Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Xomba Writing Blog

Digital Nomads, Travel Logs, & a New Writing Blog

This will be a short post giving some shout outs and back link love to a few blogs I've just recently discovered, or else some good resources just getting going. I'm all about the traveling off the beaten path, about looking for the unexpected, or finding something new and interesting. So for a few side thoughts:

If you want to read a really interesting personal blog that brought the term "Digital Nomad" to my attention, then take a look at Justin's blog, "The Life of Justin: The Blog of a Digital Nomad." This is a fantastic blog. Justin has a great writing style, sharp sense of humor, and is living what, in my opinion, really is "The Dream."

The idea of "Digital Nomad" isn't new to me by any stretch, but I prefer that term to many of the others that I've heard. Check it out for some quality reading.

If you're looking for some good travel writing, check out this Squidoo lens on the Top 10 Travel Narratives. I absolutely love travel writing, and in fact I'm already reading "The Best Travel Writing of 2008" to get back in the mood.

Otherwise, there's a new blog that just got started with a very interesting twist, at least in my opinion. A writer is going to talk about, and going to talk about the benefits of the site, the negatives, and keep up over the course of a year as he continues to write and improve, and even share earnings observations.

So if that sounds interesting, check out Xomba Freelance Writing Adventures.

Hope ya'll find something of interest there. Until next time, cheers!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Top 10 Movie Lists

Top 10 Movies Lists

One of the things I love to write about is movie lists. There are so many genres and sub genres that sometimes the potential number of lists articles can seem endless. I really enjoy top 10 movie lists, although one of the problems that can come up with this is occasionally you write, edit, then publish and realize that after publishing (when it's too late to change) that you missed an obvious one that everyone remembers (like Conan the Barbarian for top 10 fantasy adventure movies or missing Kathy Bates from Misery for top 10 female psychos ((and yes, that was an egregious error))).

But they're still good articles, so I thought I'd share links to some of the top 10 movie articles that I've written & published online.

Top 10 Werewolf Movies
Top 10 Dark Comedies
Top 10 Movie Anti-Heroes
Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Movies
Top 10 Fantasy Adventure Movies
Top 10 Dangerous Movie Women Characters
Top 10 Movie Psychopaths - once again, apologies for leaving off Kathy Bates' character from the movie Misery
Top 10 Vampire Movies
Top 10 Christmas Horror Movies

I've written many other top 10 movie lists, though these are the ones that are published online for everyone to see. I'm a particularly huge fan of the post apocalyptic movies, although there's a lot to be said for most of the movies and/or characters on these lists.

Hope that gives you some reading and some food for thought. Until later, cheers!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Music, Karaoke, and Surviving Too Many Drinks

Karaoke, Heavy Drinking, and The Bastard Mixed Drink Journey

Well, it seems to me that the three topics in the title are definitely related. It takes heavy drinking to even get me even considering a karaoke night, and it doesn't get much heavier drinking wise than the "Bastard Trilogy" of mixed drinks. One note: if you ever have a chance of getting sucked into the terrible warbling of a karaoke bar or a karaoke night, make sure to go in prepared with a mental list of the top 10 karaoke songs. Knowing these will help your chances of surviving karaoke night, even when you can't sing.

So how us tone deaf warblers get sucked into karaoke nights? Usually it takes a lot more than beer. It's one thing to sit at home and warble to our favorite CD Box Sets in peace, but to humiliate ourselves in public? That takes the hard stuff.

So this brings us to the "Bastard Trilogy." The Bastard Trilogy is a series of four drinks (yes, the name is freaking ironic), and comes with a story.

The Bastard Story: A guy goes into the bar and needs to get hammered. He's already drunk, but he had the break up that just crushes a person and so the bartender is sympathetic and decides to give him a heavy drink, because he has sympathy for the suffering bastard.

After this drink the suffering bastard still isn't through, so even though it's not a good idea he takes a second drink, and becomes the dying bastard.

The dying bastard decides that enough is enough, and he's going to have that one last drink. The third drink finishes him off, and he becomes the dead bastard.

Well you'd think it would be over, but the dead bastard had one last stop, as he got into heaven, which turned out to be like a beach, so Peter let him in and handed him a Mai Tai.

So those 4 drinks make up the bastard "trilogy," and will hammer even an experienced drinker. And that's how we end up at karaoke night. At least for those of us who can't sing with a crap. So that's it. The bastard trilogy, karaoke, and CD Box Sets. Easily tied together. I win the bet, my buddy owes me $5. Cheers!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bill Gates, Nintendo Wiis for Grandmas, Weird Holidays, and Other Random Thoughts

This will be a quick post, as it's been an insanely busy week and I'm already something like 30 articles behind despite getting about 11 a day done, so please forgive me for taking a lot of time preparing my "James Bond: Renaissance Man?" post. That's a question I think is a lot better than some people initially might have thought, and I want to make sure the right amount of time goes into it.

