life's circumstances keeps us away from the computer and we can't blog or respond to comments. It's not the end of the world. Okay, so maybe those aren't really failures but sometimes we feel like they are, don't we?

And don't worry if you don't understand html, widgets, or how to link to another blog. There are books to teach usthose things too!

5. Enjoy blogging and networking for what it is. Have fun, be creative, sit back in your chair and relax! Be proud of yourself for even figuring out how to create a blog, publish your posts, and for being able to comment - especially when you have to dance around all sorts of things just to get to the point of being able to type in a comment. Blogging is fun. It's a great learning experience - a tool you can use to enhance your computer skills, your writing skills, and to meet new people. And if you want, you can even take it to higher levels and become a problogger like Darren Rowse. That would be the ultimate accomplishment in the blogosphere!

A few awesome bloggers I feel have successful blogs and will share great blogging tips are:

Rebecca Laffar-Smith, at Writer's Round-About. She is an extremely talented writer, blogger, and she even knows html and has programming skills!

Katharine Swan, at Swan's Blog, who writes and blogs with passion and shares her wisdom in a friendly, yet professional voice.

Melissa Donovan, at Writing FORWARD. Melissa's blogging skills are impressive and I'm sure she has some great tips to share with us.

Jeanne Dininni, at Writer's Notes, who has a nack for maintaining an informative, inspiring, and friendly blog.

Anyone who wasn't tagged either 1) is someone I've tagged recently or 2) someone I felt was too busy or wouldn't be interested in participating.

I hope you can take these tips I humbly presented and successfully blog the cyber highway!

Friday, January 11, 2008

I Am Writer, Hear Me Roar!

Wednesday, when I stopped by Katharine Swan's blog and saw her post: An unscheduled day off, it definitely caught my interest. As I was reading, I was making plans for my own. By the time I read her advice:

I highly recommend the experience to any of my over-worked, over-stressed fellow freelancers!

I was hooked on the idea. So, Thursday morning came and I didn't even turn my computer on. That's right! No cyber surfing, no adventures along the cyber highway, no blog posts or commenting - nada! It was NICE! And... the world didn't end just because I wasn't online for one day.

Like Katharine, I watched a couple of movies and just relaxed and enjoyed the day - thanks, Katharine for the gentle shove. :-)

I was pleasantly surprised to come back to cyber land and find that Katharine had tagged me for the Roaring writers meme. She also passed the following awesome award to me! Who'd ever guess I'd be rewarded for being lazy?!

But there's a little catch... I have to share three writing tips with my readers and tag five of you as well. Hmmm...

First, the tips. Supposedly, the Roar for Powerful Words Award page wants me to list "three things [I] believe are necessary to make writing good and powerful."

And they are:

1. Write from your heart. Sometimes it's hard and feels strange, but if you open your heart and let your readers take a peek inside, chances are they'll be back for more - loyal readership is a goal, isn't it? And what better way to use your writing talent than to touch the hearts of your readers?

2. Step away, clear your head, and rest your body. Like Katharine reminded me of in her post, it's nice to just let your mind and body relax. You need to do something different sometimes. Many times you'll find inspiration is abundant when you stop trying so hard and just take it easy, let it come naturally.

3. Stir your passion. Keep the passion alive and growing that you have for writing. Steps one and two will help you do that. Don't let writing become a negative aspect of your life. Keep it fun. Read, study, take breaks when you can, get up and walk around and stretch for a few minutes. Sit back down at your computer with a fresh eye and a new approach to things. It's an honor to be able to follow your heart's desire and write. Remember?

Wanna roar with me?

And the award goes to... the following five talented people:

1. Grandy, at Functional Schmunctional, who I'm so proud of for deciding to use her colorful talent with words and join the freelancing world.

2. Erika Geiss, at Musings from the Mitten, who is an amazing writer, editor and somehow manages to be a wife, mother, and who has just successfully launched theWAHMmagazine.

3. Becca, at Becca's Byline, for all the inspiration she brings through her touching posts and fiction. Her writing is elegant and delicate like lace, yet strong and powerful like a roar!