So if you haven't heard about Bill Gates' stunt releasing mosquitoes into a technology conference while talking about Malaria, read this: Is Bill Gates Completely Insane?

Personally, I think it's hilarious, and normal people don't become multi-billionaires, so I don't think it should surprise anyone that one of the two richest men in the world is just a wee bit eccentric. But that's just my take on the whole matter.

Something I found funny was a month ago when I was visiting a friend's family, he was back there for a few days, and found out his parents (now in their mid 50's) bought a Nintendo Wii for themselves. And actually played it. Apparently the Wii is being marketed to traditional non-gamers, and a lot of baby boomers, grandparents, and tradtionally non-video game types are really digging it. Good for them, and good for Nintendo.

Just goes to show, when too many competitors concentrate on a tiny slice of consumers (hard core gamers) if you want success, then buy a Wii for your grandmother.

Never thought I'd see the day, but it's pretty cool now that it's happened. And since Groundhog Day has come and passed (great movie with Bill Murray, for those of you who have never seen it), so it made me wonder what other weird holdiays are out there. Not saying these are all bad holidays, I'm just saying when there's a holiday virtually every day, it's a little out of control. I think most of these that follow deserve recognition, but is "holiday" really the right word?

Flag day, Administrative Assistants Day, Armed Forces Day (Veterans' Day & Memorial Day isn't enough?), National Boss Day, United Ntions Day, etc.

Heck, February is National grapefruit month, embroidery month, snack food month, responsible pet owner month, and return grocery carts to the store month. I am not making this up, I've found all of these at several sources. Oh, and since it's Feb. 5th, Happy Disaster Day, and if I don't see you tommorow, Happy Lame Duck Day.

Other Random Thoughts:

If you were a police officer following a car, and a human foot fell out of the trunk, would you also charge the guy for littering?

How great are mankind's priorities when every culture in the world somehow perfected the art of getting drunk...and do you ever wonder about all the people who had to die or go blind to give us the whiskey we drink today?

Tampa Bay rocks. (Good city, had a lot of fun there)

My idea of hell would be running into that 40 foot snake big as a school bus that can easily eat cows an crocodiles that scientists just found a fossil full. (shivers)

The PS2 really was just that awesome.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Reflections on Xomba

Xomba Musings

Xomba is an open site for writers who can make money through their AdSense account, as well as through relevant affiliate links. Xomba is like an article directory, but you can put your AdSense code and any time one of the ads gets clicked, you split the profit from that click 50/50 with Xomba. This gives writers an interesting chance to get some serious passive income streams going, and the inherent linking from Xomba gives it a boost, like Hubpages and Squidoo, and allows for those types of articles to rank higher in the search engine rankings than a normal blog post (at least for beginners to the whole SEO/Adsense thing).

The one major difference about Xomba compared to other places like Associated Content, or Constant Content, is that you need to gear Xomba articles towards topics that have AdSense advertisers. If you don't, it's the kiss of death to your Google earnings, and aside from not earning anything, you'll also get smart priced.

This week was the first one where one of my articles was among the ten highest ranked. It was my article about passive income for freelance writers, and how that is the key to the lifestyle that most envision when they try a writing career.

While the AdSense topics somewhat limit article topics, this still leaves a wide open field. An example of five very different article topics I've used for Xomba articles include:

  1. Iowa Wine
  2. 5 Best Coen Brothers Movies
  3. Making Homemade Root Beer
  4. Styrofoam Adhesive
  5. The Pineapple Diet

This barely scratches the surface, and a little bit of key word research reveals much better paying keywords that you might be able to jump on to really jump start the earnings. And if it is constantly passive, all the better.

In addition, sometimes it's just nice to be able to write about different topics than you usually get to cover for paid assignments, and maybe somewhere along the way you'll find a gold mine. If not, at least it's more than you had before.

Anyway, that's some of my musings on Xomba, which is a much different type of site for writers, but I like it as one of many different freelance writing channels. There will be more to come, and on some more odd topics (I know I've been getting off topic recently with a lot of writing posts, I'll diversify again soon), including some of the long awaited random thoughts that have been bugging me for a while now.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Security Vs. Freedom

Freelance Writing: Security, Freedom; Both or Neither?

Freelance writing is one of those professions that is almost paradoxical by nature. I've been writing full time for a living since before finishing grad school, figuring out how to write for money on my own because at the time I was broke, sleeping on a friend's floor, and had both legs badly injured from a car accident, meaning I had to be able to work from his apartment. So at the beginning for me, writing was the only way I had to eat consistently, even if most meals were rice and Ramen noodles. But it also opened the way for my to go back to school, to spend a year and a half at a dream job in Austin, Texas, and get the ability to travel since all I need to work now is an Internet connection.

But I also pay insanely high taxes (in addition to having to pay them quarterly), have to compete with many other writers for work, and the pay isn't steady. I've had off months where I barely cleared a grand. Then again, there have been months where I closed in on $6,000 (but those months I also guarantee I was working 80 hour weeks). Online freelance writing assignments do allow writers to be able to make money online and have an unusual amount of freedom, but as with all things, there are caveats.

So define freedom. Can I get up at 6 a.m. and get my homemade fly fishing gear ready to hit the trout streams when they're biting? Absolutely. By the same token, however, if I spend the early morning hours to the early afternoon hours fishing, that freelance work that is waiting for me still needs to get done. So guess who will be staying up into the wee hours of the night (or even all the way into the "Witching Hour" of the next morning, if need be) to get that work done? Yup. The work has to get done.

There are tricks to this, and experience helps. If you want the ultimate example of a "time management" coach (although he would hate that term) then look up Timothy Ferriss's book: The 4 Hour Work Week for a fantastic resource that can help guide you. The tricks and tactics here transfer to the freelance writing life style easily.

There is freedom in that you can move around. I have traveling all through my blood, as my huge love of great travel narratives can attest to. So having friends across the country, I can travel and visit all the great friends I've met over the years, finding free Wi-fi or spending time in coffee shops getting all the writing work done to get paid. While there isn't a lot of physical stress from the freelance writing job, there is a lot of mental stress.

But can I go hike the Appalachian Trail over the summer? No. Not unless I have no steady work and have enough money to pay all my bills automatically AND still have money for water, food, camping equipment, emergency medical bills, etc. So there are limits. Sometimes being a freelance writer feels like freedom at it's best. Sometimes it feels like I'm a dog on a very long leash.

In addition, there is a big pay difference between what you want to write about and what pays the bills. There are great places to write for money online, and an article like this one on my favorite post apocalyptic movies has gotten to the point where it pays me about $8-9 a month passive income. So up front it was only worth $5, but things have gone the right way so that article now makes me about $100 a year and will continue to do so as long as that article ranks well in Google for a lot of search terms. There is where you find the potential for complete freedom that most would be writers dream about: it's in learning how to make passive online income. But most the time I write "work for hire" articles for others, because that pays a lot more and is guaranteed pay, something that is important.

It's possible, but it's hard, and it takes a whole lot of time to figure out. The way I try to explain the freedom of freelance writing is that you have more freedom than ever within the frame work of a job, but you are in some ways MORE restrained than ever to constantly hammering out the work, and to always being within quick reach of the technology and online jagguernaut.

And so here I am again, trying to work out the balance of money now with trying to make enough passive income to have the full and true freedom of what I want. So I listed to "The 4 Hour Work Week" again, keep hammering on articles and other writing jobs, and go back to figuring out affiliate sales and Adsense.

Freelance writing can be a great blanket of security as a part time income for someone who has a steady full time job, but as a full time job when you have a lot of bills, it's a fight.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dystopias & Dystopians

Dystopia Novels & Dystopian Movies

There are a lot of things in life that I love, but one that sticks out above many others is the dystopia genre. Whether these are dystopian novels or dystopian movies, there is just something about dystopia that I find endlessly fascinating. In my mind, the king of all of these are the post apocalyptic movies, which by their very nature are generally dystopian in nature. Part of it might be the doom and gloom, part of it is that I tend to like genres where the world the story is set in isn't just background, but it actually is almost a living, breathing character that is just as important to the story as any human or mutant.

That doesn't mean I'm a blind sucker. I found parts of Resident Evil: Extinction interesting (mostly because I liked the background of the desert world - very Mad Max like), but overall the movie ticked me off and in the end it was a worthy mindless watch, but in the end it also still sucked. Well such is life. Still, if everyone has a "junk" genre they love, the male version of trashy romance novels, for me it's not the mlitary shoot 'em up in the jungles that were ghost written by the hundreds, but it is apocalypse, post apocalypse, and dystopian. It's my mental junk food.

There are probably a thousand ways I can go with this post, and there are hundreds of movies and/or books that are worth watching in this genre. I can probably make top ten or twelve or fifty lists, but I've already done this in other places, as well, so I'll come back with some top 50 lists later. I guess the biggest thing for this post is just the encouragment of people who haven't read much in this genre to really dive in and find some of the gems.

This page: is based on the top 12 dystopian books, with a strong emphasis on diversity of the list. So some readers may love the feminist dystopians written about by Margaret Atwood, while others prefer the political works like The Iron Heel by Jack London or It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. Maybe you want the post apocalyptic, or a zombie apocalypse, or modern authors like Terry Brooks have the end of this world as the birth of a new one. Dystopias as false uptopias: some of the best classics of all time fall under this list.

There are many amazing options to dystopian novels and books, so I strongly encourage readers to go around and find the works that really speak to them!