4. April Aragam, who is already selling her words right and left - and we're only 12 days into this new year!

5. Misti Sandefur, at Life of a Writer, who is a freelance writer, novelist, blogger, and an inspiration to anyone struggling to be a mom, wife, and squeeze in the many duties of the writer's life.

Roar on, while writing the cyber highway!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Interview: Author Julia Ward

I was elated when I found out my freelance writing friend, Julia Ward, published an e-book. She chose to self-publish, What Your Landlord Doesn't Want You To Know, at In it, she shares a bit of the nightmare she endured when attempting a move to a property she had envisioned would be a nice, quiet place to call home - as well as information you'll need to avoid the dilemma she faced.

I met Julia via this blog and we've chatted ever since. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to feature her self-publishing adventure in Writing the Cyber Highway's first ever interview! Julia was gracious enough to oblige and she quickly answered the following questions. She also sent me a complimentary copy - thanks Julia!

In case you're not familiar with Julia, she is a freelance writer who has overcome massive amounts of adversity. She truly is amazing - a friend well worth knowing! She blogs at and now has a new site as well - but you'll have to keep reading to find out more!

Writing the Cyber Highway:
Could you share a little bit about your bad tenant experiences with us so we can understand where this e-book came from?

Julia: John and I decided to finally give up on Southwest Florida after twenty some years of low paying jobs, hurricanes, bad drivers, and the deteriorating "quality of life" of anyone not retired with the disposable income of Paris Hilton. I wanted to move to a college town and be closer to my mom in Jacksonville. John needed to change careers and be able to reduce his commute time to less than three hours a day.

John found a cute little mobile home on five acres tucked away under beautiful live oaks and pines - perfect, affordable, and private. It was not to be. Even though he rented the unit from a Licensed Real Estate Agent, she didn't disclose that the place had been the home of a "crazy cat woman". The floors, walls, and doors were saturated and caked with cat urine which they had masked with deodorizers when John first looked at the unit. None of the appliances had been tested before we moved in. And she became hysterical the night John moved in with our belongings because he wouldn't agree to "illegal" lease clauses and took off with our money and the lease. It went downhill from there. No electric for three days - we blew the main breaker when we plugged our microwave in. No water for five days . The switch was bad and helped blow the main breaker. We never had a working stove. The gas man refused to hook it up because it wasn't safe. And, I slipped in raw sewage and fell on a broken sewer line that was overgrown by weeds and installed improperly above the ground. I'm still on crutches.

The bottom line: the Landlord was the Real Estate Agent's daughter and we were "done over." They sent us a (defective) Notice of Lease Non-Renewal (Constructive Eviction) after less than 10 days of occupancy so we could find another place to live and have since refused to return our Security Deposit and pre-paid prorated rent. Yes, John is a Licensed Real Estate Agent and I had been an on-site Commercial Property Manager. How could this happen to us? More to the point: if it can happen to us, it can happen to you!

CH: Do you remember the exact moment when the light bulb went off in your head: Aha, I'm going to turn this horrific experience into an e-book to educate other tenants.

J: When John and I went to Lake City, Florida to file a claim against the Real Estate Agent and the Landlord for damages and the return of our Security Deposit in Small Claims Court people kept coming into the Clerk's Office and asking for help. It broke my heart to see a young woman practically in tears with an eviction notice in her hand begging for help and trying to explain that she hadn't done any of the things her Landlord was accusing her of. They told her to wait seven days and then come back and file and answer. They can't tell you how to fill out a form or give you legal advice. The lawyers have made sure that you can't step foot inside a courthouse without hiring them to decode the secret code they use to wield unknowable forces against you. I had to stand silently with my head down because I can't give legal advice either. But I made up my mind that when I got home I was going to write a book
to help tenants understand how to protect their rights and the laws that govern those rights.

CH: You chose Lulu to publish your e-book. Have you had a good experience with them? Some people are curious about Lulu. Are they a simple, economical choice? Have you enjoyed working with them? Will you use them again? Do you recommend them?

J: Lulu has been a wonderful experience. The forums are full of educated, talented writers who are happy to answer any question, no matter how silly it may seem to us. There are no upfront costs and with an e-book- no printing costs. My biggest hurdle was formatting. I used a number of resources online and off line for formatting - with direction from Lulu's FAQ's. I've set up a Storefront and hope to begin the real work- marketing- in the next week. I plan on using them to publish the printed version of the whole book when it is completed.

CH: What have you learned this past year as you've focused on your writing and getting published?

J: Grammar rules!

Although I want to be a freelance writer, I find that I really gravitate towards book length manuscripts. Even though I know my memoirs need my attention I'm really excited about self-publishing and being able to market a product which I hope will help those people that find themselves at the mercy of unethical lawyers and landlords.

CH: Could you tell us about your new blog, The Florida Tenant's Survival Guide?

I've really enjoyed my blog "a BLINDING heart". Blog's are an exciting venue for interacting with like-minded people and "changing the world- one word at a time". I'm planning on asking for guest bloggers and maybe even reviewing apartment complexes, property management companies, and a few savvy lawyers. The foreclosure pandemic is forcing more people to rent and they need to make sure they aren't going to fall victim to more predatory practices by unethical real estate professionals.

CH: What is your main goal for 2008?

WRITE! This year I'm going to work towards finishing my memoirs and getting some articles into some mainstream magazines. I plan on having The Florida Tenant's Survival Guide in print by March.

CH: Any advice you'd like to share with other writers? What do you suggest they do when they feel like giving up on their dreams?
We only learn from the dreams we have to work for, the ones we have to claw our way through the bedrock to get to. We fail - we become better writers. As an artist, writer, poet, and musician I have found that my best work comes from within, from the unique perspective and vision that only my heart can follow like a pale whisper of smoke from the past. What we learn from our failures and what we choose to do with that knowledge is where dreams reside - humble though they may be- they are the seeds of all greatness.

I haven't had the privilege (time, actually) to read every page of Julia's e-book as of yet, but what I see so far is a great tool for anyone who is considering renting property in Florida. It's a great resource to help guide you through the process. I love the illustrations, the no-nonsense advice, and of course the humor. You'll even find a sample letter you can send your landlord, a rental checklist, and a tenant's survival list - very helpful!

Thanks, Julia! It's an honor to
glean from the personal experiences of someone who has been there. Here's to lots of success with your e-book, the upcoming printed version, and all your other creative endeavors!

You can purchase
What Your Landlord Doesn't Want You to Know here for only $5!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Great Comment Catastrophe

We interrupt this program to bring late-breaking news on a recent "Comment Catastrophe" at Writing the Cyber Highway.

Wait! Take your hand off that mouse. Don't click. Don't. I'm begging you!

If you, or someone you know, have recently commented only to discover days (or even weeks!) later that your comment wasn't published or responded to, relax: you're not crazy! You don't need Ginkgo for your memory. Nope! You left your comment just like you thought you did! What happened?

Here's the scoop:

Michele, aka dingbat, was going along her writerly way trying to navigate the cyber highway all by herself when she noticed some days were lonely days, some days she didn't hear from the regulars, and knew something didn't quite feel right.

What did she do? She pouted a little, tried to get over it, and kept writing and posting on this blog. Hmmm... Yes, you're at the right blog.

Anyway, long story short (well, maybe). Michele - I mean dingbat- thought she'd play it safe and choose to moderate the comments. Don't want any weird shmeird remarks that would haunt her or conversations that might go awry in her (rare) absence. So, she thought all was well.

Well, it wasn't. Even though Michele chose the option that ANYONE could comment here, and had Blogger send comments to her email, something bad happened. Michele can't control everything! *Pout. Pout.*

Some of those comments went to her email... others didn't. :'(

Tonight, when Michele was adding the contact information in the sidebar, something caught her eye: NINETEEN COMMENTS WAITING TO BE MODERATED!!! Yes, NINETEEN! I mean, WHAT is that about????

So, as the story goes, Michele published all those comments some folks had left a second just thinking they'd gone bonkers because they thought they'd commented the day before only to pull over at this edge of the cyber highway and discover (sadly) their precious words were invisible.

Here's the thing:

Michele is not a technical genius (on a good day, she can "work" a calculator), so don't be angry because she had no clue--literally NO CLUE people!

Now that she's no longer in the dark and her cyber highway is in the midst of a sunny day, you'll find those comments you thought cyber aliens- those mean comment gobblers! - had snatched right where they should be. BUT as Michele was publishing those comments, she realized she'd have to go hunt them down like Inch High Private Eye (didn't you just LOVE him?), and respond with the sincerest of apologies to her hurting readers.

Michele is so sorry. Please forgive her Blogger/tech illness. If she can recoup, she'll try to keep smiling...

For further reference, Michele's precious readers are no longer locked up in a Comment Moderation holding cell. They have been released until further notice.

Michele is considering throwing the idea of moderating comments out the window. At present, comments are being monitored, but Michele has commissioned a cyber guard to notify her of any abductions.

And that is the story of: The Great Comment Catastrophe.

Stay tuned for regular programming...

Wait. The update has just come in! Michele has found a solution. She'll open comments. *Bites fingernails.* If you make a comment, you'll see it right away but she'll be notified via email. This way, you're happy, she's happy, and you can all skip down the cyber highway - with a sound mind. :-)

Sponsored by:

Michele's ignorance.

Credits to:


Comment Moderator Thingamajig

Cyber Aliens

Comment Gobblers

*Michele and her tired eyes dig along the ditches of the cyber highway forever looking for lost comments...*

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bringing in 2008 with (Link) Love

This month's link love "theme" was adopted from Jeanne Dininni's Blogging Tale Meme.

Let's see... Where was I?

The other day I was looking over my Writer's Notes when I realized my note-keeping skills weren't very functional. Humph!, I thought. Functional Shmunctional... Why should a writer worry about Something She Wrote, or what pad of paper she scratched it on when The Urban Muse might show up?!

Ah, the Life of a Writer... Just when we think Something Good might come of all the endless hours spent in Confident Writing and we just know that we'll go down in history as the greatest storyteller of all time, we are given The Writer's Round-About--not to mention The GOOD, The BAD, & The MISCHIEF!

If you have Kids, Pets and Family, and you're a struggling Freelance Parent, you just might have to force yourself to have a cup of hot tea at G's Cottage, a little haven by the side of the "virtual" road. Be sure to stop by the bookstore and pre-order a copy of I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES, by Barrie Summy.

If you don't, be forewarned: you just might find yourself Writing on the Wall like the children instead of Writing FORWARD to accomplish your goals!

And that's not all. After Merle's Third Try, she realized with a BLINDING heart that all she really wanted in life was to spend just one day in Renie Burghardt's World.

On to other news. I was minding my own business, reading The Life & Times of Jb when I overheard a little gossip. Isn't that how we curious writers are? Anyway, I was sipping my latte, scribbling ideas in my favorite pink notebook, when I couldn't help eavesdropping on the conversation Jessica Burkhart was having with Kristen King about JM Writing and Editing Services!

Needless to say, I was thrilled to have Sylvia's Insight so I could get back to my Writing Thoughts.

Have you noticed that Erika-Marie S. Geiss seems to have no trouble pouring Words on the Page. That's great considering all us writers want to do some days is meander down the Corridors without any worries about A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye.

Did I forget to share the latest news? Last weekend, while traipsing around the swap meet, I bumped into
Shelly and Marsha as I rummaged through Tina's Odds & Ends.

After paying for my finds, I decided to head on over to
Mary's Writing Nook and be an encouragement to a few aspiring writers who get together each week and have writer's meetings. As soon as I walked in the door, Heather Strang, Writer, introduced herself, took one look at Becca's Byline, and said, "Girl, Your Award Is Showing!

As I drove home, I reflected on all the events that took place. The only thing I failed to understand during my adventures was this: Is it really possible that Swan's Blog?


Hope you've enjoyed this month's creative link love post! Anyone who commented here in December has a link in this post. Sure, it took a little thinking. Ok, a lot of thinking, but it was fun! Of course, it's all fictional. :-)

Have a Happy New Year's Day, while writing the cyber highway, and thanks so much for all your thoughts, comments, encouragement, and friendship!